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June 26, 2000

For more information contact:
Bob Eriksen at 908-735-8793

According to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Division of Fish and Wildlife, preliminary harvest totals for the 2000 Spring Gobbler Hunting Season indicate that a record number of the birds were taken. An estimated 2,680 gobblers were harvested during the season which began on Monday, April 24 and ended Friday, May 26.

"A harvest estimate was obtained by calling official turkey check stations at the close of the hunting season," said Division Director Bob McDowell. "The preliminary numbers show an increased harvest with hunters reporting a record of 2,680 gobblers compared to 2,570 harvested in 1999. Last year's harvest was also a record and we are pleased to see continued growth in wild turkey numbers in the Garden State."

More than 15,000 spring gobbler hunting permits were available for the five-week spring season, a dramatic increase over the number available in 1999. According to Division Wild Turkey Research Project Leader Bob Eriksen, overall hunter success was estimated to be about 18 percent which compares favorably with the success rate in previous years.

"Wild turkey reproduction in 1999 was excellent and over-winter survival was very good," Eriksen said. "There were plenty of young gobblers this year and the number of older gobblers was outstanding. The only glitch in the spring season was the poor weather that occurred in the last two weeks. Hunters with permits for the last two weeks had to contend with rain, fog or drizzle on eight of the last 11 days. The harvest for that period certainly reflects the weather conditions."

Spring gobbler hunting in New Jersey was initiated in 1981. The season was three weeks long with 900 permits available. Hunting was limited to portions of Sussex and Warren counties. In 1985, the season length was increased to five weeks. By the mid-1990s, through an ongoing intensive trap and transfer program, wild turkey populations were established in 20 New Jersey counties. In 1997, the entire state was opened to spring gobbler hunting. Since the beginning, record gobbler harvests have been taken in each season indicating continued growth in turkey numbers.

Currently, a research project designed to provide information on wild turkey gobbler survival is underway in the northwestern part of the state. The purpose of the study is to determine through radio-tracking factors that are affecting gobblers in the study area.

"The study is a cooperative effort between the Division, the New Jersey Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation and East Stroudsburg University," McDowell said. "By combining our resources we can obtain information that will enable us to better manage the wild turkey resource for the future."

Estimated figures on the 2000 Spring Gobbler Season harvest appear below. Information from the 1999 season is presented for comparison purposes.

Spring Gobbler Harvest by Hunting Area

Turkey Hunting Area Spring 2000 Spring 1999
1 112 128
2 180 156
3 53 61
4 203 183
5 217 193
6 117 163
7 148 154
8 295 264
9 179 167
10 97 86
11 178 217
12 52 60
14 39 26
15 66 52
16 25 52
20 473 385
21 171 146
22 75 77
Total 2,680 2,570

Spring Gobbler Harvest by Hunting Segment

Segment Spring 2000 Spring 1999
A- April 24-28 876 803
B- May 1-5 675 528
C- May 8-12 438 395
D- May 15-19 and 22-26 382 426
E-April 29, May 6, 13 and 20 309 418
Total 2,680 2,570