Wild Turkey Management Plan

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					ARKANSAS GAME AND FISH COMMISSION




           STRATEGIC
  WILD TURKEY MANAGEMENT PLAN




          AUGUST 6, 2001
         STRATEGIC
WILD TURKEY MANAGEMENT PLAN



              Prepared by


         The Wild Turkey Team
      Wildlife Management Division
   Arkansas Game and Fish Commission


             David Nicholson
      (Chairman; Harvest Mgmt. Plan)
              Michael Widner
 (Past Chairman; Wild Turkey Mgmt. Plan)
             Robert McAnally
              J. Kevin Lynch
               David Henley
               Laurel Moore
               Brad Carner
               Mark Hooks
             Calvin Robinette
           Jim Johnson, USFWS
          Paul Tankersley, USFS




                    2
                                        PREFACE

        A team of Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AG&FC), U. S. Forest Service (USFS)
and U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) professional biologists, most with years or decades of
experience with wild turkeys, developed this plan. Initial drafts of this plan were primarily
habitat-based because of instructions supplied when the process began, but the plan has been
expanded to include more detail on population and societal goals. A thorough review of this
plan was made by agency staff prior to its adoption by the Commission.

        The major purpose of this plan is to provide strategic, long-term guidance and direction
for the Commission’s wild turkey program. Operational planning based on priorities in this
strategic plan will occur annually, in conjunction with the AG&FC budget process and biennially
in conjunction with biennial personnel requests. This strategic plan is intended to guide wild
turkey programs for ten years, and will be evaluated and formally updated on a five-year cycle.
However, dynamic changes to address specific problems may be necessary in the interim.




                                               3
                           TABLE OF CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION

    History………………………………………………………………..……………. 5
    Population Status and Trends …………………………………………….……..… 8
    Recreational Use of Wild Turkeys …………………………………….…………. 9
    Opinions and Attitudes of Arkansas Turkey Hunters …………………………….. 11
    Habitat Needs and Assessment ……………………………………….…………... 12
    Turkey Management Zones ………………………………………….…………… 15
    Turkey Management Issues and Problems ……………………………………….. 16


STRATEGIC WILD TURKEY MANAGEMENT PLAN

    Statement of Wild Turkey Management Philosophy……………………………….                20
    Wild Turkey Resource Goal ………………………………………………………                            20
           Objective A (Restoration)…………………………………………………                        20
           Objective B (Populations)…………………………………………………                        20
           Objective C (Habitat) ………………………………………………….….                        21
           Objective D (Non-Hunting Mortality)…………………………………….                  22
           Objective E (Law Enforcement) ………………………………………….                     22

    Wild Turkey Recreational and Public Support Goal ……………………………..             22
          Objective A (Hunter Attitudes)……………………………………………                      23
          Objective B (Youth Hunts) ……………………………………………….                        23
          Objective C (I & E Promotion) …………………………………………...                    23
          Objective D (Hunter Safety)………………………………………………                        23
          Objective E (Public Attitudes)…………………………………………….                     24
          Objective F (Nuisance Turkeys)…………………………………………..                     24

    Evaluation ………………………………………………………………………... 24

    Priorities for Objectives of the Strategic Wild Turkey Management Plan ………. 25

    Literature Cited …………………………………………………………………… 26

APPENDICES

    A. Guidelines for Wild Turkey Habitat Management………………………..…... 27

    B. Wild Turkey Harvest Management Plan ……………………………………... 32




                                         4
                                        INTRODUCTION

HISTORY:

         The eastern wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) was once abundant and widely
distributed across what is now Arkansas. Wild turkey remains have been identified in numerous
archeological sites throughout the state, suggesting native Americans readily utilized this resource. The
heavily-timbered landscape that immigrants found upon settling Arkansas was favorable habitat for wild
turkeys.

        Early explorers, including Henry Schoolcraft and Frederick Gerstaecker in the Ozarks, William
Dunbar in the Gulf Coastal Plain (GCP) and Ouachitas, and Thomas Nuttall in eastern Arkansas, all
recorded frequent encounters with wild turkeys. William "Fent" Noland, writing under the pen name Pet
Whetstone, published several articles during the 1830s and 1840s about turkey hunting in the Ozarks.

        The settling of Arkansas, which began in earnest in the mid-1800s, was followed by a number of
practices that led to greatly-reduced turkey populations. Market hunting (legal until 1915), poor logging
practices, slash-and-burn agriculture, free-ranging livestock, and indiscriminate year-round subsistence
hunting all led to a decline in turkey numbers. A. H. Howell, in Birds of Arkansas (1911), reported that
turkeys had almost been eliminated from the Ozarks by the early 1900s, but that they were still fairly
common in the heavily-timbered bottoms of eastern Arkansas.

        When the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission was created in 1915, the new agency moved to
protect wild turkeys. The Commission established the first closed seasons and bag limits. However,
enforcement personnel were few, and a general lack of scientific knowledge about wild turkeys existed at
the time.

         The Game & Fish Commission passed regulations protecting hen turkeys year-round in 1917.
Open season for gobblers in 1919-20 was November 10 to January 10 and March 1 to May 1, with a bag
limit of four. Season length was reduced to 15 days in winter plus the month of April in 1927-28, and the
bag limit was reduced to two gobblers. Only spring hunting during April was allowed in 1937, and
season length was further reduced to April 1-15 in 1941. All turkey seasons were closed in 1947 and
1948, but a four-day season in April (one gobbler limit) was re-instituted in 1949. Turkey harvest during
these years was no more than a few hundred birds statewide.

        State Game Refuges created by the Game & Fish Commission in the 1920s may have helped
preserve remnant populations of wild turkeys in some parts of the state. In a few cases, turkeys increased
and spread beyond refuge boundaries.

         During the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, the Game & Fish Commission released thousands of pen-
raised turkeys, many raised at Commission hatcheries, throughout Arkansas. In Missouri, at least 14,000
game-farm turkeys were released during the same period, with little or no success in restoring
populations. Research in southern Missouri by A. S. Leopold during the 1940s clearly showed that pen-
raised turkeys, even those hatched from eggs gathered in the wild, did not possess the characteristics
necessary to survive and successfully reproduce in the wild. Dr. Douglas James and other researchers at
the University of Arkansas evaluated turkey stockings in the Ozarks in the late 1950s and concluded that
only wild-stocked birds were successfully establishing populations. Most managers believe pen-raised
turkeys have contributed little, if any, to present wild turkey populations.




                                                    5
         Despite protection via hunting regulations, limited stocking of wild turkeys from other states,
release of pen-raised turkeys, and establishment of State Game Refuges, wild turkeys reached their lowest
point in Arkansas during the 1930s. Poaching was suspected as a major limiting factor. In a county-by-
county survey, less than 7,000 wild turkeys were estimated to remain in Arkansas during the mid-1940s.

         Most of the turkeys remaining in Arkansas in the 1940s were found around what is now Bull
Shoals Lake in the Ozarks, throughout the Gulf Coastal Plain, and along the Mississippi River. Remnant
populations of turkeys along the Mississippi River would eventually prove to be very important in turkey
restoration efforts in Arkansas.

        Several factors began to work in favor of the wild turkey by mid-century. Second-growth forests
began to provide suitable habitat. The Pittman-Robertson Federal Aid-In-Wildlife-Restoration Act of
1937 provided much-needed funds to the Game & Fish Commission. Reorganization of that agency in
1944 by Amendment 35 to the State Constitution removed much of the politics from wildlife management
decisions.

        However, the single most important factor contributing to turkey restoration was the perfection of
cannon netting techniques around 1950. For the first time, wildlife managers had the ability to capture
large numbers of wild turkeys for restoration purposes. This allowed biologists to quickly restore nucleus
wild turkey populations to many areas with suitable habitat but no turkeys.

         A source of large numbers of wild turkeys was needed for restoration. During the 1950s, the
Shumaker military installation near Camden provided the first significant number of wild birds. It was
not until the early 1960s however, that large numbers of trappable wild turkeys became available—when
AG&FC leased Brandywine Island along the Mississippi River near West Memphis as a Wildlife
Management Area (WMA). Thousands of wild turkeys were cannon netted on Brandywine WMA for
restoration programs over the next two decades. Later, re-established flocks in other areas of the state
served as sources of birds for restoration. Figure 1 has been presented to show the number of birds
stocked annually from 1932 to 1999.

Figure 1. Number of wild turkeys stocked in Arkansas, 1932-1999.


     400
     300
     200                                                                            Number Stocked

     100
         0
       32
              40
                      48
                             56
                                     64
                                            72
                                                   80
                                                           88
                                                                  96




        Turkey populations began to grow and expand as stocking continued. First priority was given to
stocking public lands, such as the Ouachita and Ozark National Forests. Restoration of wild turkeys has
been a long and arduous process, with approximately 6,500 wild turkeys stocked since 1932. From an


                                                    6
estimated 7,000 birds in the 1940s, Arkansas’s present springtime population is estimated to exceed
150,000 and continues to grow. Viable turkey populations are now found in all areas of suitable habitat in
Arkansas. Legal checked harvest has increased from a few hundred birds statewide in mid-century to
greater than 15,500 in 1998-99. Figure 2 shows the total spring harvest for the period 1960-1999,
including the regional contribution to that total.

Figure 2. Total Arkansas spring wild turkey harvest showing regional contribution to that
          total, 1961-1999.

    18000

    16000

    14000

    12000
                                                                                                Delta
    10000                                                                                       GCP
                                                                                                Ouachitas
      8000                                                                                      Ozarks

      6000

      4000

      2000

             0
          60
                  64
                         68
                                72
                                       76
                                              80
                                                        84
                                                             88
                                                                    92
                                                                           96




        The bulk of turkey management efforts throughout the 20th century have undoubtedly been
directed toward restoration, but habitat management and research efforts have increased in recent
decades. As restoration nears completion, understanding factors influencing population dynamics,
managing existing flocks and their habitats and selling turkey management programs to the public will
undoubtedly be more important in the future (Dickson 1995, Kennamer and Kennamer 1995).




                                                    7
POPULATION STATUS AND TRENDS:

         Wild turkeys are difficult to census in Arkansas habitats. In northern areas with deciduous forests
and frequent snow, direct turkey censuses can be made from the air. In recent years, infrared
thermography has been used on a limited basis in deciduous habitats to directly census turkeys and other
wildlife, but this technology is expensive. It may have limited value in censusing turkeys in Arkansas in
the future, but direct counts of wild turkeys are virtually impossible at present in this state.

        In lieu of direct counts, wildlife managers have devised numerous indices based on mark-
recapture and other methodologies. Numerous studies have shown that harvest or harvest/effort indices
are the most accurate of these indices in estimating turkey numbers.

         The changes of these indices through time, and understanding the factors that influence these
changes, i.e., long-term trends, are probably more important to turkey managers than population estimates
at a single point in time. Two surveys conducted in Arkansas are used to track trends in turkey numbers
in the state: the Annual Wild Turkey Brood Survey and checked harvest. Both provide data at the county
or WMA level, but are probably most accurate at the regional level. Simple linear regression suggests
that reproductive indices and subsequent harvests in Arkansas are highly correlated at the regional level.
Checked spring harvest is used to extrapolate crude estimates of turkey numbers in the state, based on
research that suggests that about 10% of the overall spring turkey population is removed during spring
seasons.

