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Summer Turkey Sighting Survey Results 2012

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 2012 Summer Wild Turkey Sighting Survey report (PDF) (441 kB).

In 2012, there were 433 records of hen-flocks. This is slightly above 2011 (428), and is below the 10-year average for hen-flocks observed (530). Reproductive success from the 2012 survey was about 2.8 poults/hen. This is higher than 2011, and is close to the 10-year average (2.9 poults/hen). This is the first time since 2008 that productivity has been close to the long-term average, after four of the previous six seasons saw below-average productivity. About 18% of the hen-flocks observed did not have poults (vs. 23% in 2011, 21% in 2010, and 24% in 2009). This is the lowest level of "barren" hen-flocks since 2008, and is better than the ten-year average (20%).

From 2011 to 2012, production improved in DEC regions 4, 6, 8, and 9, and in 2012 was above average in regions 4, 8, and 9. Despite improvements in reproductive success in other parts of the state, production was poor in regions 1, 3, and 7, but the estimate for Region 1 (Long Island) is based on only 8 records and 4 hen-flocks so may not accurately reflect production there.

Below-average rainfall in most of May and all of June provided good nesting conditions and may have allowed for successful re-nesting attempts by adult hens after cold, wet weather in late April and early May. 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 a mild winter in 2011-12 and improved production in summer 2012, we anticipate that the fall 2012 harvest will be higher than last year, but below the ten-year average (about 10,300 birds). An early green-up followed by the late frost we observed this spring, and below-average rainfall this summer may result in less food available to turkeys this fall. If this is the case, birds may have to roam farther in search of food making them more vulnerable to hunters. If this occurs, harvest levels may be higher than anticipated.