Wildlife - Wild Turkeys

2013 Wild Turkey Summer Survey

Wild Turkey Reproduction Drops Significantly this Summer

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. Unfortunately wild turkey recruitment decreased substantially in 2013 likely due to record rains statewide this summer.

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.

Although reproduction in turkeys has been somewhat better the last couple of years, indicators plummeted in 2013, said Ruth. Average brood size of 3.9 poults remained relatively consistent, however, the total recruitment ratio of 1.3 was down about 32 percent. Recruitment ratio is a measure of young entering the population based on the number of hens in the population. This figure was driven by a high percentage of hens (66%) that had no poults at all by late summer. Both recruitment ratio and percentage of hens with no poults were the lowest since the survey began in 1982. "At the regional level it appears that reproduction was poor in most of the state."

Unlike deer, wild turkeys are much more susceptible to significant fluctuations in reproduction and recruitment. Lack of reproductive success is often associated with bad weather (cold and wet) during nesting and brood rearing season and most of the state saw unprecedented rainfall that began late in the spring and continued throughout most of the summer.

What does poor reproduction in 2013 mean for the spring turkey hunter? Ruth indicated, "Spring harvest trends have followed the trends in reproduction in recent years with harvest figures being better in 2012 and 2013 due to better reproduction. However, with reproduction way down this summer the outlook for the 2014 spring season is not terribly encouraging. One positive note, said Ruth, is the gobbler to hen ratio remained good with a statewide average of 0.70, about average for the last few 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, "the state's turkey population remains about 25 percent below record levels of 10 years ago. Although the harvest has been relatively stable the last couple of years, we need better reproduction for several years to get the population back up. 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 2013 Summer Turkey Survey.

Map of physiographic regions for 2005 Summer Turkey Survey.

Table 1. Summary of reproductive data for 2013 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
0.59
360
893 (71)
1,437
4.0
1.1
Midlands
0.97
71
113 (61)
296
4.2
1.6
Northern Coastal
0.73
155
236 (60)
612
3.9
1.6
Southern Coastal
0.82
224
346 (61)
824
3.7
1.4
Statewide
0.70
810
1,588 (66)
3,169
3.9
1.3

Table 2. Statewide Summer Turkey Survey reproductive data 2008-2013.

Year Gobbler
Hen
Ratio
No. Hens
w/Poults
No. Hens w/o
Poults (%)
No.
Poults
Average
Brood
Size
Total
Recruitment
Ratio
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
2012
0.78
1,208
1,472 (55)
5,085
4.2
1.9
2013
0.70
810
1,588 (66)
3,169
3.9
1.3
Average
0.72
1,324
1,396 (50)
5,495
4.1
2.0

Table 3. 2013 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
42
32
9
68
77
88
52
1
162
Aiken
80
57
13
44
57
77
88
37
239
Allendale
5
3
1
10
11
91
8
0
22
Anderson
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
Bamberg
3
30
7
5
12
42
16
0
58
Barnwell
71
99
25
26
51
51
54
17
221
Beaufort
13
55
17
22
39
56
10
0
104
Berkeley
158
321
86
171
257
67
214
54
846
Calhoun
3
9
4
1
5
20
0
0
14
Charleston
46
69
23
32
55
58
61
11
196
Cherokee
23
82
12
20
32
63
10
26
150
Chester
21
4
3
37
40
93
52
0
96
Chesterfield
25
125
30
25
55
45
53
0
233
Clarendon
20
28
8
29
37
78
41
16
122
Colleton
42
138
29
36
65
55
37
3
243
Darlington
8
65
11
7
18
39
7
0
90
Dillon
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
Dorchester
8
6
1
6
7
86
19
4
36
Edgefield
18
14
3
29
32
91
7
12
65
Fairfield
57
103
29
107
136
79
91
35
365
Florence
19
57
14
13
27
48
12
10
106
Georgetown
44
173
46
85
131
65
38
6
348
Greenville
1
0
0
0
0
3
0
3
Greenwood
21
46
15
25
40
63
21
0
107
Hampton
17
62
22
26
48
54
38
0
148
Horry
38
83
21
41
62
66
65
9
219
Jasper
2
5
2
0
2
0
2
8
17
Kershaw
1
0
0
2
2
100
0
0
2
Lancaster
1
0
0
0
0
3
0
3
Laurens
21
18
5
32
37
86
18
6
79
Lee
1
1
1
0
1
0
0
2
Lexington
1
0
0
0
0
1
0
1
McCormick
32
58
15
37
52
71
27
4
141
Marion
50
159
42
33
75
44
53
9
296
Marlboro
1
0
0
0
0
3
0
3
Newberry
72
276
50
111
161
69
104
42
583
Oconee
25
66
18
15
33
45
24
19
142
Orangeburg
8
36
11
12
23
52
11
16
86
Pickens
65
154
30
109
139
78
63
43
399
Richland
10
17
5
10
15
67
4
3
39
Saluda
16
21
8
9
17
53
19
4
61
Spartanburg
40
121
38
35
73
48
56
9
259
Sumter
26
22
7
24
31
77
19
21
93
Union
151
359
105
229
334
69
151
25
869
Williamsburg
32
112
24
35
59
59
76
27
274
York
42
83
20
30
50
60
38
32
203
State Total
1,380
3,169
810
1,588
2,398
66
1669
509
7,745

The 2013 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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