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For Release: Wednesday, July 22, 2015

DEC Announces Adoption of New Fall Hunting Seasons for Wild Turkey

Season Changes Reflect Recent Population Assessments and Management Needs

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today adopted new regulations to shorten fall turkey hunting seasons in New York State due to a declining turkey population across the state. The new fall seasons are two weeks long with a statewide season bag limit of one bird of either sex. Season dates vary regionally with the season in the Northern Zone running October 1-14, the Southern Zone running October 17-30, and Suffolk County (Long Island) running November 21-December 4.

"Declining wild turkey populations across the state make it necessary to shorten the hunting season," DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said. "It is important to responsibly manage New York's wild turkey populations to ensure that future generations of hunters have the opportunity to go afield."

DEC received approximately 120 comments on the regulatory proposal. Almost all of the comments received expressed concern over the decline in wild turkey populations over the past 15 years, and many were supportive of DEC's efforts to modify the fall hunting season to accommodate changing turkey populations and environmental conditions.

The new regulations are part of a multi-year study to understand and respond to long-term declines in turkey populations and to ensure that harvest opportunities are sustainable. The new fall hunting season structure is based on the results of research conducted by DEC and its partners on ecological and social factors that influence turkey populations and turkey management. This included:

  • a study of how weather and landscape-scale habitat features interact and influence the number of turkeys found in different parts of the state;
  • surveys of turkey hunters to identify what they value in terms of turkey populations, a high-quality hunting experience, and the trade-offs they are willing to make between hunting opportunity and turkey abundance; and
  • field research where more than 450 hen turkeys are banded annually, some with satellite radios, so biologists can determine their survival and fall harvest rates.

Based on those studies, DEC concluded that the best way to enhance turkey populations while maintaining some fall hunting opportunity was to offer a two-week season in all areas of the state, with a seasonal limit of one bird of either sex. Season dates are staggered among three broad regions, which will provide more avid hunters the chance to hunt turkeys for more than just two weeks. This represents a reduced season length in most of the state and a modest increase in season length for Long Island.

The new fall hunting season changes will be evaluated as part of a four-year research program. DEC staff continues to band and track hens in 2015 and 2016 to help evaluate the effects of fall season changes on hen harvest and survival. This information will be used along with information on turkey abundance, productivity, and hunter activity and harvest data collected annually to determine future fall harvest opportunities that are sustainable under current environmental conditions and trends in turkey populations.

The Notice of Adoption for this regulation is published in issue 29 of the New York State Register, dated July 22, 2015. For more information about the new fall turkey hunting regulations, visit the DEC website.

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