An estimated 45,000 hunters will take to the woods during the upcoming turkey season, generating more than $16 million in direct expenditures for South Carolina’s economy.
The 2007 wild turkey season runs March 31 through May 1 for all Wildlife Management Areas where turkey hunting is allowed and on private lands in 34 counties. The season opens March 15 and runs through May 1 on private lands only in Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Beaufort, Berkeley, Calhoun, Charleston, Colleton, Dorchester, Hampton, Jasper and Orangeburg counties.
Saturday, March 24 is a Youth Turkey Hunt Day in areas where the season opens on March 31. On this day, youths ages 10-17 who are accompanied by a properly licensed adult (age 21 and older) may hunt turkeys. Only the youth can take or attempt to take turkeys. Tagging requirements remain in place for this special youth day.
Tags, as well as the 2007 Turkey Brochure, are available at DNR offices and most local businesses that were formerly Big Game Check Stations. Tags are free and the brochure describes all areas open for hunting, current regulations, and special bag limits for certain Wildlife Management Areas. Turkey hunting regulations apply to both public and private lands in most cases. No turkey hunting is permitted on turkey restoration sites that have not been formally opened by DNR or on any Wildlife Management Area not listed in the spring turkey brochure. To obtain a copy by mail write: Spring Turkey Brochure, DNR, PO Box 167, Columbia, SC 29202, call the DNR Columbia office at (803) 734-3886.
Hunters are reminded that although they must still possess and use turkey tags, taking harvested turkeys to check stations is not required. This is the second year with that change in place. Hunters will also notice that turkey tags have a slightly different appearance this year. The tags now include security features that require the hunter to notch or mark the day and month of kill on the tag prior to tagging. These features will add security to the tagging system and will make it more difficult to reuse tags.
Hunters will also notice that there is a place on the back of the tag form to write in the date and county of kill. This tag validation technique is being studied this year as an added security feature and to allow for enforcement of limits in certain parts of the state where the bag limit is two birds. Hunters are encouraged to complete the validation.
The outlook for the 2007 spring season is only fair for most areas, according to Charles Ruth, Deer and Turkey Project supervisor for DNR. As was the case last year, it appears that wild turkey reproduction was poor to very poor in most regions. Although wild turkeys nest primarily in April and May in South Carolina, the survey does not take place until late summer. Therefore, the survey statistics document poults (young turkeys) that actually survived and entered the population going into the fall. Although average brood size was good with hens averaging 3.4 poults, 50 percent of hens observed had no poults at all by late summer leading to a total recruitment ratio of 1.7. Recruitment ratio is a measure of young entering the population based on the number of hens in the population.
“In the Southeast,” Ruth said, “Mother Nature often plays a big role in turkey populations with heavy rainfall and/or cool temperatures during the spring nesting and brood rearing season leading to poor reproductive success.” However, that does not appear to be the case last spring. Comparing climatic data with historic data indicates that temperatures were at or above normal and rainfall was below normal during the nesting and brood rearing period. In other words, environmental conditions were such that reproduction in turkeys should have been better last year. “Perhaps we have reached a point in time where the relationship between the turkey population and habitat is simply not as good as it was when turkeys were expanding across the state,” Ruth said.
According to the survey, the Northern Coastal Plain experienced the best reproduction in 2006, with counties including Berkeley, Clarendon, and Williamsburg faring better than most other parts of the state.
What does poor reproduction by turkeys for two consecutive years mean for the spring turkey hunter? “With poor reproduction the last two years the number of mature gobblers (2 years and older) available during the spring of 2007 will likely be low across most of the state,” Ruth said.
“Reproduction was good in 2004, but birds produced then have been subjected to two hunting seasons in addition to other mortality factors. Not only is the number of adult gobblers expected to be down in 2007, the survey results indicate that the number of jakes (immature gobblers) will be low as well. This is significant because jakes can make up 25 percent of the spring harvest following years of good reproduction.” The statewide turkey population is estimated at 90,000 birds, which is good, but with two years of poor reproduction this figure is the lowest in recent years.
“The bottom line,” Ruth said, “is that it will likely take a couple of years of better reproduction to overcome poor reproduction the last two years.”
More information on the 2006 Summer Turkey Brood Survey>>>
Hear the wild turkey gobble>>>