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Biologist forecasts good spring for NH turkey hunters

From the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department

-- Things are looking good this year for New Hampshire's turkey hunters, according to turkey biologist Ted Walski.

Spring gobbler season opens May 3 and runs through May 31, statewide. The Youth Turkey Hunt Weekend comes just before the season opens on April 30 and May 1.

Turkeys are doing well in New Hampshire, in part because the state enjoyed sunny, dry conditions during the spring and summer months last year. This contributed to a good 2010 turkey hatch and survival of poults, which should help to make up for the below-average hatching success from the two previous years, Walski explained. As a result, he expects hunters are likely to take a relatively high percentage of 1-year old gobblers during the upcoming season.

Last year's good turkey hatch and strong numbers reported during this winter's turkey flock survey, conducted online from January through March, support Walski's assessment that the state's spring turkey harvest could top 4,000 turkeys. During the 2010 spring gobbler season, New Hampshire hunters harvested 2,741 adult gobblers, 909 jakes and 19 bearded hens.

Winter weather can have a big impact on turkey populations, but this winter worked out okay, Walski says. The first half of the winter was easy for turkeys, with little snowfall and plentiful acorns for fattening up on. After the first big snowfall in mid-January, flocks turned to backyard birdfeeders and dairy farms.

Walski reported observing good turkey numbers mid-winter, with 50 to 100 turkeys seen at ten farms. A couple of sunny 55°F days mid-February warmed things up, and a snow crust made it easier for them to get around. By Feb. 24, Walski observed turkeys gobbling and displaying. The challenges of winter faded after rain and thawing days in early March created bare ground patches on steep, south-facing slopes.

Walski advises hunters to do pre-season scouting.

"Try to get out and drive some early morning gobbling routes. Start about a half-hour before daybreak. Stop at one-half to one-mile intervals along a 5- to 10-mile route in the region you intend to hunt; get out of the vehicle and listen for gobbling turkeys and drumming grouse for four minutes at each stop." This is the method Fish and Game biologists use while surveying several 10-mile routes each spring between April 15 and May 10, listening for turkey and grouse.

Turkey licenses are required for all ages--$16 for state residents; $31 for nonresidents. The permit allows the taking of one gobbler during the spring season and one turkey of either sex during the fall archery season Sept. 15 through Dec. 15 or during the fall shotgun season Oct. 10 to 14.

All Wildlife Management Units in the state are open in the spring season, but certain northern units are closed during the fall season. Licenses are available online at http://www.huntnh.com or from any license agent. All hunters should keep in mind safety guidelines for turkey hunting.

For more information on turkey hunting in New Hampshire, including a list of registration stations and turkey hunting regulations, visit http://www.huntnh.com/Hunting/Hunt_species/hunt_turkey.htm.

For a short video about turkey hunting in New Hampshire, visit http://www.huntnh.com/Hunting/Hunt_species/hunt_turkey.htm.

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