Fall Harvest Rates of Female Wild Turkeys in PA
Fall Harvest Rates of Female Wild Turkeys in Pennsylvania
Summary prepared by PGC Wild Turkey Biologist Mary Jo Casalena & Dr. Duane R. Diefenbach
The Pennsylvania Game Commission manages wild turkey populations by setting fall turkey hunting seasons, because the fall harvest influences the number of hens that survive to reproduce the next spring. However, fall harvest rates of hen wild turkeys in Pennsylvania, and the effects of different fall season lengths on harvest rates, are unknown. This study will determine such.
1. Estimate female wild turkey harvest rates.
2. Determine fall hunter participation and hunter harvest throughout the season and hunter satisfaction (via a turkey hunter survey after each fall season).
3. Determine the effect of changing season length on harvest rates of hens to more effectively establish fall hunting seasons.
2 Study Areas: consist of groups of similar Wildlife Management Units (WMUs)
Study Area 1 - WMUs 2C, 2E, 4A, 4B & 4D; Units that have shown to be sensitive to long fall seasons.
Study Area 2 - WMUs 2F & 2G; Units that traditionally have had long seasons, but have lower population densities (turkeys per mi.2) than the state average.
4 fall hunting seasons (2011, 2012, 2013 & 2014).
Fieldwork began January 2010 (trapping birds Jan-Mar and Aug-Oct) and monitoring of birds will continue through the November 2014 hunting season.
Objective 1: Estimate female wild turkey harvest rates.
Leg Bands - In each Study Area 230 wild hen turkeys each year are trapped using rocket nets and fitted with leg bands that specify a $100 reward if reported. Leg bands also are stamped with a toll-free number to report the band number. A toll-free number results in greater reporting rates by hunters (compared to a mailing address) and is an effective means of collecting harvest information and paying rewards.
Satellite Radio Transmitters – A sample of hens also are equipped with a satellite radio transmitter attached as a backpack that remains on her for life. The batteries last over 4 years. Transmittered hens allow us to estimate how many birds survive to the fall hunting season. The harvest of reward-banded and transmittered birds allows us to estimate the proportion of birds that are harvested — the harvest rate for hen turkeys. We retrieve transmitters from hens that die and re-deploy them on other hens each trapping season to maintain a sample of transmittered birds each year.
Objective 2: Fall Hunter Surveys
After each fall turkey season a survey is mailed to 10,000 Pennsylvania hunters with a postage-paid return envelope. Only a few questions are asked to ensure at least a 70% return rate. Questions include hunting participation, success and satisfaction for the early and late segments of the fall hunting season as well as reasons why they did or didn’t hunt to determine hunter recruitment and youth participation.
Objective 3: Determine How Season Length Affects Harvest Rates
We’ll change season lengths in each Study Area after 2 years (2013) to determine how this affects female harvest rates. With actual data regarding hen harvest rates, hunter participation and satisfaction we can more effectively set future fall turkey hunting seasons.
- Federal U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service research grant,
- The National Wild Turkey Federation, The Pennsylvania Chapter NWTF & local NWTF Chapters,
- U.S. Geological Survey, PA Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit, at The Pennsylvania State University.
Update: January 2012
Hen Research Study is updated to include the 1-year study extension, to 2014. The study was extended because the 2010 fall turkey season structure was different than the 2011 structure. This extension will accommodate 2 years of the same season structure (2011 & 2012), then changing season length in each Study Area for a 2-year period (2013 & 2014). During the Jan. Commission meeting we proposed to the Commissioners that SA1 change from a 2-week season to 3-week season in 2013 & SA2 change from a 3-week season to 2-week season. This was the original ‘cross-over’ study design.