LITTLE ROCK (AGFC) – Get near real-time updates on Arkansas's turkey season beginning with the special youth turkey hunt this Saturday, April 9.
Thanks to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission's online and telephone checking system, results are posted as soon as they are verified. Anyone can view up-to-date information athttps://www.ark.org/agfc/gamecheck/reports.php.
Jason Honey, turkey program coordinator for the AGFC, said Arkansas youth hunters typically harvest between 1,000 and 1,300 turkeys during the special two-day youth turkey hunt, held a week before regular turkey season opens.
"We give kids the first shot at the birds, before they get wise to hunter pressure," Honey said. "Then we give the birds a week to rest before opening day."
Many hunters are anxious to hit the woods, ready to bag an easy bird right now, but a decreased population from poor hatches and other biological easons, an earlier opener may not be the best thing for the birds.
"Around 2000, there was a significant decrease of hens observed with poults in our brood surveys," Honey said. "Excluding the great hatches in 2001 and 2012, the percentage of hens seen with poults has been around 30 percent for the last decade and a half. Before 2000, that percentage was more like 50 to 75 percent."
The current season structure enables the turkeys to begin breeding before hunter pressure begins to play a role.
"We really need the mature gobblers out there to breed some hens before they are disturbed by hunting or taken out of the flock," Honey said. "Once the first wave of hens goes to nest, those gobblers will have a second peak of gobbling where they're looking for more girlfriends. That's when we want hunters to take them."
The AGFC has restricted the harvest of immature gobblers, allowing only a youth hunter to take one as part of their bag limit. Reducing the harvest of these birds should aid in the amount of mature birds available to breed the following year and offer mature birds to hunt.
"We're currently conducting a research project to determine how much impact the recent 'no jakes' rule is having on letting more mature birds be available for breeding and harvest the next year."