Report a Turkey Leg Band
Investigating Gobbler Harvest Rates
TWRA is conducting a wild turkey gobbler leg-banding project beginning the winter of 2021. The purpose of this project is to obtain survival and harvest rate estimates of wild turkey gobblers from across the state.
Eastern wild turkey populations have declined throughout much of the southeastern United States over the past decade or more, including in parts of Tennessee. There are many possible reasons for these declines. Habitat loss and deterioration, poor reproduction because of recurring bad weather, increased predation on turkeys and their nests, and impacts associated with legal hunting are just a few of the possible reasons. However, as a state wildlife agency, the only one of these factors that we have direct influence to change is the impact associated with turkey harvest.
In order to make wise management decisions, state wildlife agencies need good science to understand the relationships between hunting regulations, harvest, and resultant population impacts. Therefore, working with researchers at Tennessee Tech University and with the cooperation of the National Wild Turkey Federation and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation, we are conducting a four-year, statewide banding project to investigate gobbler harvest rates in Tennessee. The project will allow us to collect data that we can use to determine which biological, landscape and regulatory factors are influencing male wild turkey harvest and survival rates across Tennessee.
Harvest rates influence wild turkey populations in two possible ways: through direct removal of juvenile and adult gobblers, and by removing dominant males from the population, which may affect reproductive rates of females. Unlike other upland game birds in North America, wild turkeys are hunted and harvested during their breeding season, making hunting regulations (e.g., the timing, duration, and bag limits) of spring turkey season critical for population management. Therefore, it is vital for state agencies to understand the harvest rates of gobblers across different regulatory frameworks to better inform their season-setting recommendations.
To measure harvest rates, we will use a statewide band-and-recover approach so that data can be collected from all regional units of the state. Each year in January, February, and March of 2021-2024, TWRA biologists will trap and band approximately 300 wild turkey gobblers from sites across the state. As these birds are harvested, hunters are asked to report the band number stamped on the band. Hunters can keep the band as a memento of their hunt but reporting the band to TWRA is essential to our obtaining good estimates of harvest rates.
Data collected from hunters reporting banded turkeys will provide us a wealth of information. Our overall project objectives include:
1. Documenting survival and harvest rates of adult and juvenile gobblers across Tennessee,
2. Identifying biological, landscape, and hunting regulation variables that influence observed harvest rates and determining which variables have the strongest influence,
3. Predicting how various regulatory changes could influence harvest, and
4. Gathering data to use in conjunction with summer turkey survey data to calculate relative turkey abundance.