The Upper Cumberland region is expected to have a drop in its future turkey population based on local reproduction numbers.
That is according to TWRA Biologist Ben Layton. While the current population is healthy, Layton said brood surveys show a decrease in chicks.
“You really need to have two or three poults per hen to maintain or expand the turkey flocks,” Layton said. “So right now, we are kind of below that at a state wide average.”
Layton said this problem is not specific to our region, but the entire southeast. Specifically, West and southern middle Tennessee are experiencing major population declines due to loss of environments, Layton said.
“Counties that boarder the Mississippi, and they are declining primarily due to the fact of poor reproduction,” Layton said. “The poor reproduction there is being driven by flooding. Mississippi seems to be hard hit in the last several years. The other in the state is southern middle Tennessee. Flooding isn’t an issue there, but likely based on some research TWRA is doing in that area, it appears what driving that decline is poor reproduction.”
Layton said if the trend continues in the Upper Cumberland, TWRA could explore delaying the hunting season to ensure hens can protect their nests. TWRA has already done so for the other areas more affected, according to Layton.
“We are looking at potentially in the future maybe changing some of our hunting seasons,” Layton said. “It has been shown that if you delay the opening of turkey season after the majority of hens are already on the next, then your reproduction success should increase.”