North Carolina’s five-week spring wild turkey season had the highest ever harvest (23,341), according to figures from the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission’s annual turkey harvest summary. The 2020 season exceeded the previous record (18,919) set in 2017.
Agency biologists said most of the increase in harvest is likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic statewide “stay at home” orders, under which people had more time to hunt, including youth hunters. Harvest during the week-long youth season increased by 110 percent over previous years.
To put this harvest in perspective, biologists typically compare it to the average harvest of the previous three years. Additional statistics for this season are: harvest in the Piedmont increased by 26 percent and 37 percent in the coastal. Number of adult gobblers increased by 18 percent, jakes (young males) by 87 percent and jakes comprised 20 percent of the harvest, up from 12 to 15 percent in past three years.
The top five counties for the number of turkeys harvested were Duplin, 686 birds; Bladen, 571 birds; Columbus, 539 birds; Pender, 532 birds; and, Franklin, 516 birds. When considering the size of counties, the top counties for turkeys harvested per square mile were: Franklin, Rockingham, Duplin, Stokes and Caswell.
“Our estimates of hunting pressure come from a mail-in survey, so we will not have exact figures for the 2020 season for quite some time,” said Chris Kreh, the agency’s wild turkey biologist. “However, many hunters were telling us that pressure was up considerably this year, especially on game lands (where harvest decreased by 0.4 percent).”