         Experience with restored turkey populations in this and other states suggests that 15 years or
more are needed for turkeys to reach peak levels following stocking (L. Vangilder, pers. comm.). If this
is true, wild turkeys in many areas of Arkansas have not had enough time to reach peak population levels.
Observations of established turkey populations also suggest that once restored populations reach their
peak, they often decline to a level somewhat below that peak. From that point on, annual fluctuations that
result from variation in survival and reproductive success around this “carrying capacity” are the norm
(Roberts and Porter 1995). The potential carrying capacity of the landscape for wild turkeys is, of course,
related to the quantity and quality of turkey habitat on that landscape; therefore, some habitats are capable
of supporting more turkeys than others.

         The actual carrying capacity of a landscape for wild turkeys is not static, but may be influenced
by annual fluctuation of food supplies, flooding regimes, predator numbers and other environmental
factors, particularly in heavily-forested habitat. For example, a series of years in which winter food is
deficient can directly, or indirectly, limit populations when compared to that same landscape during years
of food abundance. As another example, springtime flooding may result in poor recruitment and greatly-
reduced turkey numbers along the Mississippi River--some of the best turkey habitat in the nation.

         Annual fluctuation in turkey numbers is influenced heavily by annual recruitment of young into
the population (Roberts and Porter 1995). Recruitment in wild turkeys is highly variable from year to
year, resulting in wild turkey populations being truly dynamic. In most cases, downward or upward
trends in turkey numbers in established populations do not persist over 3-4 years, but exceptions do occur.
For example, wild turkeys in the Ouachita Mountains experienced six consecutive years of poor
reproduction in the early 1990s, resulting in a long-term downward trend in that population. It should be
noted that fluctuations in turkey numbers occur even in un-hunted populations, although hunting may
exacerbate cycles.

        Given a knowledge of turkey habitat requirements and stocking chronology, most turkey
managers in Arkansas believe that the trend in turkey numbers should continue upward for the next
decade or so statewide. Some areas may have reached peak population levels at present, but numbers


                                                     8
should continue to grow in most areas. Most managers believe that Arkansas habitats are capable of
sustaining at least 200,000 turkeys, although this estimate is based on professional judgment rather than
population models.

RECREATIONAL USE OF WILD TURKEYS:

        Until recent years, almost all recreational use of wild turkeys was directed towards harvest. Wild
turkeys have been hunted for food since humans occupied the North American continent. Exploitation for
food by European settlers was a major factor in the near extinction of wild turkeys in the early 20th
century. As noted earlier, turkey hunting in Arkansas continued with restrictions during most of these
bleak times, with all turkey seasons closed in only two years during the 1940s.

        Turkey hunting in the early years of the AG&FC meant both fall and spring hunting, although
hen turkeys were illegal from 1917 until either-sex fall harvest was reinitiated in the 1960s. During the
period 1937-1964 no fall seasons were offered, but limited spring season opportunities existed in most
years.

         As turkey numbers and distribution increased due to restoration, more turkey hunting
opportunities were extended to the public. Spring archery seasons were instituted in 1956 in some areas,
and a fall archery season was instituted in 1965. Fall gun turkey hunting was re-opened in 1966. Since
then a fall archery/crossbow, fall gun, and spring turkey season have been offered to hunters in most
years, although the fall gun season was closed in 1997. Harvest information for spring seasons has
previously been shown in Figure 2. Figure 3 and Figure 4 are presented to show known fall gun season
harvests and fall archery/crossbow harvests, respectively, in Arkansas.

Figure 3. Arkansas’s Fall Gun Turkey Harvest, 1974-96.

 3500
 3000
 2500
                                                                                           kill
 2000
 1500
 1000
  500
    0
     74
             76
                    78
                            80
                                    82
                                           84
                                                   86
                                                          88
                                                                  90
                                                                         92
                                                                                 94
                                                                                        96




                                                     9
Figure 4. Arkansas’s Fall Archery/Crossbow Turkey Harvest, 1991-92 through 1998-99.


   300
   250
   200                                                                                       kill
   150
   100
    50
     0
          91- 92- 93- 94- 95- 96- 97- 98-
          92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99

         Data on hunter use are lacking in Arkansas. Since the early 1980s, AG&FC license structure has
precluded identification of turkey hunters, their numbers, and activity. In 1981—the last year for a
separate turkey hunting license--about 23,500 resident and 1,750 non-resident turkey tags were sold.
Since then, estimates of turkey hunting activity from periodic mail or phone surveys conducted by
AG&FC and the USFWS have been available. Crudely, these surveys suggest that turkey hunter numbers
rose to around 45,000 during the early 1990s, and possibly to as high as 60,000-70,000 in the late 1990s.

         The effects of harvest on wild turkeys are poorly understood, although more information has
become available, particularly from modeled populations in other states. This work suggests that fall
either-sex harvest should not exceed 5% of a population, and spring harvest should probably be limited to
no more than 30% of the adult gobbler population if a large percentage of older-aged gobblers is desired
in the turkey population (Vangilder and Kurzejeski 1995). On the other hand, the most “efficient” spring
harvest strategy is undoubtedly to harvest gobblers as soon as legal (the strategy of taking them before
natural deaths occur), thus harvesting large numbers of jakes and 2 year-old gobblers. This strategy often
results in harvest in excess of 50% of the male population and greater year-to-year variation in harvest
(because it is more directly tied to the preceding year’s production)(see discussion in Kurzejeski and
Vangilder 1992).

         Managers have little information about what Arkansas turkey hunters identify as “quality turkey
hunting.” However, there can be little doubt that season structures in various states are designed to affect
the quality of turkey hunting. As an example, gobbler mortality is being studied in Kentucky to
determine if longer seasons can be implemented; the recent no-jakes regulation in Mississippi is an
attempt to improve hunting “quality”; and the hunt plan in Missouri uses spur length and jake percentages
in the harvest as indices to determine if hunting quality is being maintained. It has been said that we
wouldn’t even hunt turkeys in the spring if they didn’t gobble. Since they do, and since gobbling activity
is part of the hunting-quality equation, managers simply can’t ignore factors related to quality.




                                                    10
        Managing fall and spring harvests (through regulations) is difficult for a number of reasons.
During the fall, the total population is unknown, so managers use crude estimates based on brood
production to estimate what percentage of the population was removed by fall harvest. Also,
environmental factors, such as mast production or weather, may affect vulnerability of turkeys to hunters.
Variables also exist during spring seasons. Harvests can be as much as 25% greater or lesser than
expected based on gobbling activity, weather, and other factors. In addition, as much as 35% of the
checked harvest during spring seasons occurs during the first 3 days of the season, and as much as 70%
may occur the first week, making it difficult to use season structure to materially affect harvest. For these
and other reasons, most managers look at season regulations in terms of what is needed over several years
(the long term) to average out extremes. Because of this, seasons in most states are rather “standardized”
and are based on trend data, observations, and experience over the long term.

        Very little is known about “non-consumptive” recreational use of wild turkeys in Arkansas. The
prevalence of feeding wildlife would suggest that this use is growing and that landowner and land
managers are valuing wild turkeys for aesthetic reasons as well as for harvest.

OPINIONS AND ATTITUDES OF ARKANSAS TURKEY HUNTERS:

        Some information on the opinions and attitudes of Arkansas turkey hunters has been obtained
through phone surveys conducted in recent years (UALR 1998, 1999). The survey conducted in 1998
queried a sample of all license holders relative to their attitudes and demand for fall gun turkey seasons in
Arkansas. The survey conducted in 1999 examined spring turkey hunters only, and was designed to
determine their attitudes relative to current and alternative spring turkey seasons in Arkansas. Some of
the more significant findings of the two surveys are shown below. The survey for which comments are
appropriate is shown in parentheses.

Attitudes related to spring turkey hunting:

•   24% of license holders reported spring turkey hunting in 1997, suggesting that Arkansas may have
    65,000-70,000 spring turkey hunters (1998).
•   42% and 52%, respectively, of spring turkey hunters said they had hunted turkeys five years or less
    (1998, 1999).
•   A majority of spring turkey hunters favored current turkey seasons: 64% and 70%, respectively, said
    seasons were about right in length (1998, 1999); 58% and 56%, respectively, said the season opened
    on about the right date (1998, 1999); and 67% rated their turkey hunting experiences as good or
    excellent during the 1999 season (1999).
•   20% and 32%, respectively, of spring turkey hunters reported killing at least one turkey during the
    season (1998, 1999).
•   33% and 47%, respectively, of spring turkey hunters preferred a Monday opening date (1998, 1999),
    and 62% of spring hunters reported hunting on opening day (1999).
•   Spring turkey hunters mostly hunt in the Ozarks (45% and 43%, respectively), followed by the
    Ouachitas (26% and 22%), the GCP (20% and 21%), and the Delta (7% and 12%)(1998, 1999).
•   Spring turkey hunters were almost evenly divided among those that hunted mostly on private land
    they owned (21.4%), private land they had permission to hunt (26.2%), leased land (20.9%), and
    public land (19.5%) (1999).
•   58% of hunting license holders liked or strongly liked spring turkey seasons (1998).
•   Spring turkey hunters were strongly in support of current Special Youth Turkey Hunt opportunities,
    but were evenly divided on whether those opportunities should be expanded (1999).
•   Spring turkey hunters were either strongly opposed (32%) or strongly supportive (36%) of a no-jakes
    regulation (1999).


                                                     11
•   A majority of spring turkey hunters claim they never (33%) or rarely (32%) shoot jakes (1999).
•   A majority of spring turkey hunters (54%) supported splitting the state into north-south turkey zones
    with different opening dates, with 66% indicating that public lands should open on the same date if
    the state were split into north-south zones (1999).
•   Good gobbling activity and hunting with family and friends were the two factors that contributed
    most to a quality turkey hunting experience, while poaching and seeing too many hunters were the
    factors taking away from a quality experience (1999).
•   Most spring turkey hunters described hunting pressure as light (37% and 39%, respectively) or
    moderate (30% and 38%) (1998, 1999).

Attitudes related to fall turkey hunting:

•   54% of hunting license holders felt that AG&FC should open a fall gun turkey season where they
    hunt, compared to 23% who felt they should not (1998).
•   39% of hunting license holders felt that either-sex fall turkey harvest was OK, compared to 31% who
    felt it was not (1998).
•   22% of all license holders had hunted turkeys with a gun in the fall at some time in the past (1998).
•   55% of spring turkey hunters were in favor of fall gun turkey seasons, compared to 43% who were
    not (1998).
•   51% of spring turkey hunters were not in favor of either-sex turkey harvest during the fall, compared
    to 42% who were (1998).
•   46% of licensed hunters liked or strongly liked fall gun turkey seasons (1998).

         These surveys suggest that spring turkey hunter numbers are increasing rapidly in Arkansas, with
many new hunters joining the ranks. At the same time, attitudes suggest that spring turkey hunters are
somewhat supportive of measures, either voluntary or through regulations, which restrict the harvest of
jakes, therefore promoting attributes of “quality turkey management.” While these sentiments may not be
as strong for turkeys as they are for deer, they do appear to exist (Responsive Management 1997, 1998).
With turkey hunter numbers growing rapidly, it may be difficult to regulate hunting pressure in the future
so that attributes associated with quality turkey management, such as good gobbling activity, remain high.

        The 1998 survey also suggests that there is considerable demand for fall gun turkey hunting, even
among spring turkey hunters. This plan will give consideration to that demand, with emphasis on any
biological constraints needed for such seasons.

