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Summer Turkey Sighting Survey Results 2015

DEC conducts the Summer Wild Turkey Sighting Survey annually during the month of August to estimate the average number of wild turkey poults (young of the year) per hen statewide and among major geographic regions of the State. This index allows us to gauge reproductive success in a given year and allows us to predict fall harvest potential. Weather, predation, and habitat conditions during the breeding and brood-rearing seasons can all significantly impact nest success, hen survival, and poult survival.

View, print, or download the complete 2015 Summer Wild Turkey Sighting Survey report (PDF) (728 kB).

In 2015, there were 578 records of hen-flocks, the largest number reported since 2005. Reproductive success from the 2015 survey was about 3.1 poults/hen. This is similar to last year and close to the 10-year average (about 3 poults/hen). Reproductive success (as measured by this survey) has gradually improved from the low observed in 2009, and the poult per hen estimates from 2014 and 2015 are the first consecutive years with average to above average productivity since 2007-2008. About 20% of the hen-flocks observed in 2015 did not have poults. This similar to last year and close to the ten-year average (19.4%).

In 2015, production in most DEC Regions was close to or above the five-year statewide average with the exception of Regions 1 (Long Island), 3 (Catskills, lower Hudson Valley) and 7 (central New York). From 2014 to 2015, production was similar in most regions, except for a decline observed in Region 1. Whether this decline is real or a result of a small sample size there is unknown. Improved survey participation will help improve the accuracy of productivity estimates.

Rainfall amounts differed dramatically between May and June in many parts of the state. May rainfall was slightly below average in most regions, with the exception of some parts of the Lake Plains in western New York. June rainfall was above average in many regions, with the Adirondacks, central New York, and the Catskills being hardest hit. Above average rainfall in May and June can negatively impact nest and brood success, but a relatively dry May can buffer the effects of above-average rainfall in June as long as low temperatures don't weaken newly hatched poults. It is important to note that turkeys in areas with favorable weather may still experience low nest and brood success due to poor habitat quantity and quality on a local or landscape scale (e.g., lack of brood-rearing habitat and/or a poor mix of habitat types).

This fall, the good production observed in 2014 and 2015 will likely be balanced against poor production in previous years and harsh winter conditions in 2014-15. We anticipate that the fall 2015 harvest per unit effort will be similar to last year, but still below the ten-year average (about 2.6 birds/100 days effort). In areas with good growing conditions this spring and summer and plentiful hard mast, there will be an abundance of food available to turkeys this fall. Under these conditions birds have to roam less in search of food making them less vulnerable to hunters.

Thank you to everyone who submitted their observations!