Wildlife - Wild Turkeys

2011 Summer Turkey Brood Survey

Wild Turkey Reproduction Remains Better This Summer

As was the case last year, wild turkey recruitment remained good in 2011 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.

Reproduction in 2010 was the best in a number of years and although indicators were not quite as strong in 2011, indicators remained good this year, said Ruth. The average brood size of 4.2 poults and the total recruitment ratio of 2.3 where down only slightly from last year which was the best year since 2004. Recruitment ratio is a measure of young entering the population based on the number of hens in the population. These solid figures were driven by the second lowest percentage of hens that had no poults (46%) in 6 years. “At the regional level it appears that reproduction was generally good in most of the state with the lower coastal plain being an exception.”

It is unclear why reproduction in turkeys improved the past two years. 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.” Reproduction was generally poor between 2005 and 2009, however, it has been much better the last two years. Is difficult to say that there was anything related to the weather that contributed to the previous decline or recent improvement in reproductive success.

What does better reproduction in 2011 mean for the spring turkey hunter? Ruth indicated, "Harvest trends have followed the trends in reproduction in recent years and we saw a slight increase in harvest this spring which coincided with the better reproduction in 2010. With two successive years of better reproduction the number of turkeys available during the spring of 2012 season should the best in a number of years. More importantly, the number of mature gobblers (2 year old birds) should be the highest we have seen for a while. Another positive note, said Ruth, is the gobbler to hen ratio remained good with a statewide average of 0.76, the highest in 5 years. 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 the type of reproduction we have had the last two years is exactly what we need to overcome less than desirable reproduction in previous years." That is the nice thing about turkeys; 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 those 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 2011 Summer Turkey Survey.

Map of physiographic regions for 2005 Summer Turkey Survey.

Table 1. Summary of reproductive data for 2011 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
0.56
860
531 (38)
3,752
4.4
2.7
Midlands
0.66
86
97 (53)
379
4.4
2.1
Northern Coastal
0.84
155
116 (43)
545
3.5
2.0
Southern Coastal
1.00
341
479 (58)
1,311
3.8
1.6
Statewide
0.76
1,442
1,223 (46)
5,987
4.2
2.3

Table 2. Statewide Summer Turkey Survey reproductive data 2006-2011.

Year Gobbler
Hen
Ratio
No. Hens
w/Poults
No. Hens w/o
Poults (%)
No.
Poults
Average
Brood
Size
Total
Recruitment
Ratio
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
2011
0.76
1,442
1,223 (46)
5,987
4.2
2.3
Average
0.70
1,390
1,278 (50)
5,270
3.9
2.0

Table 3. 2011 Summer Turkey Survey Results.

County No. Observ. No. Poults No. Hens w/ Poults No. Hens w/o Poults No. Hens % Hens w/o Poults No. Gobblers No. Unid. Total Turkeys Observed
Abbeville
59
330
74
34
108
31
16
7
461
Aiken
55
38
11
61
72
85
55
19
184
Allendale
21
28
11
17
28
61
31
54
141
Anderson
37
76
21
39
60
65
59
63
258
Bamberg
18
129
17
13
30
43
68
12
239
Barnwell
133
187
60
107
167
64
226
77
657
Beaufort
24
54
13
16
29
55
25
15
123
Berkeley
123
365
106
98
204
48
195
37
801
Calhoun
0
0
0
0
0
 
0
0
0
Charleston
40
69
14
29
43
67
54
6
172
Cherokee
38
148
33
27
60
45
25
42
275
Chester
80
203
58
77
135
57
55
38
431
Chesterfield
14
45
11
9
20
45
7
3
75
Clarendon
15
46
9
5
14
36
42
16
118
Colleton
31
63
24
32
56
57
28
15
162
Darlington
9
59
11
1
12
8
10
0
81
Dillon
3
17
2
1
3
33
0
0
20
Dorchester
20
73
16
22
38
58
26
3
140
Edgefield
42
219
48
17
65
26
31
8
323
Fairfield
47
128
32
36
68
53
50
21
267
Florence
7
9
2
10
12
83
1
6
28
Georgetown
44
193
68
42
110
38
83
0
386
Greenville
15
38
8
5
13
38
7
3
61
Greenwood
59
392
85
31
116
27
50
1
559
Hampton
44
148
37
76
113
67
129
0
390
Horry
5
4
2
4
6
67
16
8
34
Jasper
11
42
9
27
36
75
27
0
105
Kershaw
16
74
21
3
24
13
14
2
114
Lancaster
9
10
2
9
11
82
3
1
25
Laurens
36
98
25
14
39
36
46
1
184
Lee
0
0
0
0
0
 
0
0
0
Lexington
8
9
4
10
14
71
6
1
30
McCormick
54
236
53
29
82
35
30
21
369
Marion
11
27
10
3
13
23
15
0
55
Marlboro
8
36
7
5
12
42
0
0
48
Newberry
73
352
82
42
124
34
64
25
565
Oconee
12
70
13
14
27
52
5
0
102
Orangeburg
16
77
13
3
16
19
9
6
108
Pickens
59
177
42
48
90
53
60
18
345
Richland
42
171
34
12
46
26
26
37
280
Saluda
27
98
22
18
40
45
14
0
152
Spartanburg
64
206
57
15
72
21
109
59
446
Sumter
10
42
5
2
7
29
13
3
65
Union
209
1044
224
107
331
32
227
24
1626
Williamsburg
49
154
44
45
89
51
63
88
394
York
15
3
2
8
10
80
10
4
27
State Total
1,712
5,987
1442
1,223
2,665
46
2030
744
11,426

The 2011 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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