Eastern Wild Turkey Gobbler Harvest and Physical Characteristics in Southeastern Louisiana

To gain a better understanding of the roles of public and private hunting areas in the harvest dynamics of an eastern wild turkey (Meleagris gallopava var. sylvestris) population, we conducted a banding study in southeastern Louisiana from 1989-1997. Physical measurements were collected on birds at capture and harvest. During spring gobbler seasons, 137 of 199 banded gobblers were recovered through hunting. For the 1991-1994 seasons, we observed higher hunting pressure and more effort to bag a gobbler on public (0.22 hunter-days/ha and 40.7 hunter-days/bird) than on private land (0.13 hunter-days/ha and 15.6 hunter-days/bird). We captured a higher proportion of juvenile gobblers on a public area than on surrounding private land (P = 0.024), but found only weak evidence (P = 0.073) that hunters on the public land harvested a greater proportion of juveniles. The direct recovery rate for juveniles was 23% (SE = 3.7) and for adults was 70% (SE = 5.5). We estimated annual survival to be 0.16 (SE = 0.05) for gobblers banded as adults and 0.46 (SE = 0.47) for gobblers banded as juveniles. Body mass and spur length of 2-year-old gobblers were less (P ≤ 0.006) than ≥ 3-year-old birds. However, beard length was not. We produced a logistic regression model that classified 2-year-old gobblers and ≥ 3-year-old gobblers with 80%-86% apparent accuracy. We concluded that this model was insufficient for improving harvest models because few older gobblers remain in hunted populations.

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