Walk on the Wild Side

New wild turkey regulation die in the Senate

June 26, 2014 

A new set of regulations regarding turkey harvest had been flying through the state legislature, but the news from Columbia now is that it’s not happening.

At least, not this year.

Introduced by Sen. Chip Campsen (R-Charleston), the bill would have decreased the overall bag limit while lengthening the season. It sailed through the House pretty cleanly, but the Senate failed to vote on it before the session’s end, which means that for it to happen, the entire process will have to start over next year.

The new regulations would have helped the overall population of birds, which have been in decline for the past dozen years.It would have also created the state’s first archery tag for turkeys, designated the Saturday before March 20 of each year to be the annual “youth day,” increased the hit to a turkey poacher’s wallet from a measly maximum of $100 to as much as $1,000 and, most importantly, allowed our state’s biologists to make changes to the harvest regulations when needed to help the overall numbers of birds.

Needless to say, this is a huge disappointment but, more importantly, a major setback for the future of the wild turkey in our state.

The good folks in Columbia did have time this year to pass legislation naming “the Columbian Mammoth” as our official state fossil, making it appear as if we care more for wildlife that’s already extinct than working to maintain a healthy population of those we still have.

It’s both pitiful and embarrassing.

DNR needs turkey observers

I’m sure it’s obvious that wild turkey is one of my favorite game animals – if not tops on my list. It’s for this reason that the 12-year decline in the number of longbeards roaming the woods of the Palmetto State concerns me so, but there’s no way we can know exactly where we stand in regards to the overall health of the population without help.

Any chance you’d be willing to give our state’s Department of Natural Resources a hand?

Taken annually since 1982, the agency’s annual turkey survey estimates overall reproduction and recruitment of wild turkeys by utilizing DNR wildlife biologists, technicians, conservation officers and the public in monitoring the annual nesting success of hens and the survival of their young which, obviously, has the greatest impact on the overall population.

If you are a hunter, landowner, farmer or simply someone who lives in a rural area and are capable of documenting what you see on and around your land or home, the help would be greatly appreciated and your participation is quite easy. DNR provides the following simple guidelines for taking part in their efforts:

The survey period runs from July 1 until Aug. 29 each year.

Those observing and reporting must be able to identify wild turkeys and be comfortable in telling the difference between hens, young poults and gobblers.

Observations are made during your normal outdoor activities.

Go to dnr.sc.gov/wildlife/turkey to download and print the survey reporting form.

Record your observations from one county on each form. If you see turkeys in another county, print off a second form and fill it out. Record each sighting or group of turkeys as separate observations. Do not combine all turkeys that you see in a day or on multiple days and report them as a single observation.

Try to avoid reporting the same turkeys in the same area more than once.

Remember to note hens that do not have poults as well as those that do. This is extremely important in determining the overall reproductive success for the year.

While you’re at it, take note and report any quail sightings you may have during your efforts.

Completed survey forms should be mailed to DNR no later than Sept. 12 to: Summer Turkey Survey, P.O. Box 167, Columbia, SC 29202

The information gathered during this process allows state biologists to calculate the many factors vital to sound turkey management. Those factors include the average brood size, percentage of hens with young and without, gobbler to hen ratio and overall numbers of turkeys. When this information is combined with annual hunter harvest data, the agency is able to make accurate scientific recommendations to the General Assembly as it works to pass hunting regulations that are appropriate for our current biological situation.

If you have any questions about this annual project or your involvement in it, contact the survey coordinator at the address above, by phone at 803-734-8738 or email ruthc@dnr.sc.gov.

Thanks for getting involved.

Brad Harvey is a freelance writer in Clover. Visit his website at bradharveyoutdoors.com or follow him on Twitter @BHarveyOutdoors.

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