Movements of Wild Turkey Hunters During Spring in Louisiana

Interest in hunting wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) continues to increase, and agencies are challenged with balancing hunter access and activity with management of sustainable turkey populations. Understanding turkey hunter behavior, particularly on public lands, would greatly assist agencies with achieving this balance. We used GPS to track the movements of wild turkey hunters during spring hunting seasons of 2012 and 2013. We used 151 hunter track logs on the 1440-ha southern tract of the Tunica Hills Wildlife Management Area (WMA) located in West Feliciana Parish, Louisiana, to better understand turkey hunter behavior and space use. On average, hunters hunted 6 hours each day, traveling 5.9 km during a hunt. However, on average hunters stayed within 0.3 km of roads and access trails and the mean daily maximum distance from a starting location (parking area) was 1.5 km. We found that 50% of hunter locations occurred within 18 m of an access trail or road, with 2.9% of the WMA containing 50% of hunter locations. Differential exposure to hunting pressure or hunter activity may differentially affect individual behavior and ecology of male wild turkeys, but this relationship is poorly understood. Future research should more directly quantify the effects of hunter behavior and hunting pressure on ecology of wild turkeys.

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