Contact: Joanna Wilson, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902
Delaware’s 2014 spring turkey season sets a new harvest record
DOVER (July 9, 2014) – Delaware’s 2014 spring turkey season, which ended May 10, has set a new state harvest record of 687 birds, surpassing the previous record of 615 birds taken in 2012, DNREC’s Division of Fish and Wildlife announced today. In fact, for nine out of the last 10 years, Delaware has set annual harvest records, demonstrating that proper habitat and population management provides for sustainable recreational hunting of this popular game bird, Division Wildlife Biologist Matt DiBona noted.
“The turkey harvest really started climbing in 2005, and we have experienced a remarkable five-fold increase in harvest during the last decade,” DiBona said. “While I don’t think we will continue to break records every year, I think this new record really reflects the continued health of our turkey flock as well as the growing popularity of the wild turkey as a game bird for Delaware hunters.”
Highlights of the 2014 season included the harvest of 36 “non-typical” turkeys, gobblers that have more than one beard. The most unusual bird, harvested by Ryan Artigliere of Dover, was a turkey with five beards and a total combined beard length of 35.5 inches. This gobbler was also the overall top scoring bird in Delaware using the National Wild Turkey Federation’s formula, which takes into account weight, total spur length and total beard length. The bird scored 111.8 points, weighing 17 pounds, with a total spur length of 2.375 inches.
The top typical scoring bird was taken by Michael Minner of Wilmington. His turkey weighed 19 pounds, 12 ounces, had a total spur length of 4 inches and a beard length of 10 inches for a score of 79.75 points. The biggest tom reported this year tipped the scales at 25 pounds, 5 ounces, and was taken by John Jensen of Milton.
Birds were harvested in 17 of 18 wildlife management zones. Three zones stood out as turkey “hot spots” – zones 4 and 6 in western Kent County, and zone 11 between Seaford and Georgetown in Sussex County – accounting for 39 percent of the total statewide harvest. Zone 1A, which is in New Castle County north of I-95/295, was the only zone where no birds were taken.
Eighty-eight percent of the birds taken in Delaware this year came from private land. However, hunters also were successful on public lands, with 83 birds bagged, another new record. Quality public hunting opportunities were available statewide as birds were taken from all three state forests and 16 out of 18 state wildlife areas open for turkey hunting. Redden State Forest in Sussex County, Norman G. Wilder Wildlife Area in Kent County and the C&D Canal Conservation Area in New Castle County were the top three producing public sites.
For hunters planning ahead, the 2015 regular wild turkey season will start Saturday, April 11 and run through Saturday, May 9, with the special youth and disabled hunter day set for Saturday, April 4.
To help add to scientific data used to manage and ensure the continued success of wild turkeys in Delaware, the Division of Fish and Wildlife is looking for volunteers to assist with its 5th annual wild turkey survey on the location and number of turkeys found in Delaware. Upon sighting turkeys, survey participants are asked to record the date, location and number of adult hens (females), gobblers (males) and poults (young of the year) they observe. The 2014 survey period began July 1 and continues through Sunday, Aug. 31, with participants asked to submit all their data by Wednesday, Sept. 10. For instructions on how to report turkey sightings, please click Delaware_wild_turkey_survey.
For more information, please contact Wildlife Biologist Matthew DiBona at 302-735-3600.
The wild turkey: A Delaware conservation success story
Beginning in early 1984, with support from the National Wild Turkey Federation, DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife biologists released 34 wild-trapped turkeys from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Vermont into Sussex and Kent counties. Reintroductions continued through the 1990s, and once the population had established a foothold in Delaware, a hunting season was opened in 1991. Today, Delaware has a healthy statewide population estimated at 6,000 birds.
Vol. 44, No. 239