Last week wrapped up the 2018 Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) Western Wild Turkey Workshop (say that ten times fast!). This is an annual workshop that is held each spring, every year in a different western state. In 2018, the Nevada Department of Wildlife offered to host the workshop, and it was held in Minden, Nevada. Each year, every state wildlife agency in the west sends their head upland game bird biologists to the Workshop to catch up on wild turkey populations, harvest trends, research priorities, and all that is happening with wild turkeys in their respective states. The NWTF also sends the District Biologist from each western state to participate.
California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Upland Game Bird Biologist, Katherine Miller, was there to report on California and gave a presentation on the status of wild turkey harvest from the most recent survey looking at the 2016 spring and fall seasons.
The numbers from the figures above were extrapolated from a voluntary online survey that was asked of all California hunters that purchased an upland game bird validation in 2016. So in the spring of 2016, an estimated 24,928 hunters harvested 15,770 birds over 96,457 individual hunt days. That translates into a 63% success rate, with hunters spending an average of 4 days in the field pursuing wild turkeys in the spring season. These numbers are slightly down from the 2015 survey, where an estimated 29,884 hunters harvested 18,887 birds over 195,218 days. The 2015 numbers also translate into a 63% success rate, with hunters spending a higher average of 6.5 days in the field.
As you may know, year to year differences do not make a trend, however these numbers do help wildlife managers in setting seasons and bag limits to maximize hunter opportunity while being able to maintain robust populations of game species.
Other outcomes of the Workshop include the “Value of Turkey Hunting in the West” publication that has been worked on over the last few meetings, as well as a publication outlining “Western Wild Turkey Monitoring Methods” which is currently in review mode.
Hopefully this information can help you to become more successful in your California turkey hunting adventures. And thanks for doing your part in conservation and inserting over $36 million into California’s economy each spring!
– California and Nevada District Biologist, Kevin Vella