HABITAT NEEDS AND ASSESSMENT:

         Wild turkeys have proven to be quite adaptable to a variety of habitat conditions. In the early
years of restoration, managers thought that wild turkeys needed “wilderness” or heavily-wooded, isolated
habitats—because remnant populations survived in such areas. We now know that turkeys can live in a
variety of habitats; in fact, turkeys have amazed wildlife managers with their adaptability. Wild turkeys
should be considered a generalist species. For example, we now know from observations in Iowa and
elsewhere that wild turkeys can do just fine in habitats with as little as 15% woodlands. Trees are
necessary because turkeys roost in trees at night and because most of their food in fall and winter is
associated with woodlands. Wooded areas also provide escape cover. On the other hand, openings are
very important for turkey poults, as most of their food during their first few weeks consists of insects, and
insects are usually more abundant in the herbaceous vegetation (grasses, legumes, forbs, etc.) found in
openings. Good turkey brood habitat has been described as short enough that the hen can see over it and
thin enough that the poults can get through it. Green vegetation associated with openings is very
important to hen turkeys in late winter, as they prepare to enter the nesting season. Prescribed fire can be


                                                     12
used in forested habitats to stimulate herbaceous vegetation, offsetting, but never totally replacing, the
need for openings in good turkey habitat. Nesting habitat, normally consisting of brushy ground-level
vegetation, is also important to wild turkeys. Nesting sites are quite variable in Arkansas, and
management for this habitat probably receives less attention than other habitats. Water is important to
wild turkeys, but is seldom a major limiting factor except during extreme drought conditions. However,
data suggest that permanent water sources are needed, especially in association with brood habitat.

         Ideal turkey habitat has been described as a well-watered area of several thousand acres that
contains 40-70% woodlands, preferably with a high percentage of mature hardwoods, 20-40% grassy
openings, and 10-20% small grain crops, with the above components in increments of tens or hundreds of
acres relatively equally distributed across the landscape. Ideal turkey habitat usually has relatively low
human populations and land ownership patterns that foster good protection from trespass and poaching.
Most turkey habitats in Arkansas are far from ideal, but turkeys are such an adaptable species that they do
moderately well in the variety of habitats found here. Habitat enhancement, however, can be beneficial
for wild turkeys. For a detailed discussion of wild turkey habitat needs, the reader should consult Lewis
(1992).

        Paradoxically, the best potential turkey habitat in the state does not meet the above description.
Batture lands along the Mississippi River have higher numbers of turkeys than any other region of the
state when reproductive conditions are right, even though they are heavily wooded (with wild pecans,
hackberries, and ashes) with few openings. Soil fertility resulting from frequent flooding results in
succulent herbaceous vegetation on the forest floor during the nesting and brood rearing period creating
ideal habitat for turkeys. All the necessary year-round habitats for turkeys are in one place, rather than
arranged separately over the landscape!

        Based on the above descriptions, very little land in Arkansas outside the Mississippi River levees
can be considered “ideal” turkey habitat. Quite a bit of it undoubtedly can be categorized as “good,”
however.

         Wild turkey habitats are directly and indirectly affected by human population levels and diverse
demographic factors related to man. One such factor that appears very important and closely tied to
habitat is protection. Protection can include many things, including AG&FC regulations, providing
suitable habitat, etc., but most importantly includes simple physical constraints that reduce human/turkey
interactions throughout the year. Gating and posting are examples of this type of very important
protection to turkeys. Physical protection may be greatly influenced by land ownership patterns. For
example, gated, leased land may offer much greater physical protection to turkeys than public lands with
multiple users.

        Arkansas is a very diverse state, and turkey habitat suitability and habitat deficiencies vary
considerably from one area to another. No statewide effort has been made to quantify turkey habitats in
Arkansas, thus any subjective assessments are based on professional judgment and a knowledge of habitat
requirements found in scientific literature. Following is a brief assessment of turkey habitats and
deficiencies by natural divisions (generally as described by Foti, 1974, and later adapted by Smith 1989).
These natural divisions have recently been adopted by AG&FC as administrative units and are presented
in Figure 5.

•   Ozark Highlands—Boston Mountains. This natural division is primarily composed of relatively
    mature oak-hickory forests, although shortleaf pines are present on southern exposures. Forest cover
    is >90%, with openings often widely dispersed and planted primarily in fescue. Extensive mature
    hardwood stands with little ground cover may limit nesting habitat in some areas. Surface water may
    be lacking in some higher elevations. Human populations are low and physical protection of wild


                                                     13
    turkeys provided by land ownership patterns is poor to fair. Most Boston Mountain turkey habitats
    are probably moderately good, with brood habitat the major deficiency in some areas.

•   Ozark Highlands—Springfield and Salem Plateaus. These natural divisions have been lumped
    together, because habitats are somewhat similar. Forests are primarily oak-hickory, with few pines.
    Forest cover is usually 50-60% in most areas with most of the remaining area in fescue pastures.
    Some old field habitat remains, and intrusion of cedars is relatively common in many areas. The
    dispersion of year-round turkey habitats is probably the best of any region of the state. Surface water
    is adequate. Human population is fairly low in most areas, with the exception of the extreme
    northwest corner of the state, and protection is moderately good. Springfield and Salem Plateau
    turkey habitats are the best in the state outside of batture lands along the Mississippi River.

•   Arkansas River Valley. This natural division is diverse, containing fertile bottomlands and foothills
    to the Ozark and Ouachita Mountains. Forests are a mixture of oaks, hickories, and pines. Forest
    cover varies considerably depending on location, but ranges from 30-70% in most areas. Croplands
    and pastures are present, but croplands are often in tracts too large to be used by turkeys. Other than
    croplands, distribution of habitats is relatively good in most areas. Surface water is adequate in most
    areas. Human populations are fairly high in many areas and protection is fair to good. Arkansas
    River Valley habitats are moderately good, but high human populations limit turkey numbers in many
    areas.

•   Ouachita Mountains—Central Ouachita and Fourche Mountains. Forests in these similar natural
    divisions are predominately pine, although pine-hardwood mixtures are found on northern slopes and
    along drainages. Forest cover is usually 80-90% with most openings in forest regeneration areas or
    developed pastures. Age-class distributions vary depending on ownership: USFS lands normally
    have longer saw-timber rotations, while private and industrial timberlands have shorter pulpwood
    rotations. Surface water is probably not adequate in this sub-region. Human populations are low and
    protection is poor to fair in most areas. Ouachita Mountain turkey habitats are fair to moderately
    good, with brood habitat a major deficiency in many areas.

•   Ouachita Mountains—Athens Plateau. Short-rotation pine predominates in this natural division,
    with 80-90% cover the norm. Most openings are either recently planted pine plantations or developed
    pasture. Surface water is probably not adequate in this region and mast crops may be deficient.
    Human populations are low, but protection is poor. Recent leasing of commercial timber company
    land may result in better physical protection of turkeys in future years. Athens Piedmont turkey
    habitats are fair, with mature forests and brood habitat deficient in most areas.

•   West Gulf Coastal Plain (GCP). Short-rotation pine predominates across this vast natural division,
    but major river drainages and many smaller watercourses have bottomland hardwood habitats. Forest
    cover is extensive, with 80-90% cover in most areas. Most openings are in recently planted pine
    plantations or developed pastures. Surface water may be inadequate in some areas, with fair to good
    protection depending on land ownership patterns. Human populations are low. GCP turkey habitats
    are fair to moderately good, with mature forests and brood habitat deficiencies. In southwest
    Arkansas, the GCP contains elements of blackland prairies and extensive agriculture associated with
    the Red River valley. These habitats contain less forest and more open lands, but their suitability for
    wild turkeys appears quite variable. Some parts of the blackland prairie belt would appear to have
    almost ideal turkey habitat, while some parts of the Red River valley appear to be very poor due to
    extensive agriculture.




                                                    14
•   Mississippi Alluvial Valley (commonly referred to as the Delta). About 10% (800,000 ac.) of the
    original bottomland hardwood habitats in this natural division remain, with most openings composed
    of extremely large tracts of row crop agriculture. Most remaining bottomland stands are flood-prone.
    Two habitat types are present in this natural division: bottomland hardwoods and Mississippi River
    batture forests. Bottomland hardwood stands in this natural division do provide relatively good brood
    habitat, but nesting habitat is subject to flooding in many areas. Some small, disjunct tracts of
    hardwood timber remain in places. Surface water is adequate. Physical protection is only fair in most
    areas. Human populations are low, but many bottomland hardwood habitats receive heavy hunting
    pressure for species other than turkeys. Remaining bottomland hardwood habitats are relatively good
    for turkeys, but a lack of upland or terrace hardwood nesting habitat is a severe limiting factor in
    many areas. The second Delta habitat type, batture lands along the Mississippi River, is quite
    different from bottomland hardwood habitats (i.e., oaks are mostly absent on batture lands, but very
    prevalent in other Delta forested areas). These batture lands are probably the best turkey habitat in
    the state. Physical protection of turkeys is good, because of extremely low human populations, land
    ownership patterns and remoteness of many batture lands. Flooding limits turkey numbers in many
    years, because of its negative effect on turkey reproduction.

•   Mississippi Alluvial Valley—Crowley’s Ridge. This natural division is primarily forested with
    hardwoods, although some shortleaf pine is present. Forest cover is 60%-80% in most areas with
    openings in pastures or row crops. Dispersion of these habitat types is generally good. Surface water
    is adequate. Protection is fair, with most land in private ownership. Human populations are high in
    some areas and rapidly growing in others. Many Crowley’s Ridge habitats border on “ideal” for
    turkeys, but high human populations and less than desirable protection limit turkey populations.

Turkey Management Zones:

         Wild turkeys have been managed by regulations tied to zones since the creation of AG&FC in
1915. In the early part of the 20th century, counties or parts of counties served as the unit for zones in
most cases. In recent years, counties and parts of counties, along with WMAs, have served as zones for
regulatory purposes. These zones have been quite variable from year to year depending on the type of
season (e.g., spring, archery/crossbow, fall gun), as managers have attempted to use season closures and
restrictions to assist growing turkey numbers in many parts of Arkansas.

         Because turkeys are approaching carrying capacity in most suitable habitats in Arkansas, the need
for large numbers of zones within a particular season has diminished. Currently, fall archery/crossbow
season has an open and closed zone, and only three open zones are associated with spring turkey season.
Natural divisions can serve as the basis for any future zoning for wild turkeys in Arkansas, although more
than one zone may be necessary within a natural division (e.g., Mississippi batture lands may be zoned
differently than other Delta areas). WMAs should continue to remain separate zones, with seasons the
same as the surrounding zone or specific to turkey population goals for that WMA.




                                                    15
Fig. 5. Natural divisions of Arkansas showing Arkansas Game and Fish Commission
        administrative units.




Turkey Management Issues and Problems:

         Looking at the rapid increase in turkey numbers over the past few decades, one might be inclined
to believe that few or no problems exist in turkey management. That is not the case, although wild
turkeys may not be faced with as many problems as quail or some other species. This is primarily
because wild turkeys have proven to be adaptable to a broad array of environmental conditions.
Following are a number of identified problem statements relative to wild turkeys in Arkansas, presented
in no particular order:

•   Habitat suitability for wild turkeys in Arkansas has never been evaluated.

    Although methodology for evaluating turkey habitat exists, habitat suitability has never been
    evaluated in this state. Evaluating habitat conditions and long-term trends is an important task needed
    for future management of turkeys in this state. Evaluating habitat suitability will also serve as base
    line data used to determine whether habitats are being improved by managers in the future.




                                                    16
•   Ideal turkey habitat is rare in Arkansas.

