If you don’t hunt turkeys, you probably hate turkeys. One year, a week before Christmas, a friend got a call from a lady asking him to come to her house to kill the turkeys that had eaten all her Christmas decorations on her deck.
Alas, we couldn’t do that, although we did hunt there when the season opened, and shot one turkey, not enough to help with her problem.
Brad Allen, one of DIFW’s best wildlife biologists, wrote an interesting column in the March edition of Northwoods Sporting Journal, reporting that the agency’s “wild turkey reintroduction program throughout the state” has been “highly successful.” That’s an understatement!
Brad said “there is now a need to improve our management program.” He is working with the University of Maine to improve and refine their turkey population estimates.
Brad’s “second objective is to stabilize wild turkey populations in portions of southern and central Maine (to be identified at the Wildlife Management District level) were nuisance wildlife issues are the greatest. A recent survey revealed that 92% of Maine turkey hunters are satisfied with their wild turkey hunting experience in the state. However, increases in wild turkey abundance also inherently increase the potential for human-turkey conflicts and the same survey revealed that approximately 30% of Maine residents believe the state’s wild turkey population should be reduced. With the results of the population dynamics work the researchers will start addressing some of altering bag limits and season lengths.”
I once proposed legislation that resulted in an increase in the turkey bag limit and reduction in the permit fee, and most recently tried again to eliminate the fee and increase the bag limit further.
Only 16,000 of us hunt turkeys. We need more turkey hunters, and we need those hunters to kill more turkeys. I’m sure that lady who lost her Christmas decorations would agree.
Here is Brad’s entire column.
As the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife transitions from a highly successful wild turkey reintroduction program throughout the state to a now well-established wild turkey population over much of Maine, there is now a need to improve our management program. The agency’s underlying mission strives for wise use of the wild turkey resource while addressing all aspects and challenges of their conservation and management. This proposed research will address two major objectives identified in the Department’s 2017 Big Game Species Management Plan. The proposed research will be a cooperative effort between the Department and University of Maine at Orono, with a graduate student leading the research efforts.
Initially, past harvest data from registration records will be analyzed to evaluate the use of harvest data to estimate turkey populations each year. This would be modeled after harvest removal models similar to those used for white-tailed deer in Vermont where each year’s harvest was used to generate an annual population estimate. With refinement, we will explore how this can be used for wild turkey population estimates in Maine. Primary players in this will be Department game bird biologist Kelsey Sullivan and University of Maine professors Dr. Erik Blomberg and Dr. Pauline Kamath. Graduate student Matthew Gonnerman and field technician Brittany Currier will kick off the field work this winter.
Objective one addresses the development and implementation of improved techniques to monitor wild turkey population trends. Two strategies were identified to: (1) explore population models that incorporate variables such as weather, productivity, harvest, sex, age, and natural mortality and (2) to identify other methods to monitor turkey population trends using information other than turkey harvest data. Based on the results of work on this objective, the researchers propose to model wild turkey population dynamics and evaluate relationships between annual harvest mortality, fall harvest, and population growth.
The second objective is to stabilize wild turkey populations in portions of southern and central Maine (to be identified at the Wildlife Management District level) were nuisance wildlife issues are the greatest. A recent survey revealed that 92% of Maine turkey hunters are satisfied with their wild turkey hunting experience in the state. However, increases in wild turkey abundance also inherently increase the potential for human-turkey conflicts and the same survey revealed that approximately 30% of Maine residents believe the state’s wild turkey population should be reduced. With the results of the population dynamics work the researchers will start addressing some of the Plan’s strategies to refine the Wild Turkey Management System in order to potentially adjust harvest of female turkeys during the fall hunting season by altering bag limits and season lengths.
Following this initial analysis, research efforts will be expanded to investigate the various parameters that go into a wild turkey population model, with the goal of establishing more accurate estimates of these parameters. The research would incorporate marking turkeys with leg bands and radio telemetry packages to investigate habitat use, spatial distribution, survival rates and nesting ecology. We will also investigate disease prevalence in Maine wild turkeys and assess how diseases might influence wild turkey population dynamics.
Initial and primary funding for this project will be federal Pittman-Robertson funds program and from state revenues from the sale of hunting licenses. Match will be provided through a combination of University funds and in-kind services and outside funds such as a National Wild Turkey Federation research grant.
Brad Allen is a wildlife biologist with MDIF&W. He is also an avid bird hunter and gun dog man. He would be pleased to receive feedback on his articles. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org