Michael A. Sawyers
CUMBERLAND — Maryland’s fall turkey season takes place Oct. 26 through Nov. 2 and it is possible that hunters may see fewer young birds than in recent years.
The “2013 Wild Turkey Observation Survey Summary” has just been released by Bob Long, the biologist who keeps track of the birds for the Maryland Wildlife & Heritage Service.
Each July and August, volunteers as well as WHS staff record the numbers of turkeys that are observed. If known, the gender is logged. Poults are counted separately from adults.
“Statewide, estimates of reproductive success were lower in 2013 than in 2012 (2.3 poults per hen vs. 3.1) and were below the 10-year average of 2.8 poults per hen,” Long wrote.
The Western Region — Garrett, Allegany, Washington counties — showed 2.6 poults per hen.
That was fewest poults recorded in the region during the past 10 years, but still the highest number in Maryland this year. The 10-year average for the region is 3.3.
During the past 10 years, the best count was in 2004 with 4.4 poults per hen.
Here is the good news.
The count this year showed 9.4 poults per brood. That number is calculated when a lot of poults are seen together and there is more than one hen with them.
“That’s a high number,” said Harry Spiker, an agency biologist in Garrett County.
Both Spiker and Long said the good reproduction in 2012 put a lot of juvenile hens in the woods this year.
Those hens may not have mated or mated late in 2013 with poor survival of poults.
That means, though, that many hens will be available for hunting purposes this autumn and to increase the turkey population when mating season takes place in the spring of 2014.
Hunters may harvest one turkey during the fall season that takes place only in Garrett, Allegany and Washington counties. There are no restrictions in the fall on the type of turkey that may be killed.
Contact Outdoor Editor Mike Sawyers at firstname.lastname@example.org.