    Areas with an ideal mix of forest, openings, and croplands in the proper sizes and juxtapositions are
    rare in Arkansas. Many areas are too heavily forested; croplands are usually in huge expanses;
    openings are often very limited; surface water is lacking in many upland areas; protection is poor on
    many private and public lands; and high human populations in many otherwise good turkey habitats
    limit turkey numbers.

•   Modern timber management, particularly in pine forests, is far from ideal for wild turkeys.

    Factors associated with production of wood products, particularly the conversion of hardwoods to
    pines, has generally lowered habitat suitability for the wild turkey. While long timber rotations in
    pines can provide good habitat for turkeys, most industrial forests are managed for pulp or lumber
    production on short rotations. Efforts to work with industrial forest landowners to identify and
    employ opportunities to enhance wild turkey habitats must be intensified.

•   Prescribed fire--which is generally beneficial to wild turkeys—is not being used in many areas.

    Several industrial forest companies have discontinued prescribed fire as a forestry management tool
    and its use on private lands has declined in recent years for a variety of reasons. Chemical control of
    hardwood sprouts in short rotation pine forests may be beneficial to wild turkeys in some cases, but it
    probably will never take the place of burning in providing turkey habitat.

•   Lack of nesting and brood habitats limit turkeys in many areas.

    In heavily forested environments, turkey brood habitat is generally lacking. In some parts of the state,
    particularly southwestern Arkansas, forested acreage continues to increase in what is an already
    heavily forested environment through the conversion of pastures and other openings to pine stands. A
    number of management techniques can help alleviate the lack of brood habitats. Nesting habitat may
    also be lacking or located at great distances from ideal brood habitat in some heavily forested
    environments.

•   Cooperative management with other agencies has not always placed turkeys and other wildlife
    on equal footing with other land uses on many public lands.

    A large share of the use of many public lands that are cooperatively managed by AG&FC and other
    agencies is devoted to wildlife-related recreation, but management for turkeys and other species has
    taken a back seat to other uses in the past. Efforts to increase wildlife-related management of these
    lands need to be intensified.

•   Turkey habitats outside the floodplain in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley are severely limited,
    which, in turn, limits turkey populations in an area with some of the best potential turkey
    habitat in the state.

    Turkey habitat could be greatly enhanced in the Delta by the restoration of upland or terrace
    hardwood habitats outside of the annual floodplains of major rivers. Some of this habitat
    improvement has been accomplished with land acquisitions and hardwood restoration on Cache River
    NWR, and some upland habitat have been marginally improved for turkeys through the Conservation
    Reserve Program. This region is capable of supporting good to excellent populations if habitats are
    improved.



                                                    17
•   Artificial feeding by the public may be detrimental to turkey populations.

    Information now indicates that wild turkeys may be highly susceptible to aflatoxins produced on
    grain fed to turkeys and other wildlife. In extreme cases, these poisons may directly kill turkeys, but
    in other cases physiological functions may be impaired. This impairment could result in increased
    likelihood to predation, reduced fecundity, etc. Very little is known about the extent of wildlife
    feeding in Arkansas or the positive and/or negative effects of feeding turkeys. Because this practice
    is believed to be widespread, there is a need to learn more about the specifics of the practice in
    Arkansas.

•   Because direct censusing of wild turkeys is impractical in Arkansas, managers must use
    population indices to manage populations.

    Direct censusing of wild turkeys allow turkey managers to fine tune and evaluate management
    programs much more efficiently. In Wisconsin, where turkeys can be censused over snow in winter,
    quota permits are issued to hunters statewide to regulate harvest and the effect of harvest can be
    monitored afterward by censusing. At the other extreme, many southeastern states only estimate
    statewide harvest though surveys which provide figures months or years after seasons. Somewhere in
    between, most states attempt to use indices such as checked harvest, brood survey data, bowhunter
    surveys, spring turkey hunter surveys, etc., to examine trends in turkey numbers. Experience and
    testing have shown that these indices strongly correlate to turkey numbers and that they are valuable
    to managers seeking to evaluate programs. In Arkansas, checked harvest and brood survey indices
    provide essential information to evaluate population management programs.

•   Turkey harvest data are inadequate.

    Harvest data collection needs to be improved and expanded to better track turkey trends. Reliable
    harvest data are essential to assess long-term trends in turkey populations. At present, harvest data is
    crucial for developing annual season and harvest recommendations.

•   Licensing structure of the AG&FC precludes easy identification of turkey hunters in Arkansas.

    Turkey hunters in Arkansas are required to purchase a Combination license that is good for a variety
    of species. For this reason, it is difficult to determine how many turkey hunters are active in
    Arkansas. Identifying turkey hunters would allow sampling for hunter activity, preferences, attitudes,
    etc. At present, the entire license database must be sampled to contact the approximate 25% who
    turkey hunt—an expensive and less-than-desirable situation.

•   Little is known about what Arkansas hunters expect in terms of “quality” related to turkey
    hunting.

    Some inroads have been made in terms of looking at attitudes of Arkansas turkey hunters with mail
    and phone surveys in recent years, but there is much to be learned in terms of expectations from
    Arkansas hunters. Part of the difficulty in accomplishing this objective is related to the difficulty in
    identifying turkey hunters within the license-buying public.




                                                     18
•   Enforcement of turkey regulations is difficult.

    Turkey regulation violation cases are difficult to make because of low hunter densities in the field, the
    secretive nature of turkey hunting, and other factors. Recent summary reports by the Enforcement
    Division make it clear that enforcement of turkey regulations occurs at low frequency statewide.
    Arrests associated with the spring turkey season average slightly more than one per county per year
    (AG&FC, Enforcement Division, In-service report, 1996, 1997). Enforcement efforts to protect
    turkeys should be increased because illegal activity can have a negative impact on turkey numbers
    and because of the increased importance of wild turkeys to the state of Arkansas.

•   Physical protection of wild turkeys in some areas is not adequate.

    Lovett Williams, Jr. and many other turkey experts have rated physical protection of wild turkeys
    higher than food plots, predator control or other types of habitat management in terms of overall
    importance in maintaining high turkey numbers. Access control is the most important type of
    physical protection that can be offered to wild turkeys, because it can materially reduce turkey
    mortality associated with legal or illegal hunting. On many public and private lands in Arkansas,
    protection is less than desirable. Some of the highest turkey numbers in the state occur on areas with
    good access control.

• Information and education efforts relative to wild turkeys in Arkansas have been lacking.

    AG&FC staff and the public would appear to be relatively uninformed on turkey biology and
    management in this state. A tremendous amount of public education is needed to assist AG&FC with
    its turkey management activities in the future. Information gathered in opinion and attitude surveys
    can be used to identify issues that need to be addressed by educators. These efforts can result in
    landowners and the public helping AG&FC to maintain turkey numbers at high levels in future
    decades.

• Wild turkeys are occasionally considered nuisance animals under some circumstances.

    Turkeys are not the problem that deer and beaver are in Arkansas, but occasional reports are received
    from the public relative to perceived or real problems. These include, but are not limited to, wild
    turkeys in close proximity to domestic poultry operations, turkeys frequenting cattle feeding areas or
    turkeys feeding upon winter wheat in times of food scarcity. Thus far, these situations have not
    resulted in major problems and have proven relatively easy to handle.

• Commercialization of turkeys has the potential to destroy traditional sport hunting through
   privatization of wildlife and spread of disease.

    At present, commercialization of turkeys is mostly limited to put-and-take hunting on private game
    preserves. This activity may be in conflict with current laws that make it illegal to stock any
    domestically-reared turkey into the wild in Arkansas. Conversely, if stock for these put-and-take
    operations is being collected in the wild in Arkansas (e.g., eggs or poults), the wildlife code is being
    violated. If wild turkeys follow the trend of other animals such as deer and elk, commercialization
    will undoubtedly increase as private operations try to grow world record specimens. As these
    operations increase in number, the chance of encounter between wild turkeys—which are not
    excluded by fencing—and pen-raised turkeys, and the potential for disease transmission, increases.




                                                     19
                 STRATEGIC WILD TURKEY MANAGEMENT PLAN
Statement of Wild Turkey Management Philosophy:

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s wild turkey management ideal is to restore turkey
numbers to carrying capacity by using the best available techniques of population management and
by enhancing turkey habitats so that the citizens of Arkansas can derive maximum recreational
value from this resource.

RESOURCE GOAL:

Establish and maintain a wild turkey population in all available habitats within Arkansas
with a spring breeding population of 200,000 based on a ten-year average.

Restoration and management of wild turkeys have resulted in wild turkeys either approaching or reaching
carrying capacity in most suitable habitats in Arkansas at the end of the 20th century. Turkey numbers
should continue to grow in some areas before overall populations level off and fluctuate around a
population goal. Restoration of turkeys through stocking any remaining suitable habitats, harvest
management, habitat enhancement or maintenance, and monitoring and affecting non-harvest factors
related to turkey population dynamics will all be important to reaching this goal.

Objective A: Restore wild turkeys to all suitable habitats in Arkansas.

Viable turkey populations are found in almost all suitable habitats in Arkansas. In spring 2000, part or all
of the 75 counties of the state will be open to turkey hunting. While some small pockets of suitable but
unoccupied habitat may remain, or some maintenance stocking may be necessary, the bulk of turkey
habitats have been stocked and turkeys have responded accordingly.

Strategy 1.     Complete turkey stocking in all suitable habitats in Arkansas using established criteria
                and statewide Habitat Suitability Index modeling.

Objective B: Harvest no more than 5% of the fall population and 10% of the spring
population.

        Fall populations of turkeys vary considerably based on brood production, but normally increases
by 25% to 100% over springtime numbers. With springtime numbers estimated at 155,000 in 1999 and
projected to average 200,000 at the end of this planning period, the maximum fall turkey harvest should
not exceed 9,687 to 15,500 based on 1999 levels or 15,625 to 25,000 based on projected population at the
end of the plan (depending on annual brood production in any given year). Conservative harvests below
these levels will provide substantial high-quality outdoor recreation without materially affecting
populations.

        Harvests in the spring at the 10% level would vary from 15,000 to 25,000 based on goals of this
plan. Trend data related to harvest, the continued increase and sustainability of populations, and other
information will be used to estimate whether this goal is being met.

Strategy 1.     Develop and implement a comprehensive harvest plan for wild turkeys in Arkansas.
                Use established criteria to drive and evaluate the plan.

Strategy 2.     Develop simple predictive models using turkey harvest and brood survey data. Use these


                                                    20
                 models to evaluate harvest and population dynamics.

Strategy 3.      Develop a more efficient tagging and checking system in conjunction with an agency
                 working group. Consider reducing the number of checkstations per county, paying
                 operators, and automated checking systems. Strengthen tagging requirements and
                 promote enforcement. Improve data entry and analysis.

Strategy 4.      Develop a method to identify turkey hunters in the state, so interactions of hunter
                 numbers and turkey harvest can be better understood.

Strategy 5.      Conduct frequent public and turkey hunter surveys to determine attitudes, activities and
                 preferences with regard to wild turkeys and AG&FC’s turkey management programs.
                 Use this information to design management programs and harvest plans responsive to
                 public expectations.

Strategy 6:      Continue to monitor research efforts for methods to census turkeys and test those
                 methods that appear to have applicability in Arkansas.

Objective C: Increase and enhance wild turkey habitat statewide by 5% as measured by
Habitat Suitability Index modeling.

