— Indiana’s wild turkey hunting season opens Wednesday and runs until May 13. With this spring’s unseason-ably warm weather, hunters will more than likely have to work a little harder this year.
DNR wildlife biologist Steve Backs is forecasting a harvest of approximately 11,000 birds. His prediction is about 6 percent less than the 11,669 birds taken last spring and 20 percent less than 2010 when hunters collected a record 13,742 turkeys.
There are two reasons for the lower projected estimates. First, Indiana has experienced several consecutive summers of below normal turkey production, primarily due to above normal precipitation in June when poults are most susceptible. Other states in the south and Midwest have experienced similar or worse drops in production.
The second reason is because of our record warm weather. Growth of spring vegetation is about a month ahead of normal. More greenery will make seeing and hearing birds more difficult. When hunters do hear a turkey, they could be more likely to overestimate the distance to the bird and end up spooking or “over-running” the location of the gobbler.
Advanced vegetation growth can also pose safety concerns.
“The increased concealment gets us into a potential hunter safety issue,” said Backs. “Hunters need to be very vigilant in correctly identifying their target. Although wearing hunter-orange is not required, it is a good idea when going afield or when leaving your hunting area.”
Wild turkeys were extirpated from Indiana by the early 1900s and their reintroduction is one of wildlife’s greatest success stories. In Indiana, restoration efforts were launched in 1956. Now, all of our state’s 92 counties have resident wild turkey populations.
It is no secret that licensed, ethical hunters take pride in playing by the rules, but poachers don’t. Hunting season increases the likelihood that law-abiding hunters will encounter poaching. When that happens, conservation officers encourage anyone witnessing illegal hunting activities to use the TIP hotline. TIP is an acronym for “Turn in a Poacher or Polluter.” The toll free number is 1-800-TIP-IDNR.