The recently completed 2020 wild turkey hunting season saw the largest reported harvest of birds since 2011, with 2,117 turkeys harvested based on required tag validation data, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) announced.
The season, which ran from April 4-May 3, was held during the current COVID-19 pandemic and was impacted by flooding along the Mississippi River, forcing the closure of seasons on some LDWF Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs).
The 2020 season harvest saw a 14.8% improvement over 2019 when 1,844 birds were harvested. It was the best season since 2011 when 2,580 birds were harvested. LDWF Wild Turkey/Small Game Program Manager Cody Cedotal said the 2020 season was like no other in Louisiana and many other states.
“With the entire state under a stay-at-home order during the time frame, reports indicated increased hunting pressure in some areas, but decreased pressure in others,’’ Cedotal said. “Reports and season assessments from hunters range from poor to very good.’’
Cedotal said it’s too early to tell yet if the increased harvest is a by-product of a season adjustment in Louisiana in 2018 or part of increased hunter effort across the state. The Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission (LWFC), on recommendation by LDWF, pushed back the beginning of turkey season in 2018 to allow for increased breeding opportunity, aimed at sustaining and increasing wild turkey populations statewide.
Results from the 2019/2020 Louisiana Big and Small Game Harvest Survey are expected in the next month and will allow for a comparison of the harvest index generated from that survey and an assessment of hunter effort for the 2020 season. This assessment will potentially shed more light on the reasons for an increased reported harvest.
In addition to increased harvests, reports from hunters indicated increased encounters with jakes (sub-adult males). Similar reports were noted in 2019.
“This is an indication of potentially good things to come for 2021,’’ Cedotal said. “However, the intense rain events we are experiencing in some parts of the state thus far in May are of immediate concern. These rain events could have a negative impact on reproduction for this year, causing increased mortality of young wild turkey poults.’’