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Summer Turkey Sighting Survey Results 2011

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.

In 2011, there were 429 records of hen-flocks. This is slightly below 2010 (445), and is below the 10-year average for hen-flocks observed (559). Reproductive success from the 2011 survey was about 2.6 poults/hen. This is the same as 2010, but is still below the 10-year average (3.0 poults/hen; Figure 1). This is the third consecutive year where productivity has been below the ten-year average, and four of the past six years have had below-average productivity. About 23% of the hen-flocks observed did not have poults (vs. 21% in 2010 and 24% in 2009). This is similar to last summer, but is still worse than the 10-year average for "barren" hen-flocks (19%). Production was similar to or below the annual average across the state with the exception of DEC Regions 4, 5, and 9 (3.0, 3.1, and 3.2 poults/hen, respectively; Table 1).

Poor reproductive success in many regions may be a result of above-average rainfall in May and June (the critical nesting period for turkeys); however, in 2011 there was quite a bit of variation in rainfall between the two months. Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service indicate that from April 1 through the end of May average rainfall was about 3.5 inches above normal statewide, and rainfall was above normal in almost every WMU aggregate in the state, ranging from almost 2 inches above normal in the Hudson Valley to 5 inches above normal in the East Appalachian Plateau (see Figure 2 for WMU aggregates referred to here).

Rainfall amounts declined in June with several aggregates at or below normal for the month. Drier conditions in June may have resulted in improved nesting success or may have allowed adult hens whose nests failed in May to attempt to renest in June. 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).

Based on below-average production during summers 2010 and 2011, we anticipate that the fall 2011 harvest will be similar to last year and below the ten-year average (about 12,000 birds). Furthermore, areas with good mast production will present another challenge to hunters. In years where there is abundant hard and soft mast, turkeys do not have to roam as far to locate food, thus they are less vulnerable to harvest.

New York State Summer Turkey Sighting Survey 2001-2011

Figure 1. An index of wild turkey productivity (poults/hen) in New York State from the Summer Sighting Survey (2001-2011) and the fall turkey harvest (2001-2010). Dashed lines represent the 10-year average poult:hen ratio for the Summer Sighting Survey and fall harvest.

Table 1. An index of wild turkey productivity (poults/hen) by DEC Region from the Summer Sighting Survey, 2006-11.
DEC Regiona 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 5-year Avg.
Region 1 & 2 1.5 4.4 3.8 1.2 1.2 1.2 2.4
Region 3 2.8 2.5 3.5 2.5 2.2 2.2 2.7
Region 4 3.4 4.4 3.7 3.5 3.2 3.0 3.6
Region 5 1.5 3.2 1.9 2.1 3.3 3.1 2.4
Region 6 2.1 2.9 2.6 2.0 2.3 2.7 2.4
Region 7 3.0 4.5 3.1 2.2 3.0 2.6 3.1
Region 8 3.2 3.2 3.3 3.1 2.5 2.8 3.1
Region 9 4.3 3.0 3.3 1.9 3.0 3.2 3.1
Statewide Average 2.7 3.5 3.1 2.3 2.6 2.6 2.8

a View map of DEC regions.

Table 2. Wild turkeys observed by Wildlife Management Unit (WMU) Aggregate from the Summer Wild Turkey Sighting Survey, 2011.
WMU Aggregate # Hen-Flocks Observed Poults/Hen
Champlain Valley & Transition


Central Adirondacks 41 3.4
Northern Adirondacks 8 3.5
Tug Hill 1 3.3
Tug Hill Transition 2 3.0
St. Lawrence Valley 8 2.1
East Ontario Plain 16 2.1
Oswego Lowlands 2 1.3
Great Lakes Plain 19 2.9
Oneida Lake Plains 23 3.7
Central Appalachian Plateau 1 1.0
East Appalachian Plateau 31 2.1
North Appalachian Hills 40 2.9
West Appalachian Hills 65 3.3
Otsego-Delaware Hills 14 2.2
Catskills 31 2.1
Neversink-Mongaup Hills 10 1.3
Mohawk Valley 18 3.6
Hudson Valley 55 2.8
North Taconic Highlands 5 5.2
South Taconic Highlands 4 4.7
New York City Transition n/a n/a
Coastal Lowlands 31 1.2

New York State Wild Turkey Summer Sighting Survey Poults per Hen by WMU Aggregate, 2011

Figure 2. An index of wild turkey productivity (poults/hen) in Wildlife Management Unit Aggregates of New York State from the Summer Wild Turkey Sighting Survey, 2011. Sample size (hen-flocks observed) for each WMU aggregate is available in Table 2 (above). Statewide average poults/hen was 2.6 (n=429). The aggregate in white had no observations reported; this is a sampling artifact and is not indicative of production in this area.