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Outdoors

Maryland's turkey numbers show stability

Maryland's turkey numbers show stability

June 18, 2006|by BILL ANDERSON

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources has released the results from the recently completed spring gobbler season. It was a season that featured a little of everything from a weather point of view. Hunters had some really hot weather and some really chilly and rainy weather for part of the season.

The total harvest was 3,008 birds, a slight decrease from last year's record total of 3,136. The DNR pointed out that about 45 percent of the total kill was during the first week of the season. That is always the case as hunter activity drops off considerably after that first week of getting up at 4 a.m. to be in the woods before daylight.

As always, the numbers show some interesting data. The top counties were in the western part of the state. Garrett County was the top county with 342 birds, followed by Allegany (331) and Washington (322).

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But even more interesting to me is how the turkey harvest - and, you would think, the overall turkey population in Maryland - has reached a level of stability over the past five years or so.

If you graph the statewide totals for 2002-06, you see a relatively flat line, even with the down year the spring of 2004. The numbers are as follows: 2002 - 3,127 birds; 2003 - 3,120; 2004 - 2,760; 2005 - 3,136; and 2006 - 3,008.

Those who remember back to the rapid growth years can recall how the birds were expanding throughout the state, as well as the harvest. A good part of the credit goes to the DNR biologists who carried out trap and transport programs, in which birds were trapped in Western Maryland and transported to suitable habitats in other parts of the state.

The results were excellent as evidenced by the harvest this spring from counties such as Charles (227 birds); Dorchester (265) and Somerset (204). Turkeys are now available throughout the state, and a few counties reported good gains this year over last.

Locally, Washington County's 2006 total of 322 birds was down a little from the 2005 total of 340. But Washington County's trend is totally consistent with the state trend, with relative stability over the past five years (2002 - 296; 2003 - 325; 2004 - 305; 2005 - 340; and 2006 - 322).

Turkeys are now found just about everywhere there is suitable habitat, so we are probably looking at the totals you can expect for future seasons, with minor variations for weather factors.

Overall, it's looking very good for turkey hunters.




Bill Anderson writes a weekly outdoors column for The Herald-Mail.

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