From the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources
-- When Kentucky's spring wild turkey season opens April 16, hunters should have plenty of opportunities to match wits with the older, experienced gobblers that make the sport so challenging and exciting.
"We have a high percentage of adult birds in our flocks and they are coming into breeding season in excellent condition because of last fall's big mast (nut) crop," said Steven Dobey, biologist for the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. "The big harvest of 2-year-old birds last season may have buffered or lessened the number of 3 to 4-year-olds taken."
Kentucky's 23 day spring wild turkey season closes May 8. The youth-only season, for hunters under age 16, is the weekend of April 2 and 3.
Hunters should anticipate the prospect of another excellent spring season. "I think we'll see some carryover from that reproductive boom in 2008. It was such a massive hatch," Dobey said.
In the past two years had record harvests, but Dobey reminded hunters "weather is a major factor in the spring harvest."
In 2009, hunters took 29,007 turkeys. The harvest jumped to 36,097 birds in 2010.
Hart County led the state for the spring 2010 turkey season with 739 birds taken. Logan County was next with 703 birds, followed by Grayson County with 650 birds, then Butler County with 647 birds. Wayne County rounded out the top five with 604 birds. These harvest numbers are a remarkable turnaround from a decade ago.
"Last spring's harvest was a 94 percent increase over the 18,607 turkeys taken during the spring 2000 season," Dobey said.
Statewide, Kentucky's wild turkey flock is stable at about 225,000 birds, but growth continues in some mountain counties. "There's an obvious abundance of turkeys in eastern Kentucky," Dobey added, " that was concealed somewhat by the lack of hunting pressure."
Hunter success and turkey numbers are increasing throughout the state. The most impressive gains were in 24 southeastern Kentucky counties that saw a 37.5 percent turkey harvest increase the past season. Two counties in that region made the top 10 in harvest for the state: Wayne County was fifth with 604 birds taken and Pulaski was eighth with 576 birds taken.
Kentucky has an estimated 90,000 wild turkey hunters. The hunter success rate in 2010 was about 40 percent.
Wild turkey restoration in Kentucky began in 1978. At that time, the statewide flock was estimated at roughly 2,380 birds. Biologists started live-trapping turkeys in 1981 and gradually increased the number of birds caught in-state for Kentucky's stocking program.
From 1978 through 1997, 6,760 birds were relocated on 430 sites across Kentucky. Restoration was completed in 1997 when Kentucky's wild turkey population increased to around 130,000 birds.
The spring season limit is two bearded turkeys per hunter; hunters can only take one bird per day. Any wild turkey with a visible beard may be taken, including bearded hens, which typically make up less than one percent of the harvest statewide. In some wild turkey populations, a higher percentage of hens may grow beards. Hens' beards are shorter and thinner than gobblers' beards.
Hunters are reminded that hunting over bait, such as grain, seed or manufactured animal feed, is illegal. Feeding wildlife outside the curtilage of the home, the area immediately surrounding a home or group of homes, is prohibited March 1 through May 31.
It is a hunter's responsibility to know if an area has been baited. By law an area is considered baited for 30 days after all bait has been removed.
It is legal to use locator calls such as a crow or an owl call prior to the season, but it is illegal for hunters to mimic the sounds of a wild turkey from March 1 until opening day of the spring season.
For complete regulations regarding Kentucky's spring wild turkey season, visit the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources website at http://fw.ky.gov/.