Wild Turkey Production and Population Survey Results for 2010
The 2010 hunting season was the 32nd year of our annual turkey population survey. The
continuing cooperation of turkey hunters has made the survey possible. Your assistance is vital to
managing wild turkeys in Georgia. We greatly appreciate this partnership.
Turkey Production Index Survey
Historically, this survey was conducted from May through August from 1978 thru 1990. Beginning
in 1991, the annual survey period was shortened to June through August. Field personnel of the
Game Management, Law Enforcement, and Fisheries Management Sections of the Wildlife
Resources Division are involved in data collection. All observations of turkey broods and hens,
with and without poults, are reported.
During the summer of 2010, 356 broods were seen, which was up 15.5% from 308 in 2009. The
average brood size of 8.9 poults observed in 2010 was 41% greater than 2009 (6.3) and 8.5%
greater than the previous 5-years average (8.2). The statewide production index of poults per
observer (16.4) was 82% greater than last years 9.01and 21.4% greater than the 5-year average
(13.5). The production index ‘poults + hens’ was 4800 in 2010, which was 29% greater than the
2009 index of 3709 and 2% greater than the 5-year average of 4708. The average number of
poults per hen was 1.93 in 2010 up 75% from 1.1 in 2009. This was 21% greater than the
previous 5-years average (1.6). An average of 3.0 poults/hen or above is usually considered an
indicator of good production in expanding turkey populations. The past several years of
production data and harvest data indicate that reproductive levels around 2 poults per hen or
slightly less have been able to maintain our current population level for the past 10 years. A
production index of 1.93 poults/hen should produce a noticeable increase in adult gobblers in the
population in some turkey populations around the state by 2012.
Reproduction data suggests that turkey production was good in many parts of Georgia in 2010.
Particularly, reproduction in the lower coastal plain was up 250% from 2009 with poults/hen
indexes of .57 in 2009 and 2.0 in 2010. The upper coastal plain saw a 98.8% increase, from .90
poults/hen in 2009 to 1.78 poults/hen in 2010. Other parts of the state were up as well the
piedmont up 70%, the Blue Ridge up 41%, and the Ridge and Valley was up 15%. The right
amount of spring rainfall at the right time set the stage for a great hatch. Overall, the turkey
population is going to benefit from a good hatch this past summer, but high 2011 expectations
should be tempered by the fact that 2009 and 2007 were the worst reproduction years ever
recorded and we will continue to feel the effects of bad reproduction this year.
Hunting Population Index Survey
This survey is conducted during the spring gobbler season with hunt data being supplied by
hunter- volunteers. Specific information requested about each hunting trip from our huntercooperators is the date, hours hunted, county or region of the state hunted, the number of turkeys
seen, the number of gobblers heard, and the number of gobblers killed.
The hours of hunting effort per turkey observed is used as an index of the hunting population. The
correlation between this index and the production index is used in evaluating annual production
and resulting hunting season populations.
Usable hunt data was supplied by 452 cooperators. Of these, 415 came from the permanent
cooperator list and 37 from the NWTF list which resulted in a reporting rate (after deleting wrong addresses, deceased, quit hunting, incorrect data collection, etc.) of 37.3% and 4.6% from the
permanent and NWTF list cooperators, respectively. These cooperators reported spending a
total of 16,635.9 hours hunting. The average season hunter effort was 10.9 trips totaling 37.1
hours. They reported observing 10,007 turkeys and hearing 9,224 gobblers. The statewide
population index of 1.7 was 12% less than last year (1.5 hrs hunted/turkey seen [the lower the
number the greater the population]). The effort per gobbler heard of 1.8 was the best recorded
since the start of the survey, which corresponds with a best ever recorded 21.2 hours/turkey
harvested. The least hunting effort per turkey seen occurred in the Ridge and Valley, Upper and
Lower Coastal Plain. The effort per gobbler heard was least in Upper and Lower Coastal Plain
and greatest in the Piedmont.
Statewide peak gobbling activity, 2.6 gobblers heard per trip, occurred during the first (March 20-
21) and third (April 3-4) weekends. The next highest period recorded 2.5 gobblers heard per trip
was the fourth weekend (April 10-11). This season there were 6 periods with greater than or
equal to 2.0 gobblers heard per trip, whereas last year there was only one. For most of the state
the greatest amount of gobbling activity was the first 7 days (Mar 20 – March 26) and the 7-day
period of March 29- April 4. Peaks of gobbling by region occurred during the fourth weekend
(April 10-11) for the Ridge and Valley, the first week (March 22-26) for the Blue Ridge Mountains,
the first weekend for the Piedmont, fourth weekend for the Upper Coastal Plain, and the first
weekend for the Lower Coastal Plain.
The statewide gobbler harvest during the first seven days of the season amounted to 25% of the
total season harvest, which was lower than the last 3 years (2009 = 28%, 2008 = 35% and 2007
= 36%). Peak harvest was generally seen within the first seven days of the season in all parts of
The greatest number of trips was made during the first seven days of the season; this was similar
to past seasons. Only minor variations in hunting effort have occurred over the years.
Hunter success increased from 64.4% in 2009 to 67.3 % in 2010 with 304 of 452 hunters reported
taking or assisting in taking at least one gobbler. Of the successful hunters, 92 (20.4 %) took or
assisted in taking one bird, 90 (19.9 %) took or assisted in taking two birds, and 122 (27.0 %; the
greatest reported) took or assisted in taking three birds. Cooperators reported 238 gobblers killed
2010-11 Season Forecast
According to a post-season telephone survey, Georgia’s estimated 47,275 resident turkey
hunters had another good spring season in 2010, harvesting about 34,001 gobblers statewide.
The average harvest per hunter (0.72 turkeys) increased 47% in 2010 and was 28.5 % better
than the previous 5 years averaged (.56). Not surprising, 72.3% of turkey hunters surveyed rated
Georgia turkey hunting good or excellent. The turkey population in Georgia has declined since
2003, primarily due to poor reproduction and loss of quality habitat. I think we are experiencing
normal population cycles typical of a stable population at or near capacity. We recently estimated
the population at about 335,000 turkeys and harvest rates remain good. Reproduction was good
in many parts of the state in the summer of 2010. This should mean a lot of vocal 2-year-old birds
available for the 2012 season. Unfortunately, reproduction was very low in 2009 due to heavy
May rainfall and this will result in fewer 2-year-old birds available for harvest this season.