Wildlife - Wild Turkeys

2010 Summer Turkey Brood Survey

Wild Turkey Reproduction Increases Substantially This Summer

After five years of less than desirable production, wild turkey recruitment increased substantially in 2010 based on a S.C. Department of Natural Resources survey.

Annually since the early 1980's, the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) conducts a Summer Turkey Survey to estimate reproduction and recruitment of turkeys in South Carolina. The survey involves agency wildlife biologists, technicians and conservation officers, as well as many volunteers from other natural resource agencies and the general public.

Although wild turkeys nest primarily in April and May in South Carolina, the survey does not take place until late summer, according to Charles Ruth, DNR Deer and Wild Turkey Program coordinator. Therefore, the survey statistics document poults (young turkeys) that actually survived and entered the population going into the fall.

All indicators were much better in 2010 compared to the last few years, said Ruth. The average brood size of 4.5 poults was up 21 percent and the total recruitment ratio of 2.6 was up 44 percent compared to 2009. Recruitment ratio is a measure of young entering the population based on the number of hens in the population. These increases were driven by a decrease in the percentage of hens that had no poults. In 2009, 55 percent of hens observed during the two month survey had no poults accompanying them, but in 2010 that figure dropped to 41 percent, the lowest figure in 6 years. "At the regional level it appears that reproduction improved in all parts of the state, a positive indicator considering the declining trend that we have seen the last few years.

It is unclear why reproduction in turkeys improved this year. In the Southeast Mother Nature often plays a big role in turkey populations with heavy rainfall coupled with cool temperatures during the spring nesting and brood rearing season leading to poor reproductive success." However, given that we have had consistently poor reproduction over the last 5 to 6 years in spite of variable weather conditions, it is difficult to say that there was anything related to the weather that contributed to the substantial increase in reproductive success this year.

What does better reproduction in 2010 mean for the spring turkey hunter? Ruth indicated, "Harvest trends have followed the trends in reproduction in recent years and we have seen about a 30 percent decline in turkey harvest since 2002. With substantially better reproduction in 2010 the number of turkeys available during the spring of 2011 season should increase. However, most of the increase in 2011 will be in the form of jakes (immature gobblers) and it will be 2012 before this year's reproductive output will show up in the form of mature gobblers (2 year old birds). Another positive note, said Ruth, is the gobbler to hen ratio remained good with a statewide average of 0.69 gobblers to each hen. Many experts believe that when gobbler to hen ratios get below 0.5, the quality of hunting can be impacted because hens are extremely available which affects gobbling and responsiveness to calling by hunters.

"The bottom line," Ruth said, "is this type of reproduction is exactly what we need to overcome less than desirable reproduction the last six years." That is the nice thing about turkeys though; given the right conditions they can naturally bounce back in a short period of time.

"Anyone interested in participating in the annual Summer Turkey Survey is encouraged to sign-up", said Ruth. The survey period is July 1- August 29 annually and folks who participate typically spend some reasonable amount of time outdoors during that time period. Cooperators obviously must be able to identify wild turkeys and must be comfortable in telling the difference between hens, poults, and gobblers. Cooperators are provided with survey forms prior to the survey and a reporting notice and postage paid envelop at the end of the survey period. If you would like to participate in the survey, send your name and address to Summer Turkey Survey, P.O. Box 167, Columbia, SC 29202. You will be added to the cooperator list and receive materials at the end of June annually. Those interested in the survey can also download instructions and survey forms at the following website: http://www.dnr.sc.gov/wildlife/turkey/volunbroodsurvey.html

Figure 1. Map of physiographic regions for 2009 Summer Turkey Survey.

Map of physiographic regions for 2005 Summer Turkey Survey.

Table 1. Summary of reproductive data for 2010 Summer Turkey Survey by region.

Region Gobbler
Hen
Ratio
No. Hens
w/Poults
No. Hens w/o
Poults (%)
No.
Poults
Average
Brood
Size
Total
Recruitment
Ratio
Piedmont
0.46
856
533 (38)
3,599
4.2
2.6
Midlands
0.70
79
100 (55)
357
4.5
2.0
Northern Coastal
1.15
140
113 (45)
667
4.8
2.6
Southern Coastal
0.88
612
405 (40)
2,885
4.7
2.8
Statewide
0.69
1,687
1,151 (41)
7,508
4.5
2.6

Table 2. Statewide Summer Turkey Survey reproductive data 2005-2010.

