According to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife, Garden State turkey hunters took a record number of gobblers during the five-week 1997 season which began on April 21 and ended May 23. A record harvest of 2,076 gobblers were reported by turkey hunters to required check stations throughout the state.
“The division has been actively involved in restoring wild turkey populations throughout New Jersey since 1977 and this spring’s impressive record harvest is a result of those continuing efforts,” said division Director Bob McDowell. “This was the first time that the entire state has been open for spring gobbler hunting and turkeys were harvested in 18 of New Jersey’s 21 counties. In addition, hunters experienced a success rate of 18.5 percent which is excellent for the northeastern United States.”
The 1997 harvest total is an increase of 71 gobblers over the 1996 record harvest of 2,007 birds. Division Wild Turkey Project Leader Bob Eriksen attributed the record 1997 spring harvest to management efforts focusing on wild turkeys in the southern portion of the state.
“Our energy has been focused on the southern portion of the state for the past several years,” Eriksen said. “We began to make supplemental releases and conduct research on Pine Barrens habitat in 1993 to help fledgling turkey populations grow more quickly and to achieve a firm, scientific understanding of habitat and predation on wild turkey numbers in this area.”
In less than 20 years, an aggressive live-trapping and transfer program restored wild turkeys to much of the Garden State. During that time, division wildlife biologists have captured, banded and moved more than 1,500 birds. Population restoration work was completed in the northern and central part of the state in 1996. Efforts to restore populations in South Jersey should be completed within the next three years.
McDowell added that volunteers have played no small role in helping to restore wild turkeys to New Jersey. “Both state and local chapters of the National Wild Turkey Federation have been instrumental in funding restoration efforts. These wild turkey enthusiasts have sponsored a variety of fund-raising events, and provided valuable equipment and funding for the continuation of the division’s wild turkey research program,” he said.
Spring gobbler hunting seasons have been held in New Jersey since 1981. The season is based on a carefully limited permit system to keep hunter densities low and provide for quality hunting conditions. The state is divided into 18 turkey hunting areas and the entire season is split into five hunting segments. Permits are valid for certain hunting areas and segments.
Preliminary harvest figures for the 1997 season by Turkey Hunting Area and Season Segment follow:
|Hunting Area||Segment A||Segment B||Segment C||Segment D||Segment E||1997 Harvest||1996 Harvest*|