Strong winds may have dampened the sound of some gobblers last weekend, but there was no dampening the spirit of youths participating in the 2021 turkey youth hunt. Hunters 6 to 15 years old harvested 813 birds between the April 10 and April 11 hunts.
Jeremy Wood, turkey program coordinator, says the preliminary numbers are slightly below last year’s total of 889, but well above the 691 birds harvested in 2019.
“Even though youths are allowed one immature gobbler as part of their two-bird seasonal limit, 79% of the turkeys checked during the youth hunt were mature birds,” Wood said. “Studies have shown jakes contribute very little, if any, to reproductive success in their first year, so the more of these birds that survive the spring hunting season, the better chance they have to breed hens and contribute to reproductive success next year.”
Hunters who look at current checked turkey totals through the AGFC website may notice discrepancies between the totals and numbers available online. “We have to use two vendors to manage the online checks, telephone checking and checking through the AGFC mobile app,” Wood said. “It can take a few days to update numbers from all the different sources.”
Wood reminds mentors that they can still take a youth hunting any time during the season. This year, the AGFC enacted a new regulation that hunters may only take one turkey during the first seven days of the regular turkey season, but that does not include turkeys taken during the youth hunt.
“If a youth got a bird during the youth hunt, they can still hunt like normal during the regular season to try for their second turkey,” Wood said. “And with many hunters getting their first bird within the first day or two of the season-opener, they may just want to take a youth along to help them get a turkey and share the experience.
Getting your first turkey of the year doesn’t even come close to the feeling of helping someone else get their first turkey.”
Arkansas’s regular turkey season opens April 19, and Wood is hoping the seven-day rest between the youth hunt and the opener will allow gobblers to relax from hunting pressure and resume their search for receptive hens. He says the delay also may help hunters’ chances of hearing some gobblers, as many will still be looking for hens that have not yet gone to nest.
Wood stresses that hunters should take a good look at the 2021 Arkansas Turkey Hunting Guidebook because many regulations were changed last year to promote Arkansas’s turkey population while maintaining healthy hunting opportunities. Click here for an article on some of the notable changes from last year.