2009 spring turkey hunt close to previous year’s totals

LITTLE ROCK, Ar (AGFC) - Turkey hunting in Arkansas last spring, a season shortened to a "conservative" mode, ended with hunters taking nearly as many birds at the previous year, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission was told at its July meeting.

The spring turkey season resulted in 11,122 turkeys being taken by hunters, said Mike Widner, turkey program coordinator. This was down by 339 from the 2008 spring hunt, a 3 percent decrease. Slight declines were in the Ozarks, Ouachitas and the Gulf Coastal Plain, and the Delta had an increase in turkey successes.

Widner said, "The stable harvest during the 2009 season was primarily the result of the conservative spring turkey season now in place, as brood production continues to be below average. The current season structure is compatible with recent trends in turkey reproduction and turkey numbers."

The spring season was three weeks long for much of the state, Widner said, down from the 37-day hunts a few years back. The production of young turkeys, called poults, dropped because of weather problems and other unfavorable conditions, so the AGFC reduced spring hunting, first to a 28-day maximum then to 21 days.

Sharp County in northern Arkansas was again the top turkey hunting county with 421 birds checked in. Next in the Top Ten of turkey counties for the spring 2009 hunt were Fulton 409; Baxter 337; Cleburne 335; Independence 329; Izard 304; Randolph 303; Montgomery 284; Marion 278; and Union 277.

Two counties in northeast Arkansas, Cross and Mississippi, had their most productive spring turkey hunts ever.

The public area that had the most turkeys checked by hunters was White River National Wildlife Refuge in southeast Arkansas, where 89 turkeys came in.

AGFC's regulations restrict the number of jakes, young male turkeys, that are taken by hunters. Widner said that in the 2009 spring hunt, the percentage of jakes in the totals dropped to 18.3 percent, down from 19.3 percent in 2008 and from 25 percent in 2007. A hunter can take only one jake during the season.

In the two-day special youth hunt that preceded the regular turkey season, 981 turkeys were taken by hunters 15 and younger. This bettered the previous high of 951 in 2007's youth hunt.

Widner said, "The spring harvest was in line with our expectations. We expected harvest in the Delta to go up due to good hatches in 2005 and 2006 and good carryover of adult gobblers due to closed seasons in spring 2008. We expected harvest in the rest of the state to be similar to last year because of continued below-average brood production in most areas.

Public meetings will be held around the state on Tuesday, Aug. 25, for hunters to provide input for the spring 2010 season.