Maryland hunters had a bountiful spring season as they harvested a record-breaking 5,356 wild turkeys during the regular and junior turkey seasons, according to a report by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. This year’s harvest surpassed the previous record of 4,303 set in 2020 and marked a significant increase of 27% compared to the 2022 harvest.

The rise in turkey numbers can be attributed to several factors, including the combination of high turkey populations, favorable weather conditions, and additional hunting opportunities. Karina Stonesifer, the Acting Director of the Wildlife and Heritage Service, expressed excitement about the remarkable increase in harvest and stated, “It is an exciting time to be a Maryland turkey hunter, particularly in regions of the state that historically did not produce many birds.”

Photo by Stephen Badger, Maryland Department of Natural Resources

While the spring harvest saw an increase in all counties, the central and western regions experienced the most significant jumps. Almost all counties west of the Chesapeake Bay, except Calvert, recorded new record harvests. The three westernmost counties, Garrett, Washington, and Allegany, reported the highest harvests this year, with Garrett County leading the way with 579 turkeys, followed by Washington County with 515, and Allegany County with 483.

The emergence of Brood X cicadas during the summer of 2021 played a significant role in the increased harvest. The abundant food provided by the cicadas contributed to the survival and growth of newly-hatched turkeys throughout the state, resulting in a bumper crop of birds. This abundance ensured that there were plenty of two-year-old gobblers available for hunters to pursue during the spring season.

Additionally, ideal weather conditions at the beginning of the season bolstered the hunters’ success. The report revealed that 60% of the total harvest occurred during the first week of the regular season, further highlighting the positive impact of the favorable weather on hunter productivity.

The success of the youth hunters was also notable during the spring turkey season. The season began statewide on April 15-16 with the Junior Turkey Hunt, during which junior hunters harvested 383 wild turkeys. This impressive number accounted for approximately 7% of the total spring harvest. The expansion of Sunday hunting opportunities also played a role in boosting the harvest, as a total of 503 birds were taken on Sundays, constituting 9% of the record-breaking harvest.

The increase in the wild turkey harvest is a testament to Maryland’s commitment to wildlife conservation and sustainable hunting practices. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources continues to monitor turkey populations and adjust hunting regulations to ensure the long-term health and stability of the turkey population.

As the state celebrates this record-breaking achievement, it serves as a reminder of the importance of responsible hunting practices and the preservation of habitats for future generations of hunters to enjoy. Maryland’s thriving turkey population and successful hunting seasons provide a unique experience for both novice and seasoned hunters, making it an exciting time to be part of Maryland’s hunting community.

Total harvests by county are below:

Anne Arundel74816485136
Prince George’s10510999115164
Queen Anne’s145144120144170
St. Mary’s188226187204253

David M. Higgins II is an award-winning journalist passionate about uncovering the truth and telling compelling stories. Born in Baltimore and raised in Southern Maryland, he has lived in several East...

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