Habitat and Mortality Relationships of Wild Turkey Gobblers in the Georgia Piedmont

Increasing hunting pressure and habitat loss have raised concerns about the age structure and potential overharvest of wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) populations in Georgia. Nineteen juvenile and 15 adult gobblers were radio-tracked during January 1989-June 1991 in the vicinity of Clark Hill Wildlife Management Area (WMA). Gobblers avoided the WMA in spring and summer, preferring fields and pastures on private land. They preferred the WMA in fall and winter. Upland hardwood was the most preferred habitat type. Recorded mortalities (27) resulted from spring hunting (23), mammalian predation (3), and unknown (1). Annual survival of instrumented gobblers was 44%, 44%, and 64% for 1989, 1990, and 1991, respectively. Overall annual survival of adults and juveniles was 36% and 63%, respectively. Annual harvest rates of instrumented gobblers averaged 45%. Adults made up 78% of the instrumented gobblers harvested. The low harvest of juveniles should allow substantial recruitment into adult age classes. However, intensive hunting greatly limits the number of gobblers surviving >2 years.

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