by Tyler Pittman
The wild turkey is one of the most wide-ranging upland gamebirds in North America with five sub-species inhabiting all of the contiguous United States as well as regions of southern Canada and northern Mexico. The common eastern sub-species inhabits northern Florida, and the Osceola sub-species, unique to Florida, inhabits the central and southern parts of the state. Wild turkey were almost extirpated from Florida in the early 20th century due to overharvest but after successful restoration efforts wild turkey are now found and harvested in all of Florida’s 67 counties. Florida has become a destination for hunters from around the world who travel here for an opportunity to harvest an Osceola turkey. Hunters in Florida harvest over 20,000 wild turkey annually, making continued research and monitoring essential to maintaining the population and preventing another extirpation event.
Beginning in 2014, FWC partnered with researchers from Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy, the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, and the University of Florida to document the breeding chronology of wild turkey across the state of Florida in an effort to establish harvest season dates that benefit both wild turkey populations and wild turkey hunters. We are currently documenting nesting chronology using 68 wild turkey hens, captured and fitted with tracking devices, and we have deployed 36 automated audio recording devices to document the chronology of male breeding activity by recording gobbling. Eventually, the chronology information from female and male breeding activity will allow us to establish season dates after the peak of female nesting activity and during the peak of male breeding activity when fewer females are available to breed with. This will minimize the impact of harvest on females and maximize hunter satisfaction.