       The potential, need, and ability to enhance turkey habitats statewide varies by natural divisions.
Following is a breakdown of estimated habitat index changes by natural divisions of the state that can be
reasonably affected during the duration of this plan:

        •     Ozark Highlands—Boston Mountains: 10% increase.
        •     Ozark Highlands—Salem and Springfield Plateaus: 3% increase.
        •     Arkansas River Valley: 3% decrease.
        •     Ouachita Mountains—Central Ouachita and Fourche Mountains: 5% increase.
        •     Ouachita Mountains—Athens Plateau: No further loss.
        •     West Gulf Coastal Plain: No further loss.
        •     Mississippi Alluvial Valley (Delta): 5% increase.
        •     Mississippi Alluvial Valley—Crowley’s Ridge: 5% decrease.

         In the above assessment by natural divisions, losses in some areas are estimated to occur
primarily because of urbanization/population growth—a process that wildlife managers have little control
over. In southern Arkansas natural divisions, holding the line on habitat loss or degradation may be the
best managers’ can expect to do given the economics associated with the timber industry. Turkey hunting
and all hunting revenues in general, are very small in comparison to revenue generated by timber
production. This industry changes rapidly based on short-term economic factors. Without significant
work to factor wildlife considerations into decision-making processes, these economic changes may
further degrade turkey habitats. In the northern half of the state and in the Delta, there are opportunities
to increase and enhance turkey habitats. Strategies listed below address these situations.

Strategy 1:      Use GIS technology and HSI/PATREC models to quantify current turkey habitat
                 conditions in the state. Evaluation of the above objective depends on collecting baseline
                 data on habitat suitability and comparing that suitability in future years. Contract with
                 GIS/modeling experts to complete this habitat assessment. Completion of this strategy is
                 a priority—otherwise the habitat objective(s) cannot be evaluated.



                                                     21
Strategy 2:     Develop and implement wild turkey habitat management guidelines statewide for
                Federal lands, state lands, industrial forest lands and private lands as well as for each
                natural division of the state. A draft of these guidelines is presented in Appendix 1.

Strategy 3:     Work through all available channels with such groups as the National Wild Turkey
                Federation, U. S. Forest Service, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Private Lands
                Biologists and others to enhance wild turkey habitats.

Objective D: Monitor and affect non-hunting mortality factors associated with wild
turkeys.

        Non-hunting mortality factors have the potential to greatly affect turkey numbers. For some
common practices, such as artificial feeding, the effects on wild turkeys have not been evaluated.
Biologists need more information on the effects of non-hunting mortality in order to better manage the
turkey resource. Factors related to non-hunting mortality may vary by natural division.

Strategy 1:     Examine the effect of artificial feeding on wild turkeys and regulate this practice if it
                proves detrimental to turkeys. If it is beneficial, promote this activity as a turkey
                management tool.

Strategy 2:     Work closely with the Southeast Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study on turkey disease
                and parasite issues. Submit diseased turkeys as necessary for necropsy.

Strategy 3:     Examine the effects of spreading chicken and turkey litter on fields as fertilizer.

Strategy 4:     Use all available tools to eliminate feral animal populations.

Strategy 5:     Continue to monitor the impacts of predation on wild turkeys and promote legal harvest
                of turkey predators where possible.

Strategy 6:     Regulate commercialization of wild turkeys to control privatization of the species,
                minimize the spread of disease and decrease the possibility of genetic pollution of
                wild turkeys.

Objective E: Promote greater enforcement of current and future turkey regulations.

Strategy 1:     Promote efforts to increase law enforcement of turkey regulations.

RECREATION AND PUBLIC SUPPORT GOAL:

Maintain majority support, acceptance and satisfaction levels among turkey hunters and
the public.

         Currently, some information is available from recent phone surveys, which suggest that the above
levels are in the majority for spring turkey hunters. Spring turkey hunters (and fall gun turkey hunters if
those seasons are reopened) need to be periodically surveyed to determine whether these levels are
increasing or decreasing. These surveys can point to areas where turkey hunters support turkey
management programs and where deficiencies exist. No information is available on support, acceptance
or satisfaction relative to wild turkey programs from the public. Baseline data on public support of turkey
management programs are needed.


                                                     22
Objective A: Monitor hunter attitudes and opinions of turkey management programs.

Strategy 1:     Conduct hunter surveys at least once every two years to examine hunter satisfaction
                rates. As a benchmark, a minimum of a majority of hunters should rate the current
                hunting season as good or excellent.

Objective B: Promote and encourage new and additional youth turkey hunting
opportunities.

        The Wild Turkey Committee feels that the future of hunting lies with our youth and would like to
take every opportunity to promote the introduction of new youth and the retention of youth to the sport.
This will not be an easy task in today’s society. We feel that the key is to involve youth in an actual
hunting experience, just as most of us were introduced to hunting by a family member or other person.
Since mentors with hunting experience may not be as readily available in today’s society, AG&FC will
have to become involved in promoting actual hunting experiences whenever possible.

Strategy 1:     Conduct youth-only special turkey hunts under conditions designed to create a high-
                quality hunting experience conducted ethically and legally.

Strategy 2:     Develop and promote youth mentoring programs by concerned sportsmen’s groups,
                citizens, etc. The goal would be to connect volunteer adults with underprivileged,
                physically challenged or single parent youth in hunting situations.

Objective C: Promote wild turkey management programs through all information and
education outlets.

        While actual data are lacking, the Wild Turkey Committee feels that hunters and the general
public are relatively uninformed on turkey management programs in Arkansas. Hunter surveys and
public opinion surveys can point to deficiencies in knowledge among user groups that can be addressed
through educational efforts. Factual and scientific information can be used to educate the public on issues
where they are not informed, or steer them in the right direction when they are mis-informed.

Strategy 1:     Publish and distribute an annual turkey program report, develop and distribute turkey
                habitat management guidelines, establish and coordinate turkey management assistance
                programs, and use all available information outlets to promote turkey management in
                Arkansas.

Objective D: Maintain a downward trend in turkey hunting accidents.

        Turkey hunting accidents have declined from an average of about four per year in the 1970s and
early 1980s to about 2.75 per year during the 1990s. This decline has occurred despite turkey hunter
numbers in Arkansas that have at least doubled. The reasons for this decline are probably numerous, but
hunter education and opening the season on Monday to reduce intense front-end-of-the-season hunting
pressure are undoubtedly the two major factors contributing to this reduction. Efforts need to continue to
be made to reduce turkey hunting accidents, as any are unacceptable.

Strategy 1:     Use all available educational outlets to continue the reduction in turkey hunting accidents
                that has occurred in recent years.




                                                    23
Objective E: Monitor public acceptance and attitudes of turkey management programs.

Strategy 1:     Survey the public at least once every three years (perhaps in conjunction with surveys
                for other species or topics) to determine public acceptance of wild turkey management
                programs. As a benchmark, a minimum of a majority of the public should give AG&FC
                good to excellent marks on turkey management.

Objective F: Handle turkey nuisance complaints so that a clear majority of the affected
public is satisfied.

Strategy 1:     Develop guidelines to deal with any nuisance turkey problems that may develop as turkey
                numbers reach optimum levels. These guidelines will probably revolve around wild
                turkey/domestic poultry contacts, occasional crop damage issues, and disease
                transmission issues.


EVALUATION:

•   Checked harvests will be used to estimate trends in turkey numbers.

•   Brood survey data will be used to predict trends in harvest and construct simple models used to
    predict trends in turkey numbers.

•   Hunter demographic and opinion surveys will be used to design better management programs.

•   Public surveys will be used to determine their acceptance of turkey management programs.

•   GIS/HSI indices will be generated periodically to evaluate habitat conditions

•   Enforcement contacts and conviction rates will be tracked to assess changes in activity.

•   Publication distribution and public contacts should be documented to ascertain educational efforts.

•   Research should be used to solve issues related to turkey management; the results may be used to
    evaluate management programs (e.g., modeling).




                                                    24
PRIORITIES FOR OBJECTIVES OF THE STRATEGIC WILD TURKEY
MANAGEMENT PLAN.


Objective

                                           Highest Priority
Turkey Resource Goal
  Objective B: Harvest no more than 5% of the fall population and 10% of the spring population.
  Objective C: Increase and enhance wild turkey habitat statewide by 5% as measured by Habitat
               Suitability Index modeling.

Recreation and Public Support Goal
  Objective A: Monitor hunter attitudes and opinions of turkey management programs.
  Objective B: Promote and encourage new and additional youth turkey hunting opportunities.
  Objective C: Promote wild turkey management programs through all information and education
               outlets.
  Objective D: Maintain a downward trend in turkey hunting accidents.

                                           Medium Priority

Turkey Resource Goal
  Objective A: Restore wild turkeys to all suitable habitats in Arkansas.
  Objective D: Monitor and affect non-hunting mortality factors associated with wild turkeys.
  Objective E: Promote greater enforcement of current and future turkey regulations.

                                            Lower Priority

Recreation and Public Support Goal
  Objective E. Monitor public acceptance and attitudes of turkey management programs.
  Objective F. Handle turkey nuisance complaints so that a clear majority of the affected public is
               satisfied.




                                                   25
                                      LITERATURE CITED

Dickson, J. G. 1995. Whence and to where. Proceedings of the National Wild Turkey Symposium
       7:273-278.

Foti, T. L. 1974. Natural divisions of Arkansas. Pages 11-34 in Arkansas Natural Area Plan. Arkansas
         Department of Planning. Little Rock.

Howell, A. H. 1911. Birds of Arkansas. U. S. Department of Biological Survey Bulletin No. 38. 34pp.

Kennamer, J. E. and M. C. Kennamer. 1995. Status and distribution of the wild turkey in 1994.
      Proceedings of the National Wild Turkey Symposium 7:203-211.

Kurzejeski, E. W. and L. D. Vangilder. 1992. Population management. Pages 165-184 in J. G. Dickson,
       ed., The wild turkey: biology and management. Stackpole Books, Harrisburg, PA. 463pp.

Lewis, J. B. 1992. Eastern turkey in midwestern oak-hickory forests. Pages 286-305 in J. G. Dickson,
        ed., The wild turkey: biology and management. Stackpole Books, Harrisburg, PA. 463pp.

Responsive Management 1998. Arkansas deer hunters’ opinions and attitudes toward deer management.
       A report prepared for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, February 1998. 197pp.

__________. 1999. 1998-99 Arkansas deer hunter survey: opinions on and attitudes toward deer
       hunting regulations. A report prepared for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, April 1999.
       149pp.

Roberts, S. D. and W. F. Porter. 1995. Importance of demographic parameters to annual change in wild
        turkey abundance. Proceedings of the National Wild Turkey Symposium 7:15-20.

Smith, R. M. 1989. The atlas of Arkansas. University of Arkansas Press. Fayetteville. 226pp.

UALR. 1998. Arkansas game and fish commission turkey survey. University of Arkansas at Little
      Rock. Little Rock. 33pp.

__________. 1999. Turkey hunter survey, 1999. University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Little Rock.
       30pp.

Vangilder, L. D. and E. W. Kurzejeski. 1995. Population ecology of the eastern wild turkey in northern
       Missouri. Wildlife Monographs 130. 50pp.




                                                  26
Appendix A. Guidelines for Wild Turkey Habitat Management

Statewide:

•   Use GIS technology and HSI/PATREC models to quantify current turkey habitat conditions in the
    state. Evaluation of the above objective depends on collecting baseline data on habitat suitability and
    comparing that suitability in future years. Contract with GIS/modeling experts to complete this
    habitat assessment. Completion of this strategy is a priority—otherwise the habitat objective(s)
    cannot be evaluated.

