I remember back in the 1970’s when the Ohio wildlife and parks were talking about transplanting wild turkeys in Ohio. I had 150 acres of farm ground similar to our south-central Kansas ground, but with more trees, and I can remember how excited I was at the possibility of having wild turkeys on my land; until the wildlife and parks guys told me turkeys would never thrive there, as several miles of uninterrupted forest were needed for them to survive. Then I moved to Kansas and saw just how wrong that was!
The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Wild Turkey committee chaired by Small Game Coordinator Kent Fricke wants to address declining turkey populations in the Sunshine State. Fricke says this is a trend seen throughout the Midwest and suggests Kansas take immediate action to address the decline. Fricke explains “Our primary goal is declining nest and brood survival rates, which are influenced by habitat and weather.”
I believe recent drought conditions have affected all wildlife more than we know, and last spring’s horrendous flooding certainly had a major impact on all nesting game birds as well as other young wildlife like whitetail deer. Fricke says estimated 2019 wild turkey production was the lowest on record. Not only were many spring nests probably destroyed in the floods, but dry conditions later reduced green habitat that afforded cover for growing birds, also reducing the number of insects and other food available to them.
To address declining turkey populations and to give them a chance to rebound, numerous changes to 2020 spring and fall turkey harvest seasons were recommended, and here are the final changes that were approved:
• Beginning with the 2020 spring season, bag limits (total harvest allowed) in turkey management units 3, 5 and 6 will be reduced from 2 turkeys to 1 turkey only; bag limits in units 1 and 2 will remain 2 turkeys.
• The fall 2020 season will be reduced in length to 41 days only, October 1 – November 10, about one-third the length of current fall seasons.
• 2020 turkey season dates will be as follows;
• spring season for youth and disabled hunters, April 1 -14
• spring archery season, April 6-14
• spring regular firearms season, April 15- May31.
To some of you readers, especially in city suburbs, who see large groups of turkeys every winter and spring, and who routinely have flower beds and gardens wrecked by marauding turkeys, it may seem foolish to believe turkey numbers are steadily declining. I’ll trust our wildlife and parks people on this one and be thankful they are working to head-off problems that could result in no turkey hunting in Kansas for a while if not addressed now…Continue to Explore Kansas Outdoors.
Steve Gilliland can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.