Turkey hunters checked 10,066 birds at the end of the season which featured 16 days for all hunters, and two more days at the front end of the season for the annual statewide youth turkey hunt.
In 2016, hunters harvested 11,853 turkeys. The regular season started five days earlier than the 2016 season, but leaving no quiet period between the end of the youth hunt and the beginning of the regular season.
“We were expecting the harvest to be down a little because we’ve had fairly poor hatches the last couple of years,” said Brad Carner, chief of wildlife management.
Youth hunters checked 958 birds, down from the 1,336 birds checked during 2016. However, unexpected complications with a new checking system affected the ability to check birds during the youth hunt and first day of the regular season.
Some youth hunters had trouble reporting their turkeys via telephone checking because the system for reporting required a conservation ID number, which hunters under age 16 aren’t required to have, Carner said. Youth were able to check turkeys through online and the AGFC’s smartphone app, however.
After correcting the phone system checking for youth, some glitches arose for adults trying the check game on opening Monday, but that problem was corrected quickly, Carner said.
Some hunters who couldn’t check birds over the first three days eventually called in over the next few days, he said.
The total harvest likely exceeded the 10,066 birds, but “we don’t know how many we missed with the first weekend glitches in the checking system,” Carner said.
A restriction on hunting jakes, now in its seventh year, appears to be helping population numbers, allowing jakes to grow into 2-year-old birds. But overall numbers depend on a good overall hatch, Carner said. Biologists have seen reproductive results drop recently in state.
“We depend on a great hatch to get the jakes on the ground,” he added. “We’re two years into a three-year research project to monitor survival of jakes. We have put transmitters on jakes and we’re monitoring the survival of those as they hopefully move into adult age classes.
“We’re monitoring that now and we’re just about halfway through, so it will be a year or two before we have final results.”