Turkey hunters have reason to be optimistic as spring season nears

As of today (March 20), the countdown to the spring turkey season is at five days, if you you count the youth hunt as the official opener. On that note, it’s important to point out that the youth hunt has been expanded to two weekends this year — March 25-26 and April 1-2.

The regular season opens April 3 in the south zone and April 10 in the north zone.

A bonus weekend for the youth hunt could push harvest numbers up this spring, as hunters continue to edge toward the state record of 16,605 turkeys taken in the spring of 2006.

DNR Wild Turkey Biologist Luke Garver, who was named to that post last fall, said the 2017 season is sizing up well.

“While our brood surveys showed production was a little below average for 2016, we still expect a good season overall,” Garver said. “We had great hatches two and three years ago, which should translate to a lot of mature birds on the landscape for this season. We experienced what should have been a favorable spring for turkey production in 2016, it being relatively warm and dry. However, the summer brought higher-than-average precipitation, which may have taken its toll on young birds and driven down the poult-to-hen ratio.”

Garver expects the youth harvest to be higher than average this year, as well.

“This is the first year youth hunters will have the opportunity to harvest birds over two weekends, regardless of which zone they hunt,” he said. “Previously, there was one weekend dedicated for each zone.”

Weather always has a significant impact on turkeys, as well as turkey hunters, Garver noted.

Read more about the upcoming season in the March 24 issue of Illinois Outdoor News.

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