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New York Turkey Numbers Stabilize Among Low Population Numbers Heading to the Spring Gobbler Season

Thayne Muthler

The usual spring turkey season runs from May 1 to May 31 in Suffolk County, Long Island, and Upstate New York north of the Bronx-Westchester County line. A maximum of one bearded bird may be harvested by hunters each day during this period.

According to the Department of Environmental Conservation, 16,000–18,000 turkeys are typically harvested in springtime in New York. But this figure can change based on the number of hunters in the area and the turkey population's output during the preceding few springs.

The DEC expects a larger harvest of turkeys this year than it did last year. The summer production of turkeys normally lags by two years before the spring harvest because hunters mainly target toms, or male turkeys that are two years of age or older.

A Closer Look at Wild Turkey Numbers in New York

Joshua Twining, a postdoctoral research scientist at Cornell University, claims that the state's turkey populations have declined since the early 2000s. However, managing wildlife is not best served by basing population estimates only on information gathered by hunters. Twining is heading up a five-year DEC research to produce more precise figures. The study, which focuses on populations of wild turkey, whitetail deer, red and gray fox, coyotes, and bobcats, uses millions of images taken by camera traps positioned around upstate New York between 2014 and 2021.

Twining's examination of the camera trap data supports the observations made by numerous hunters during the Chinese New Year: it's getting harder and harder to locate turkeys. Twining's team determines the likelihood of an animal residing in a particular region by utilizing an intricate algorithm known as "occupancy." The findings demonstrate agreement between anecdotal evidence and more reliable estimations, suggesting low occupancy and a rather steady number of turkeys.

Twining found a tiny exception from the general downward trend in the southern tier. The number of turkeys increased little, which defied evidence from other sources, including poults and harvest records. This anomaly was found close to Lake Ontario on the northern border of the southern tier.

New York State Turkey Harvest Data Management

DEC estimates the harvest of turkeys by conducting hunter surveys in the spring and fall. The state's turkey population trends are better understood by biologists thanks to the data from these studies.

Data from the hunter survey is now accessible via an online dashboard for the first time thanks to DEC. To help you better organize your turkey hunts, the dashboard essentially consists of an interactive map on which you can click on different regions to view historical harvest data.

Key Regulations for Hunting Turkeys in New York

  • The majority of the state permits hunting, with the exception of New York City and Nassau County.
  • In addition to a hunting license, hunters also require a permit to hunt turkeys.
  • Daily shooting hours are from 30 minutes before dawn till midday.
  • In Wildlife Management Unit 1C (Suffolk County), hunters are permitted to take up to two bearded turkeys during the spring shooting season. Each hunter may take one bird per day and season.
  • Except in Westchester or Suffolk counties, hunters are permitted to use shotguns, handguns with shot sizes between No. 2 and No. 9, bows, and crossbows. Rifles and handguns that discharge bullets are not permitted.