Record-setting turkey hunting season in Delaware

(AP Photo/Toby Talbot

(AP Photo/Toby Talbot

The biggest turkey harvest in state history is being called a “remarkable conservation success.”

Delaware hunters harvested 706 wild turkeys during the 2016 season, which lasts just a month from early April to early May. That number tops the previous record of 687 set in 2014.

The growing number of turkeys taken by hunters is evidence of the growing turkey population in Delaware. “The recovery of the wild turkey in Delaware is a remarkable conservation success, made possible by the stewardship of hunters and the Delaware chapters of the National Wild Turkey Federation,” said David Saveikis, director of the state Division of Fish and Wildlife.

State wildlife officials estimate Delaware’s wild turkey population at about 6,000 birds. That robust population comes more than three decades after the Division of Fish and Wildlife first embarked on an effort to increase the number of turkeys in the state. In 1984, a group of 34 turkeys that had been trapped from the wild in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Vermont were released in Kent and Sussex Counties. In the following years, the number of birds continued to rise with additional reintroductions of more birds from outside of Delaware.

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Once the turkey population had reached a sufficient level, the first turkey season was opened in 1991. “The turkey harvest really started climbing in 2005, and we have experienced a five-fold increase in harvest over the last decade,” said Joe Rogerson, biologist with the Division of Fish and Wildlife.

For the 2016 season, 90 percent of birds harvested were taken on private lands. The biggest number of birds were taken in an area of western Kent County and between Seaford and Georgetown in Sussex County.

Next year’s turkey hunting season runs from April 8 through May 6.

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