•   The effects of artificial feeding on turkey populations must be quantified. If artificial feeding is
    beneficial to wild turkeys, this practice may substitute for habitat enhancements. If it is detrimental
    (as perceived), efforts should be made to stop this practice. Conduct multiple-level research on
    prevalence and effects of artificial feeding on turkeys.

•   Work through the Memorandum of Understanding and the State Super Fund program with the
    National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) to increase wild turkey management efforts on federal,
    state, and private lands throughout the state. Since its inception in the late 1980s, money available to
    perform turkey management has increased annually such that about $150,000 was deposited in that
    fund in 1998. Previous projects have included habitat management, research, land purchase,
    education, equipment purchase, and others. Make application for a minimum of 2/3 of available
    money annually to be spent on agency turkey management programs.

•   Establish and use regional working groups to develop and implement recommendations and
    management actions to meet objectives of this plan.

By Natural Division: Major strategies which address perceived deficiencies are listed below, although
other strategies associated with ideal habitat detailed above may be needed.

•   Ozarks—Boston Mountains and Ouachitas—Central Ouachitas and Fourche Mountains:

    •   Increase brood habitat to 20% of total area over the duration of the plan by retention and creation
        of open areas and increased thinning and burning on public and private lands.

    •   Create a minimum of two permanent surface water sources per square mile in areas where surface
        water is lacking.

    •   Install a minimum of 50 gates annually on National Forest lands to reduce open road density to
        the level specified in the Forest Plan.

•   Ozarks—Salem and Springfield Plateaus:

    •   Prescribe burn 5,000 acres of old field habitats or cedar glades annually to enhance brood
        habitats.

    •   Convert 5% of the cool season grasses pastures/hayfields to cool season legumes or warm season
        grasses over the duration of this plan.

    •   Form 10 Wild Turkey Landowner Cooperatives in these natural divisions annually.



                                                     27
•   Arkansas River Valley:

    •   Convert 5% of the cool season grasses pastures/hayfields to cool season legumes or warm season
        grasses over the duration of this plan.

    •   Form 10 Wild Turkey Landowner Cooperatives in these natural divisions annually.

•   Ouachitas—Athens Plateau and all of the Western Gulf Coastal Plain:

    •   Create and use working groups to accomplish turkey and wildlife management objectives on
        commercial lands. Interactions at the administrative/decision making level are very important to
        the future of turkeys and other wildlife on commercial lands. Use public opinions to leverage
        economic decisions toward practices beneficial to wildlife.

    •   Work with the timber industry to promote longer rotation in commercial stands or management
        practices that will result in habitat attributes similar to those of more mature stands. Increase
        prescribed fire and stand thinning by 10% over current levels.

    •   Work with the timber industry to implement Streamside Management Zones that are a minimum
        of 75 yards wide on either side of a stream. Work to retain critical hardwood inclusions in pine
        types where they occur. Use these management practices to increase hardwood components on
        commercial timberlands by 3% during the course of the plan.

    •   Form 10 Wild Turkey Landowner Cooperatives in each of these natural divisions annually.

    •   Prescribe burn 20,000 acres annually in these natural divisions on private lands. Use WHIP and
        other programs though the 96 Farm Bill as the primary vehicle to accomplish this objective.

•   Delta:

    •   Reforest 25,000 acres of bottomland hardwoods during the duration of this plan in the Delta
        region. Attention should be paid to reforestation of lands adjacent to existing forests, terrace or
        upland areas adjacent to bottomlands and corridors to reduce fragmentation. Use WHIP/WRP
        programs though the 96 Farm Bill as the primary vehicle to accomplish this objective.

    •   Acquire inholdings or adjacent lands whenever possible to enhance turkey management on a
        landscape basis. Acquisition of adjacent terrace or upland land is particularly important in the
        Delta region.


Federal Lands:

•   Remain actively involved in U.S. Forest Service Plan revisions, environmental assessments, and
    prescription reviews. Use the Cooperative Management Agreement to accomplish strategies for
    turkey habitat improvements. Specific topics of importance that should be promoted in the plan and
    all work include:

    •   Rotational age: Long sawtimber rotations should be promoted and retained. In hardwoods, 100
        years is normally needed, while 70 years is needed in pines.



                                                     28
    •   Age-class distributions and stand entry: Compatible with long rotations, the majority of the forest
        should be in pole or saw-timber stands (preferably >70%). Forest regeneration and sapling stands
        should comprise 10-15% of the forest, providing temporal brood and nesting habitats and escape
        cover (as well as future forests).
    •   Timber harvest systems (final harvest): Promote single-stem and large-scale even-aged harvest
        systems in hardwood types. Promote large-scale even-aged harvest systems in pine types. Avoid
        group selections and other small cuts in both types and single-stem final harvest in pine types.
    •   Stand conversion should be avoided in most cases. Poor quality hardwoods or mixed stands may,
        with proper management, be much better habitat for turkeys than pine conversions. Hardwoods
        should be retained, particularly in the Ouachitas, where they are generally lacking.
    •   Stand size/Harvest acreage: Timber harvests should probably be in the 40-200 acre range and
        well distributed across the landscape. At one time, smaller acreages were promoted, but research
        suggests that small cuts may lead to increased predation on turkeys.
    •   Prescribed fire: This practice is highly beneficial to wild turkeys and should be increased.
        A target of 180,000 acres per year on the Ouachita National Forest and 30,000 acres per year on
        the Ozark National Forest should be burned. In the Ozarks, poor quality oak-hardwood stands
        should be burned to create oak savannas.
    •   Thinning: Pre-commercial and commercial (TSI and WSI) thinnings should be used in
        conjunction with prescribed fire to create habitats with suitable “openness” and to stimulate
        herbaceous growth on the forest floor.
    •   Management scale: Prescribed fire and other management activities should be done on a
        landscape scale. Turkeys are wide-ranging with annual home ranges of thousands of acres, thus a
        landscape perspective is needed in all management activities.
    •   Brood habitat management: Target 20% of the landscape in suitable brood habitat. This goal can
        be accomplished in a variety of ways, including timber harvest (temporal), wildlife openings,
        pine-bluestem ecosystem management, and retention of non-forested openings on the landscape.
    •   Surface water: Create 2-4 permanent surface water sources per square mile where they are
        lacking.
    •   Access: Reduce open road density to no more than 1 mile per square mile on the forests. Install a
        minimum of 50 gates for seasonal (March 1 - August 31) and permanent closures on each forest
        annually. Enforce and prosecute violations of ATV and offroad travel on closed roads. Plant
        temporary timber harvest roads to legume mixtures.
    •   Walk-in Turkey Hunting Areas: Target 1 walk-in area per Ranger District. Assess public opinion
        relative to walk-in areas in those Ranger Districts without such areas. Size walk-in areas such
        that they truly assume the attributes associated with walk-in areas (e.g., “get away from other
        hunters”).

•   Recognizing that most US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), US Army Corps of Engineers (COE),
    National Park Service (NPS), and other federal lands in Arkansas were purchased with objectives
    other than wild turkeys in mind (and in enabling legislation), work with those agencies to implement
    management practices, whenever possible and within legal constraints, that benefit turkeys. At a
    minimum, all habitat management plans and management prescriptions should contain requirements
    for creation and maintenance of turkey habitat where primary consideration is being given to resident
    wildlife.

State Lands:

•   Assist in and promote efforts for a comprehensive strategic management plan, including management
    of WMAs, at the agency level. Management on state lands has been short-term, changed at the
    whims of new personnel, without division and agency direction, and ineffective in many cases.


                                                    29
    Without agency guidelines, local management for turkeys and other wildlife is often knee-jerk. An
    assessment of the suitability of turkey habitats on all individual state lands, the primary management
    objectives for the state land, and the potential to improve turkey habitats is needed.

•   Specifically, promotion and implementation of management practices associated with “ideal” turkey
    habitats (guidelines will be provided) should be promoted on those state lands where implementation
    is feasible and desirable. This can be accomplished with updated management plans by WMA that
    truly address agency and division management objectives for that particular area. Area managers
    should be required to adhere to objectives of comprehensive management plans. In addition to
    guidelines associated with “ideal” turkey habitats, managers should be particularly attentive to the
    following specific habitat management items on WMAs.

    •   Target a minimum of 20% brood habitat management on upland WMAs where turkey
        management is feasible. Where food plots or other openings are used to satisfy this objective,
        they should be a minimum of 5 acres in size and planted to cool season legume mixtures and
        warm-season grasses.
    •   Use prescribed fire for maintenance of open areas as well as forested areas whenever possible.
        Burn 20,000 acres annually on state-owned WMAs.

    •   Acquire inholdings or adjacent lands whenever possible to enhance turkey management on a
        landscape basis. Acquisition of adjacent terrace or upland land is particularly important in the
        Delta region.

Commercial Lands:

•   Create and use working groups to accomplish turkey and wildlife management objectives on
    commercial lands. These working groups should, at a minimum, consist of company representatives,
    users, and wildlife professionals. Interactions at the administrative/decision making level are very
    important to the future of turkeys and other wildlife on commercial lands. Use public opinions to
    leverage economic decisions toward practices beneficial to wildlife.

•   Through working groups and direct interaction, encourage all timber companies to become members
    of the Sustainable Forest Initiative and to implement best management practices.

•   Work with the timber industry to promote longer rotation in commercial stands or management
    practices that will result in habitat attributes similar to those of more mature stands. Increase
    prescribed fire and stand thinning by 10% over current levels.

•   Work with the timber industry to implement Streamside Management Zones that are a minimum of
    75 yards wide on either side of a stream. Work to retain critical hardwood inclusions in pine types
    where they occur. Use these management practices to increase hardwood components on commercial
    timberlands by 3% during the course of the plan.

•   Use working groups to design and implement wild turkey habitat management projects on 10% of
    utility rights-of-ways statewide.




                                                    30
Private Lands:

•   Encourage and assist in creation of “Turkey Management Cooperatives” on 1 to several sections of
    land, so that management and protection can be addressed on a “landscape” basis. Create a minimum
    of 50 cooperatives a year throughout the state.

•   Promote the conversion of cool season grasses to cool season legumes or warm season grasses on 5%
    of the pasture/hay lands in the state.

•   Reforest 25,000 acres of bottomland hardwoods during the duration of this plan in the Delta region.
    Attention should be paid to reforestation of lands adjacent to existing forests, terrace or upland areas
    adjacent to bottomlands and corridors to reduce fragmentation. Use WHIP/WRP programs though
    the 96 Farm Bill as the primary vehicle to accomplish these objectives. Become proactive in working
    with NRCS on a county basis concentrated on habitat objectives discussed in this strategy.

•   Work with private landowners to create alternate food sources, usually large agricultural grains, on
    suitable sites in heavily wooded areas. Although suitable sites are very limited, there are situations
    where such management is feasible and would greatly benefit wild turkeys.

•   Promote the use of prescribed fire to maintain old field habitat and to enhance cedar glades for wild
    turkeys. Work with the Arkansas Forestry Commission, Cooperative Extension Service, and Natural
    Resources Conservation Service to burn 20,000 acres annually statewide.

•   Prescribe burn 30,000 acres annually in the Ouachitas and Gulf Coastal Plain on private lands. Use
    WHIP and other programs though the 96 Farm Bill as the primary vehicle to accomplish this
    objective.