Year Gobbler
Hen
Ratio
No. Hens
w/Poults
No. Hens w/o
Poults (%)
No.
Poults
Average
Brood
Size
Total
Recruitment
Ratio
2005
0.77
936
989 (51)
3,066
3.3
1.6
2006
0.61
1,078
1,078 (50)
3,659
3.4
1.7
2007
0.77
904
1,269 (58)
3,240
3.6
1.5
2008
0.71
1,504
1,446 (49)
6,336
4.2
2.1
2009
0.66
1,296
1,499 (54)
4,889
3.7
1.8
2010
0.69
1,687
1,151 (41)
7,508
4.5
2.6
Average
0.70
1,236
1,238 (50)
4,783
3.8
1.9

Table 3. 2010 Summer Turkey Survey Results.

County No. Observ. No. Poults No. Hens w/ Poults No. Hens w/o Poults % Hens w/o Poults No. Hens % Hens w/o Poults No. Gobblers No. Unid. Total Turkeys Observed
Abbeville
35
173
34
16
32
50
32
38
57
318
Aiken
62
141
34
60
64
94
64
43
25
303
Allendale
17
79
11
15
58
26
58
21
7
133
Anderson
15
28
7
19
73
26
73
19
17
90
Bamberg
54
379
66
15
19
81
19
80
38
578
Barnwell
120
220
49
78
61
127
61
173
18
538
Beaufort
58
366
66
29
31
95
31
43
35
539
Berkeley
224
1115
229
133
37
362
37
321
51
1849
Calhoun
2
20
6
3
33
9
33
2
0
31
Charleston
73
230
62
51
45
113
45
70
12
425
Cherokee
11
38
8
8
50
16
50
9
0
63
Chester
52
207
51
40
44
91
44
30
8
336
Chesterfield
11
31
8
4
33
12
33
10
2
55
Clarendon
25
39
7
8
53
15
53
50
55
159
Colleton
42
160
42
12
22
54
22
61
4
279
Darlington
10
21
5
6
55
11
55
31
0
63
Dillon
5
11
3
2
40
5
40
10
0
26
Dorchester
7
0
0
0
0
1
0
7
13
21
Edgefield
23
98
20
13
39
33
39
11
0
142
Fairfield
51
291
97
66
40
163
40
109
68
631
Florence
8
11
3
6
67
9
67
16
0
36
Georgetown
51
131
43
53
55
96
55
111
6
344
Greenville
11
64
15
9
38
24
38
4
6
98
Greenwood
30
200
38
10
21
48
21
14
0
262
Hampton
76
317
81
71
47
152
47
120
30
619
Horry
6
23
6
6
50
12
50
8
0
43
Jasper
5
28
5
1
17
6
17
5
0
39
Kershaw
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
Lancaster
8
21
3
3
50
6
50
1
5
33
Laurens
24
88
20
12
38
32
38
24
0
144
Lee
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
Lexington
10
21
8
8
50
16
50
1
0
38
McCormick
52
217
52
27
34
79
34
20
28
344
Marion
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
Marlboro
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
Newberry
70
368
81
41
34
122
34
46
60
596
Oconee
21
115
22
13
37
35
37
15
13
178
Orangeburg
5
19
6
0
0
6
0
0
3
28
Pickens
24
90
23
9
28
32
28
69
10
201
Richland
5
6
2
5
71
7
71
16
14
43
Saluda
23
83
22
12
35
34
35
8
5
130
Spartanburg
52
243
57
35
38
92
38
33
39
407
Sumter
31
138
21
20
49
41
49
54
3
236
Union
238
1197
282
191
40
473
40
186
79
1935
Williamsburg
35
403
68
31
31
99
31
61
19
582
York
27
78
24
9
27
33
27
9
33
153
State Total
1,709
7,508
1,687
1,150
41
2,838
41
1,959
763
13,068

The 2010 Summer Turkey Brood Survey above is provided in Adobe® Acrobat® (PDF) format. Adobe® Reader® is required to open this file and is available as a free download from the Adobe® Web site.
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