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Some hunters and biologists were concerned about the impact of the severe winter on the spring harvest in 2003 in our Eastern Mountains . There was not a major decline in harvest here, but as expected, there were more losses than normal because of the severe winter conditions. One out of 10 of our Spring Gobbler Survey cooperators found remains of wild turkeys during the spring season, and the count of winter-killed turkeys was the largest since we started collected this data in 1997. Fortunately, overwinter losses were not widespread because 40 counties had no wild turkey winter kills reported by our cooperators.

The combined spring and fall harvest in 2003 was 14,376, and ranks ninth in terms of total wild turkey harvest (Table 7). The total was 11% lower than last year. It is interesting to note that since 1966 the total spring harvest of gobblers (233,934) is higher than the number of wild turkeys harvested in the fall (106,524).

We now have a 38 year history of both fall and spring harvests in West Virginia , and this enables us to create a harvest trend over a significant number of years. It is evident that the wild turkey harvest has leveled off in recent years and that the trend of rapid increases in kill from a rapidly expanding wild turkey population is no longer evident.

  Gobbler Highlight Chart

Biologists and hunters have been used to observing higher wild turkey harvests year after year until the mid 1990's. This leveling off in harvest is not unique to West Virginia and is occurring in other states that have established populations. Future growths in harvest, in the short-term, appear to be dependent on good weather conditions that result in good food production and brood rearing conditions. As noted in 1999, we can still have outstanding brood rearing years if spring conditions are perfect (dry and warm), and hopefully we will observe these good brood years many times in the future.

In the long term, our wild turkey populations will largely depend on the quality of our habitat. Man can destroy wild turkey habitat in a very short time as was the case at the beginning of the 20 th Century. Recent information on the changes in our forests are not exactly good news for the wild turkey. In the long term, growth in harvests and wild turkey hunting recreation will also be dependent on the number of hunters, on hunter access to land, and whether wildlife remains under the ownership of the public or become privatized.

Hopefully, current and future research on wild turkeys will continue, and the wise application of this knowledge will result in a bright future for the wild turkey and wild turkey hunting in West Virginia .

Click On Link Below For PDF Version of Table 7.

Table 7. Total Spring And Fall Wild Tudrkey Harvest, West Virginia, 1966-2003.
(PDF format, 4.82KB)

Click here to get acrobat reader (You will need Acrobat Reader to view this file)

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