•   Use Private Lands Biologist contacts to see that private landowners that are primarily interested in
    wild turkeys implement habitat management based on guidelines supplied by AG&FC on 50,000
    additional acres annually.




                                                     31
Appendix B. Wild Turkey Harvest Management Plan

INTRODUCTION

         With the success of Arkansas’s wild turkey restoration program, turkeys are presently located
throughout most suitable habitat within the state. As turkey populations begin to approach carrying
capacity and we begin the transition from the population restoration phase to a population maintenance
phase, harvest management becomes a critical component to maintaining turkey populations at or above
current levels. Therefore, a comprehensive harvest management plan is needed for wild turkeys in
Arkansas.

        The resource goal identified in the Wild Turkey Management Plan (WTMP) is to “Establish and
maintain a wild turkey population in all available habitats within Arkansas with a spring breeding
population of 200,000 based on a ten year average.” Objectives for turkey harvest are outlined in
Objective B of the WTMP that states “Harvest no more than 5% of the fall population and 10% of the
spring population.” Currently, we do not know the exact percentage of the population we are actually
harvesting, but have used the assumption that is commonly used by others (Vangilder 1997), that
approximately 10% of the population is harvested during the spring. Research conducted between 1993
and 1996 in the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas, found that legal harvest comprised 44% of annual
gobbler mortality, with an average of 19.2% of tagged gobblers being harvested in the spring (Johnson et
al. 1996). Assuming a 50:50 sex ratio of hens and gobblers in the population, this would translate to a
harvest of approximately 10% of the overall population. However, harvest rates most likely vary from
different regions of the state and determining those rates would require intensive monitoring (e.g., radio
tagging, leg banding, etc.). As additional information is obtained, modifications to the percentages
presented within the WTMP may be warranted, especially as it relates to what percentage of the spring
population can be harvested while maintaining acceptable levels of hunter satisfaction and maintaining
long-term turkey population viability.

        Harvest is often used to assess population trends over time. Lint (1990) found that total harvest
and harvest / hunter effort indices were the best predictors of population trends in a long-term study in
Mississippi. However, it must be noted that many factors such as weather, gobbling activity, changes in
hunter numbers and hunter effort, regulation adjustments, etc. can cause variations in harvest between
years that may not directly reflect changes in population levels. Many of these factors are uncontrollable,
but those that are controllable (i.e., regulation adjustments) should be controlled if at all possible.
Previous research has shown that at least 5 years is needed to assess the influence of regulation changes
on populations (Weaver and Mosby 1979). Based on this information, the Turkey Team recommends that
turkey regulations remain consistent for at least the first 5-year period of this plan, which will allow
harvest to more accurately reflect population trends. Therefore, only “emergency scenarios” should result
in regulation adjustments during the 5-year evaluation period (e.g., several years of poor reproduction,
dramatic decreases in harvest, disease outbreak, etc.). Variations in hunter numbers and hunter effort can
also be corrected for if turkey hunters could be easily identified (Resource Goal, Objective B, Strategy 4
of WTMP), thus, explaining additional variation in turkey harvest.

HARVEST BIOLOGY

         Understanding population dynamics and the influence of harvest on wild turkey populations is
crucial in developing harvest management programs (Vangilder and Kurzejeski 1995). Only in recent
years has research focused on the intricate relationships between turkey populations and harvest
management (Kurzejeski and Vangilder 1992, Healy and Powell 1999). Since spring and fall seasons
influence turkey populations differently, they will be discussed separately.



                                                    32
Spring Seasons

         Spring seasons are generally limited to harvest of the male segment of the population. Under this
scenario, it has been believed that harvest has no discernable impact on populations because of the
polygamous nature of the species (e.g., an individual male breeds with many females). Although this is
true to some extent, research has shown that impacts can occur with a gobbler only spring season under
some scenarios.

        Excessive harvest rates of gobblers (> 25%) each year tends to shift the age structure of the
population towards juvenile males, thus increasing the percentage of jakes in the harvest (Vangilder and
Kurzejeski 1995). Using population modeling techniques Vangilder and Kurzejeski (1995) found that
harvest rates >60% would remove all adult gobblers during some years, thus influencing both population
dynamics and hunt quality, with future spring harvests highly correlated with the previous years
reproduction. To maintain population growth and hunt quality, Vangilder (1992; 1996) recommended
that harvest rates should remain less than 30% of the male population.

         The timing of spring seasons has been shown to have the greatest potential impact on populations.
Typically, spring turkey seasons are set to coincide with peak hen incubation dates, such that risk of
illegal and/or accidental hen harvest is minimized and most breeding has taken place. Seasons that open
prior to the initiation of incubation may increase the vulnerability of hens to harvest, as they tend to be in
close proximity to gobblers and locations where hunters frequent. In contrast, hens that are incubating
tend to be secretive and often in secluded areas that hunters tend not to frequent. Research in Missouri
(Vangilder 1992) has shown that during years when spring seasons opened prior to peak incubation,
illegal kill of hens was higher. Also, research conducted in Mississippi found that hens incubating a nest
were less vulnerable to illegal harvest than hens that were not incubating a nest (Miller 1997).

         Additionally, if seasons open prior to breeding, gobblers that are harvested are no longer available
for breeding and thus some hens may go unbred. In south Alabama, early seasons and high harvest rates
may have resulted in a high proportion of infertile clutches which led to low reproductive success, as a
result of low numbers of breeding males (Exum et al. 1987). Another possibility, although no formal
research has been conducted, is that early seasons may result in the harvest of dominant males (i.e., the
most fit males) prior to breeding, thus resulting in sub-dominant males (i.e., the less fit males) conducting
most of the breeding. The potential impacts of this on long-term population viability are unknown, but
could potentially lead to decreases in population viability (i.e., decreased genetic fitness) since those
individuals that are most fit do not make significant genetic contributions to future generations.

Fall Seasons

         Fall seasons have been found to have the most potential impact on turkey populations, especially
if either-sex harvests comprise greater than 10% of the population (Little et al. 1990, Suchy et al. 1990,
Vangilder and Kurzejeski 1995). However, fall turkey seasons tend not to generate as much interest as
spring turkey seasons, except in areas with long traditions of fall hunting (e.g., Pennsylvania, Virginia).
In Missouri, fall turkey seasons appear to be self-regulating, with low hunter effort during years of poor
reproduction and increased hunter effort during years of good reproduction (Vangilder 1996). In some
areas, fall turkey harvest appears to be mostly related to the opportunistic take from hunters hunting other
species.

         Typically, juveniles are more susceptible to harvest during the fall, with juveniles comprising the
bulk of the harvest during years following good reproduction. However, during years of poor
reproduction, adults make up a higher proportion of the harvest, which may have a greater impact on


                                                     33
overall populations. Because of this, it is important to monitor trends in annual reproduction and adjust
fall seasons accordingly if necessary.

        Fall harvest levels appear to be related to mast production as well, although no formal research
has been conducted. In Pennsylvania and West Virginia, years with poor mast production resulted in
increased fall harvests, while years of good mast production resulted in lower fall harvests. With the
timing involved in determining mast production and setting fall regulations, it would be difficult to use
mast production as a criterion for setting fall seasons. However, mast production may be useful in
predicting fall harvest levels.

        Since there is potential for fall turkey seasons to influence populations, a conservative approach is
warranted. Under a conservative fall season framework that results in a fall harvest of less than 5% of the
population, populations should continue to increase with no measurable impact on spring turkey harvests
observed. Therefore, conservative fall turkey seasons can provide additional hunting opportunities for
hunters, without causing adverse impacts to populations.

HARVEST STRATEGY

         There are three basic harvest strategies for wild turkeys that have been defined (Healy and Powell
1999): 1) harvest gobblers only in the spring, 2) harvest gobblers in the spring and allow limited harvest
of birds in the fall, and 3) attempt to maximize the combined spring gobbler and fall harvests. Based on
present season structures and the attitudes of hunters in Arkansas (UALR 1998, 1999), a harvest strategy
that emphasizes spring turkey season’s, while allowing limited fall turkey hunting opportunity would be
most fitting. Under this harvest strategy, emphasis is placed on spring turkey season, with fall turkey
season being dependent on the spring season meeting or exceeding a defined goal. Therefore, if spring
season harvest falls below a defined goal for a particular zone, fall season opportunity will be reduced or
discontinued in that zone until spring season harvest again meets the defined goal.

WILD TURKEY ZONES

         As mentioned in the WTMP, turkeys have been managed by regulations that were related to
zones since the creation of AG&FC in 1915. These zones have been quite variable from year to year
depending on the type of season (e.g., spring, archery/crossbow, fall gun), as managers have attempted to
use season closures and restrictions to assist growing turkey numbers in many parts of Arkansas. As
turkey populations expand and begin to approach carrying capacity in most suitable habitats in Arkansas,
the need for large numbers of zones within a particular turkey season has diminished. However,
variations in habitat suitability, production, and population levels throughout the state, create a need for
collecting turkey data (e.g., harvest and reproductive data) based on the potential of the habitat to support
turkey populations.

         There are ten commonly accepted natural divisions in Arkansas (Fig. 5 of WTMP; Smith 1989),
however, the Turkey Team consolidated these divisions into nine natural divisions based on turkey
population potential and forest cover. These divisions include the Boston Mountains, Salem Plateau,
Springfield Plateau, Arkansas River Valley, Ouachita Mountains (Central Ouachita and Fourche
Mountains), Athens Plateau, West Gulf Coastal Plain, Mississippi Alluvial Valley (commonly referred to
as the Delta), and Crowley’s Ridge. To further define areas based on habitat potential, as determined by
forest cover or turkey potential, some of these natural divisions were further subdivided (e.g., Mississippi
River Batture lands) to account for these variations and will serve as future Turkey Management Units
(TMUs; Fig. B-1).




                                                     34
Figure B-1. Turkey Management Units.

    Benton                                                     Marion                                           Randolph
                             Carroll
     1A                                         Boone                     Baxter           Fulton                                     Clay


                                                        1                                Izard
                                                                                                   3 Sharp                         5
                                                                                                                 Lawrence
                                                                Searcy
                         Madison                                                                                                             Mississippi
                                           Newton
      Washington
                                       2                                         Stone
                                                                                                 Independence                Craighead

      Crawford
                    Franklin        Johnson                                                                   Jackson
                                                                                                                                         4A
                                                                 Van Buren                                              Poinsett
                                                  Pope
                                                                                   Cleburne

                                                                                                 White
                                                                                                                      5ACross

                                                   6                     Faulkner                                                      Crittenden
                                                            Conway                                           Woodruff                     (
      Sebastian       Logan                                                                                                               /218
                                                                                                                4
              Scott
                                        Yell           Perry               7A
                                                                         Pulaski
                                                                                                                        St. Francis

                                                                                                                           Lee
                                                                                          Lonoke Prairie
                                    7                          Saline                                         Monroe                         5B
                                               Garland                                                                  Phillips
                       Montgomery
          Polk

                                                  Hot Spring            Grant           Jefferson                                     17
             Howard
                      8      Pike
                                                                                                           Arkansas
                                                                                                             10
                                               Clark            Dallas                           Lincoln
        Sevier                                                              Cleveland



     Little River
                       Hempstead Nevada                          9                                            Desha

                                                    Ouachita                                      Drew
                                                                   Calhoun
                    Miller                                                      Bradley
                                                                                                             Chicot
                    9A
                         Lafayette
                                         Columbia               Union                       Ashley
                                                                                                           4B

         As mentioned previously, the number of zones for turkey season’s has diminished. Therefore,
season zones will be combinations of TMUs. Since Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) present unique
management strategies, they will remain separate zones, with seasons the same as the surrounding zone or
specific to population goals for a specific WMA. Harvest and reproduction will be monitored at the
TMU, county and WMA level. Because the defined TMUs have not been used in the past, data at the
TMU level is unavailable, therefore, comparisons with past trends will be made at the county level (or
aggregations of counties) until data is available for each defined TMU. When data is available at the
TMU level (during the 5-year evaluation period), measurable harvest goals at the TMU level will be
developed.

