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February 07, 2004 (rt23 news) - The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protectionís Division of Fish and Wildlife reminds hunters that the 2004 Spring Gobbler Season is scheduled to begin, Monday, April 19 and will continue for six weeks (note that a special youth day is scheduled for Saturday, April 17). Again this year, New Jersey will host one of the longest spring gobbler seasons in the Northeast.

The outlook for the season is fair; however, biologists do not predict a record harvest this year due to poor reproduction in both 2002 and 2003. In fact, reproduction during 2003 was the poorest on record due to the wettest spring and summer weather encountered since the species was reintroduced in 1977.
This yearís wild turkey population is estimated at more than 22,000 birds and as of this writing, the winter survival rate has been good throughout the state. Winter snows have not remained too deep or too soft for any length of time, so the birds were able to move around and find food. In many cases, a crust quickly formed over the snow enabling the birds to walk uninhibited.

The six-week 2003 spring gobbler hunting season ended on May 23 with 3,528 gobblers harvested, about 7% less than in 2002. Nonetheless, the 2003 total represented the second highest New Jersey gobbler harvest in the 23 seasons since the spring turkey season was established in 1981.
Several factors played a key role in the 2003 seasonís decreased harvest. Wildlife biologists felt that poor reproduction over the past several years and rainy weather during the turkey season contributed to the lower gobbler take.
Approximately 20,346 spring turkey hunting permits were issued for the 2003 season. The success rate among permit holders was 17%.

This year, the upcoming spring season quota will again be 29,250 permits. All permit applications must be postmarked on or before February 23, 2004. Although the lottery has not been conducted yet, the Division expects permits to be left over and an over-the-counter sale has been tentatively scheduled for Saturday, April 3 between 9 a.m. and 12 noon at five Division field offices. As long as the supply lasts, they will continue to be sold Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 - 4 p.m. at the same five Division field offices and the Trenton office beginning Monday, April 5. Hunters can call the Divisionís Permit Hotline at 609-292-9192 after March 26 for information on leftover permit sales.

The Divisionís Turkey Restoration Project represents one of the greatest wildlife management success stories in the history of the state. In the mid-1800s, turkeys had disappeared in New Jersey due to habitat changes and over-exploitation. However, in 1977 biologists and technicians began to live-trap and re-locate birds to establish populations in 20 New Jersey counties. To date, nearly 1,700 birds have been trapped and re-located, resulting in an abundance of wild turkeys throughout the state. Even in South Jersey (parts of Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland and Gloucester counties) where wild turkeys had been struggling just a few years ago, intensive restoration efforts have improved population numbers significantly.
Spring gobbler hunting in New Jersey was initiated in 1981. The season was three weeks long with 900 permits available and hunting was limited to portions of Sussex and Warren counties. In 1985, the season length was increased to five weeks. In 1997, the entire state was opened to spring gobbler hunting. Since the beginning, several record gobbler harvests have been taken in each season indicating continued growth in turkey numbers.

Division Wildlife Management Areas (WMAís) offer excellent hunting opportunities throughout the state. Public land hunters may want to try Hamburg Mountain, Wanaque and Sparta Mountain WMAs in the north; Assunpink in the center of the state; and Peaslee and Bevans down south. Other good areas include: the Newark Watershed, Stokes State Forest and Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. For a statewide list of public land open for turkey hunting, check the 2004 NJ Wild Turkey Hunting Season Information and Permit Application booklet available at license agents and Division offices or visit the Divisionís website at

All harvested gobblers must be tagged immediately with a completed transportation tag. Turkey must be taken by the person who killed it, on the day killed to the nearest turkey check station before 3 p.m. during the spring gobbler season. Staff at the check station will issue a legal possession tag. Consult the 2004 NJ Wild Turkey Hunting Season Information and Permit Application booklet for a listing of official turkey check stations to locate one nearest your hunting area.

Often hunters are curious about how the weather can affect turkey hunting success. Indeed, windy and rainy weather diminishes hunter success rates for the simple fact that many individuals donít like to hunt under these conditions. In addition, this type of weather affects turkey behavior and causes the birds to become more wary and less vocal.

A research project designed to provide information on wild turkey gobbler survival in the northwestern part of the state was initiated during the winter of 2000 and will continue through 2004. The purpose of the study is to determine through radio-tracking, factors that are affecting the survival of gobblers in the study area.
That first winter, 51 gobblers were radio-tagged and tracked throughout the year. This winter, the Division will tag several more birds to maintain a sample size of approximately 50 birds.

So far, preliminary results of the study indicate that predation and hunting are both significant mortality sources for gobblers. In the spring of 2003, 36-percent of the birds were taken by hunters.

Posted by: Staff at
February 07, 2004


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