State wildlife agencies have the statutory authority and responsibility to manage and protect wild turkey resources. Under the Public Trust Doctrine, the title to all wild animals is vested in the states, which manage wildlife resources for the benefit of the people. The North American Model of Wildlife Management is one of the greatest success stories of all time.
Professional wild turkey biologists working for state wildlife agencies conduct needed research and on-the-ground management work to enhance wild turkey populations. Collaborative efforts, such as the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Wild Turkey Working Group result in cost-effective research and shared knowledge about wild turkey biology and management.
Conservation Enforcement Officers working for state wildlife agencies provide professional protection for wild turkeys from poaching by game thieves. Fair, impartial law enforcement ensures equitable allocation of sustainable hunting opportunities through seasons and limits regulations.
State wildlife conservation agencies, through biologically sound resource management and professional law enforcement, were the driving force behind partnership with landowners and hunters in restoration of the wild turkey. This proven track record resulted in turkey numbers once un-thought-of. Expansion of funding for additional work by state agencies is needed to address the new challenges of addressing the present-day decline in turkey populations.
A documented decline in wild turkey populations has occurred over the past two decades. Estimates are that turkey numbers are down 15% nationally. In some states, hunter harvest has fallen by one-half or more. Hunter harvest is not the primary limiting factor on turkey populations. Recruitment and survival of young turkeys is of paramount importance. This year’s poult is next year’s jake. Next year’s jake is the next year’s two-year-old gobbler.
PHOTO CREDIT: Tes Randle Jolly