Survival and Recovery Rates of Male Wild Turkeys on Private Lands in North-central Louisiana

Harvest is an important mortality factor for male eastern wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris). To effectively manage harvest and ensure quality hunting it is necessary to understand the relationship between annual survival and factors such as hunter access, season length, and bag limits. We banded 261 male wild turkeys from 2002 - 2009 and estimated survival and recovery parameters based on band recoveries from 2002 - 2012 on private lands in the pine-dominated landscape of north-central Louisiana. Hunting season length was 23 days from 2002 - 2006 and 30 days from 2007- 2012 with a 2-bird limit in all years of study. We found that survival and recovery rates varied by age class. Adult and juvenile annual survival was 0.30 (SE = 0.04) and 0.51 (SE = 0.10), whereas recovery rates were 0.28 (SE = 0.04) and 0.07 (SE = 0.02), respectively. Direct recovery rates of adults increased when season length increased to 30 days from an annual mean of 20% to 44.5%. Recovery rates were considerably lower than published estimates for public land in southeast Louisiana, suggesting that restricted hunter access on private land may lead to reduced hunting pressure and harvest. Despite low recovery rates and restricted access of hunters on private lands, survival estimates were similar to public lands in Louisiana under similar season length and bag limits. Conversely, survival rates in our study were considerably lower than a parcel of public land in south-central Louisiana with a 9 day season and limited hunter access. We offer that the minimal harvest of juveniles on our study areas likely resulted from private land hunters selectively choosing to avoid harvest of juveniles, potentially serving to maintain quality hunting as a large portion of the juvenile cohort each year was recruited into the adult population. Given that recovery rates increased when the season was lengthened, we suggest that modifying season length is a viable option for managers to control harvest mortality of male wild turkeys.

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