From Delaware Dept. of Natural Resources & Environmental Control
-- For the eighth straight year, Delaware's wild turkey season set a new harvest record of 487 birds, surpassing last year's harvest by more than 100 gobblers. A record tom weighing 25 1/2 pounds taken by a first-time turkey hunter was the largest in the state this spring.
The successful harvest illustrates one of Delaware's most successful wildlife restoration programs.
"The turkey harvest really started climbing in 2004, and we have experienced a remarkable 350 percent increase in just eight years," said game biologist Matt DiBona. "While we can't predict what our maximum harvest level might be, we feel that the turkey population is growing, along with hunter interest, so there might be more record seasons to come."
Delaware hunters are permitted to take only one turkey per season, and almost 500 hunters scored with the big birds.
Birds were harvested in 16 of the 17 management zones in the state but several areas stood out as turkey hotspots. Zones 4, 6, and 11 accounted more than a third - 38 percent - of the total statewide harvest. Zone 1, which is New Castle County north of the Canal, was the only zone where no birds were taken.
Biologists weren't surprised to find that nine in 10 birds were taken on private land. Given the limited amount of public land in Delaware and the limited number of turkey-hunting permits available, hunters also did well on state-managed property.
Fifty-one birds were taken on public lands, another new record. Redden State Forest, the Midlands Wildlife Area and the Norman G. Wilder Wildlife Area were the top three producing sites. Birds were also taken on Assawoman, Nanticoke, Marshy Hope, Milford Neck, Little Creek, Cedar Swamp, Blackiston and Ted Harvey wildlife areas.
Because the Delaware Game and Fish Commission was established in 1911, the Division of Fish & Wildlife is observing 100 years of conservation. "There have been many noteworthy conservation accomplishments during this century, and the restoration of the wild turkey definitely ranks high among them," said Greg Moore, Wildlife Section administrator.
For hunters planning ahead, Delaware's 2012 turkey season runs from April 14 to May 12, with the special youth and disabled hunter day April 7. As a reminder for hunters aiming to pursue wild turkey for the first time in Delaware, note that a one-day turkey hunter education class is required. For information about upcoming classes, call (302)735-3600.