Wanna step outside? North Carolina hunters achieve record harvest in recent spring turkey season

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 18, 2023

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By Dan Kibler

Turkey hunters in North Carolina are obviously onto a good thing.

During the recent spring season, which ended on Saturday, they set another all-time harvest record, tagging 24,089 bearded birds – a total that’s more than 600 birds higher than the previous record harvest, 23,431 in 2020.

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission’s up-to-date harvest figures showed an increase of more than 3,500 birds over the 2022 season, which was the third-highest harvest on record.

Leading the way were the big counties in the southeastern North Carolina farm belt: Duplin, Pender, Bladen and Sampson — counties that were among the last that the commission stocked back in the 1980s and 1990s and the last to have open spring seasons.

Hunters killed 829 birds in Duplin County, slightly more than one bird per square mile. Pender County was second with 689, followed by Bladen at 652 and Sampson at 585. Brunswick County rounded out the top five with 571. It took a harvest of 341 birds (Beaufort County) to even crack the top 20.

Many of North Carolina’s traditional turkey hot spots — much smaller counties that had good populations of birds before the turn of the century — were nowhere near the top. Rockingham County was 10th with 427, Caswell was 15th with 386, and Stokes, Alleghany, Ashe, Granville and Person counties way down the list with 310, 161, 235, 274 and 277 birds, respectively. For years, those counties dominated the annual harvest rankings.

One note: the harvest per square mile in a lot of counties with good turkey habitat was in line with the numbers from the huge, farm-belt counties in eastern North Carolina; they just aren’t big enough, area-wise, to boast an enormous harvest. For example, Franklin County, north of Raleigh, was eighth in overall harvest with 515 birds on 492 square miles, a harvest slightly better than Duplin County in terms of the number of birds killed per square mile.

Other counties of note: Rowan County hunters took 278 birds (up from 266 in 2022); Stanley County hunters tagged 255 birds (up from 199 in 2022), Davie County hunters reporting taking 109 birds (down from 123 in 2022), and 114 Forsyth County turkeys bit the dust, identical to the 2022 harvest.

Hunters reported taking 2,652 jakes (juvenile male turkeys), which works out to about 11% of the total harvest, which is in line with previous seasons.

National Safe Boating Week approaching

National Safe Boating Week will be next week, May 20-26, across the nation.

North Carolina officials report that May, June and July are the months when the highest number of boating accidents and fatalities occur.

North Carolina has online boating safety courses available throughout the year, and four of them are scheduled in surrounding areas during NSBW. 

A course will be taught at the library in Mount Pleasant on Saturday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. 

Bass Pro Shops in Concord will hold a Sunday course from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

A course will be taught at the Badin Lake Fire Department in Troy on May 21 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., and the John Lentz Hunter-Education Center will host a course on May 21 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Registration is online at www.ncwildlife.org.

Anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1988, must complete an approved boating education course before operating any vessel propelled by a motor of 10 horsepower or more. In addition, successfully completing a boating-safety course usually qualifies the boat owner for a discount on their boat insurance.