Relationships of Gobbler Population Size to Harvest Characteristics on a Public Hunting Area in Mississippi

Wildlife managers on public hunting areas are accountable for hunter success rates, annual harvest, and wildlife population size. Understanding the effect of changes in numbers of wild turkey gobblers (Meleagris gallopavo) on harvest characteristics is needed. Population size and harvest characteristics were studied for 9 years on a 14,140-ha public hunting area in central Mississippi. Male wild turkey population size averaged 82, hunter effort averaged 455 hunter-days per season, and an average of 35 male turkeys was harvested per season. Hunter success rates averaged 7.7%, 2.1%, and 5.6% for all males, subadults (jakes), and adults (gobblers), respectively. For male turkeys released in the winter capture period (7 Jan-4 Mar) and subsequently harvested that spring (15 Mar-1 May), harvest rates averaged 22.1%, 15.0%, and 35.4% for all males, jakes, and gobblers, respectively, from 1984 to 1992. Hunter effort was not correlated with male harvests (P = 0.198). Population size was correlated with hunter success rate (P = 0.053) and number harvested (P = 0.072). The population declined during the study and it became increasingly difficult for a hunter to be successful, and, in turn, hunter effort eventually decreased.

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