Near-record wild turkey harvest for Vermont hunters

Vermont’s wild turkeys are now well-established throughout the state. (Photo by John Hall, Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department)

If only I had come to Vermont about a decade later.

According to a Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department release earlier this week, a total of 6,798 wild turkeys were taken in the spring youth hunt, the regular May spring season and the fall turkey hunt.

“This year’s total was the closest we’ve come to the record turkey harvest of 6,970 in 2013,” wild turkey project leader Amy Alfieri said in the release. “A mild winter and normal reproduction over the past couple years contributed to the healthy 2016 harvest.”

According to Vermont Fish and Wildlife, the state’s wild turkey population is now estimated at 45,000 to 60,000 birds, with wild turkeys now well-established throughout the state thanks to scientific wildlife management practices that started in 1969, when the birds were brought back to Vermont after they disappeared in the 1800s, Vermont Fish and Wildlife said.

Still, wild turkeys weren’t really relevant in Vermont until about five years after I left — I worked in the state from 1988-1990.

According to Vermont Fish and Wildlife, over the last 25-plus years, wild turkeys have thrived in Vermont and public participation in turkey hunting has continued to increase, too. Reduction in fall harvest opportunities imposed following a disastrous and extremely severe winter in 1993-94 — yes, Vermont has some brutal winters, too — helped stimulate rapid turkey population growth and expansion, the agency said, with numbers reportedly increasing from approximately 12,000 birds in 1995 to to 45,000 in 2001.

In 2016, young turkey hunters mentored by experienced hunters took 662 bearded turkeys during the youth turkey hunt on the weekend before the regular spring season. Hunters then took 4,875 bearded turkeys in the May 1-31 regular spring  season, and fall turkey hunting during October and November produced 1,261 turkeys of either sex, which was higher than last year’s harvest, the agency said.

I don’t remember seeing a single wild turkey during my two years in Vermont, when hunters were taking just a few hundred birds a year. And I haven’t been back since the early 1990s.

Might be time to come back for a visit.

Categories: Turkey

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