SPRING TURKEY SEASON

         Season structures will be that recommended by the Wildlife Management Division and approved
by the Commission for the spring season immediately following approval of the WTMP. As mentioned
in the introduction, regulations should remain consistent throughout the 5-year evaluation period to the
extent possible, such that trends in turkey populations and the influence of regulations can be more
closely monitored. The following measures will be used to assess the influence of spring turkey seasons:


                                                                                   35
•         Total harvest should not drop below 80% of the previous 5-year average for any given TMU. As
          populations reach carrying capacity, population levels will begin to stabilize and fluctuate around the
          carrying capacity of the habitat. Thus, decreases will be observed during some years while increases
          will be observed during others. The current years harvest should be compared to the previous 5-year
          average so that these natural fluctuations can be accounted for. In addition, recent trends should be
          compared to past trends; i.e., a drop in this index for the past several years may be indicative of
          declining turkey numbers (Fig. 2 of WTMP)

•         Harvest per square mile of forest should not drop below 80% of the previous 5-year average for any
          given TMU. As populations reach carrying capacity, population levels will begin to stabilize and
          fluctuate around the carrying capacity of the habitat. Again, the current years harvest should be
          compared to the previous 5-year average so that these natural fluctuations can be accounted for. As
          updated forest statistics become available (every 5 years) they should be used in calculations and
          adjustments in forested area should be noted. In addition, recent trends should be compared to past
          trends; i.e., a drop in this index for the past several years may be indicative of declining turkey
          numbers (Fig. B-2).

          Figure B-2. Statewide turkey harvest per square mile of forested land for Arkansas, 1989-2000.
          Dashed line represents 0.5 turkeys harvested/mi2 forest.


                         0.70

                         0.60
    Harvest/mi2 forest




                         0.50

                         0.40

                         0.30

                         0.20

                         0.10

                         0.00
                            1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000
                                                        Year

•         Proportion of jakes in the harvest should remain below 40% for each TMU (5-year state average
          [1996-2000] = 33.8%). High proportions of jakes in the spring harvest may be indicative of liberal
          season structures, whereby a high percentage of the adult segment of the population is harvested and
          there is little carryover of jakes to next year’s adult age-class. Under this situation, spring harvest
          totals tend to be highly related with the previous year’s reproduction, such that several years of poor
          reproduction may cause dramatic decreases in spring harvests due to declining turkey numbers.




                                                           36
    Examination of recent trends of this index will also be of value in the evaluation; i.e., an increase in
    this index for the past several years may indicate declining turkey numbers (Fig. B-3).

    Figure B-3. Percent jakes in the statewide spring turkey harvest from 1989-2000 in Arkansas.
    Dashed line represents 40%.

                           50

                           45
    Percent Jake Harvest




                           40

                           35

                           30

                           25

                           20
                            1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000
                                                       Year

•   Average spur length of harvested adult gobblers should not drop below 90% of the previous 5-year
    average for a TMU. Spur lengths can be used to examine the age structure of the population and
    dramatic decreases in spur length distribution can indicate excessive harvest of the adult age class and
    may reduce hunt quality. Again, examination of trends with respect to spur length will be useful in
    evaluating this criterion.

•   The number of gobblers/hen as determined by the annual summer wild turkey brood survey should
    remain above 0.5 gobblers / hen. This index provides information relative to the “carryover” of
    gobblers from one year to the next (i.e., a high number of gobblers / hen would suggest next years
    spring season will have a high number of adult gobblers). Decreasing trends with respect to this
    index may suggest declining turkey numbers and/or excessive harvest of gobblers (Fig. B-4).




                                                        37
    Figure B-4. Total statewide spring turkey harvest plotted against the number of gobblers/hen
    observed during annual summer wild turkey brood surveys in Arkansas, 1989-2000. The
    horizontal dashed line represents 0.5 gobblers/hen.


     20000
                       # Gobblers/Hen*10000
     18000             Total Harvest
     16000
     14000
     12000
     10000
       8000
       6000
       4000
       2000
          0
          1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000
                                                    Year


•   A majority of hunters (> 50%) should indicate that their spring turkey season satisfaction level was
    excellent or good during hunter opinion surveys (Resource Goal, Objective B, Strategy 5; Recreation
    and Public Support Goal, Objective A, Strategy 1 of the WTMP). A decline in this index from past
    levels could also suggest declining turkey numbers and/or a decrease in hunt quality.

          Because turkey populations are dynamic and inter-year variation in populations and harvest are
common, failure to meet one of the criteria above in a given year or over the course of the 5-year
evaluation period should not be cause for alarm. However, if 3 or more of the above criteria are not met,
the information available should be examined in detail and corrective actions recommended. Because
each scenario may differ, these should be handled on a case by case basis rather than by development of a
“cookbook recipe” for defining corrective measures before hand. As additional information is obtained
(e.g., influence of harvest rates on hunter opinion and population viability, population models, etc.),
adjustments and refinements to the criteria above may be warranted at the 5-year evaluation of the WTMP
and as information is obtained at the TMU level, measurable harvest objectives for each TMU should be
defined.

FALL TURKEY SEASON

        There are three basic frameworks recommended for fall turkey seasons: 1) closed to all fall turkey
seasons, 2) open to fall archery/crossbow season and closed to fall gun, and 3) open to both fall
archery/crossbow and a conservative fall gun season. Framework #3 has been chosen relative to the
harvest strategy to harvest gobblers in the spring while allowing limited fall harvest. Although research
has shown that fall harvests of 5% of populations have no impact on future populations, the Turkey Team
recommends a conservative approach whereby no more than an estimated 3% of fall populations are



                                                   38
harvested. Because fall archery/crossbow seasons have had minimal if any impact on populations in
Arkansas, these seasons should be allowable statewide, except under special circumstances to be
determined on a case-by-case basis. Fall gun seasons on the other hand could have a much greater impact
on turkey populations, therefore, the Turkey Team recommends that an ultra-conservative fall gun season
is used during the first 5-year evaluation period of this plan. Season structures in the fall will be that
recommended by the Wildlife Management Division and approved by the Commission for the fall season
immediately following approval of the WTMP. The following measures will be used to assess the
influence of fall turkey seasons:

•   The previous years spring season should meet the defined criteria as established in the spring turkey
    season section above. TMUs recommended for framework #3 above should have maintained a
    harvest of >0.5 turkeys per square mile of forest for the 2 previous spring turkey seasons (1999 and
    2000 statewide average = 0.56 turkeys harvested/mi2 forest; Fig. B-2).

•   Combined fall harvests should not exceed 1/3 of the previous spring harvest during any year in any
    given TMU. Based on the assumption that 10% of the population is harvested in the spring, this
    would equate to approximately 3% of the population or less being harvested in the fall.

•   A majority of hunters (>50%) should indicate that their fall turkey season satisfaction level was
    excellent or good and the majority of spring and/or fall turkey hunters (>50%) should support fall
    turkey seasons as determined by hunter opinion surveys (Resource Goal, Objective B, Strategy 5;
    Recreation and Public Support Goal, Objective A, Strategy 1 of the WTMP).

        Because our harvest strategy emphasizes spring turkey seasons, all of the criteria above should be
met with regards to fall seasons. If an individual TMU does not meet the above criteria, then corrective
measures should be taken, such as the discontinuance of fall seasons or reduction of fall season
opportunity (e.g., those areas with fall gun and archery/crossbow could be reduced to archery/crossbow
only). Again these instances should be examined on a case-by-case basis, with corrective measures
recommended as warranted.

EVALUATION

         As stated previously, harvest management is an important aspect of assuring the long-term
welfare of wild turkey populations in Arkansas. Therefore, it is imperative that sound science and
current, reliable data are used to drive and evaluate the plan. The reduction of variation in harvest data
will be important in effectively evaluating the harvest management plan and for defining measurable
harvest objectives at the TMU level when baseline data become available (5 years). Thus, regulations
should remain consistent during the first 5-year period of the plan. As additional information is obtained
on hunter attitudes, harvest rates, habitat suitability, etc., adjustments to the plan may be warranted in the
future. Because wild turkey potential varies between TMUs, evaluation of the need for specific
measurable criteria for individual TMUs should also be examined at the 5-year evaluation period of the
plan.




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LITERATURE CITED

Exum, J. H., J. A. McGlincy, D. W. Speake, J. L. Buckner, and F. M. Stanley. 1987. Ecology of the
       eastern wild turkey in an intensively managed pine forest in southern Alabama. Bull. Tall
       Timbers Research Station 23:1-70.

Healy, W. M. and S. M. Powell. 1999. Wild turkey harvest management: biology, strategies, and
       techniques. United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Biol. Tech. Pub. BTP-R5001-1999. 96 pp.

Johnson, J. E., W. E. Thogmartin and W. J. Etges. 1996. Population dynamics of wild turkeys of the
       Ouachita mountain region. Final Report. Arkansas Coop. Fish and Wildl. Res. Unit,
       Fayetteville. 96 pp.

Kurzejeski, E. W. and L. D. Vangilder. 1992. Population management. Pages 165-184 in J. G. Dickson,
       ed. The wild turkey: biology and management. Stackpole books, Harrisburg, Pa.

Lint, J. R. 1990. Assessment of mark-recapture models and indices to estimate population size of wild
         turkeys on Tallahala wildlife management area. M.S. Thesis. Mississippi State Univ.,
         Mississippi State. 255 pp.

Little, T. W., J. M. Kienzler, and G. A. Hanson. 1990. Effects of fall either-sex hunting on survival in an
         Iowa wild turkey population. Proc. National Wild Turkey Symp. 6:119-125.

Miller, D. A. 1997. Habitat relationships and demographic parameters of an eastern wild turkey
        population in central Mississippi. Ph.D. Diss. Mississippi State Univ., Mississippi State. 307pp.

Smith, R. M. 1989. The atlas of Arkansas. University of Arkansas Press. Fayetteville. 226pp.

Suchy, W. J., G. A. Hanson, and T. W. Little. 1990. Evaluation of a population model as a management
       tool in Iowa. Proc. National Wild Turkey Symp. 6:196-204.

UALR. 1998. Arkansas game and fish commission turkey survey. University of Arkansas at Little
      Rock. Little Rock. 33pp.

__________. 1999. Turkey hunter survey, 1999. University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Little Rock.
       30pp.

Vangilder, L. D. and E. W. Kurzejeski. 1995. Population ecology of the eastern wild turkey in northern
       Missouri. Wildl. Monogr. 130. 50pp.

__________. 1996. Wild turkeys and wild turkey hunting in Missouri- a report to the blue ribbon panel.
       Missouri Depart. of Conserv., Jefferson City. 30 pp.

__________. 1992. Population dynamics. Pages 144-164 in J. G. Dickson, ed. The wild turkey: biology
       and management. Stackpole books, Harrisburg, Pa.

Weaver, J. K. and H. S. Mosby. 1979. Influence of hunting regulations on Virginia wild turkey
       populations. J. Wildl. Manage. 43:128-135.




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