Arkansas's unusually wet spring weather played a huge role in the state's turkey harvest. Most parts of the state suffered from epic floods that wreaked havoc with the state's hunters.
The 2008 spring turkey harvest reflected the hard times and was down from expectations, according to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission's turkey program coordinator Mike Widner.
"I had predicted that the 2008 spring kill would be similar to the 11,087 birds we checked in 2007, but I had no idea that weather would be so bad this spring. My memory isn't the best in the world, but I have to go all the way back to 1990 to remember a turkey season with as much rain and flooding on a statewide basis as we experienced this spring," Widner said. "Below average temperatures the first week of turkey season, flooding and the closure of zone 17 to hunting undoubtedly reduced turkey harvest by hundreds of birds," he added.
A total 9,724 turkeys were checked statewide this season compared to 11,069 turkeys during the 2007 season. That number was a 12 percent decrease from the 2007 spring season. The jake harvest was 20 percent in the spring 2008 season -- down from 25 percent the previous year. A total of 779 turkeys were harvested on the pre-season youth hunts, down from 889 in 2007.
According to Widner, Arkansas is not the only state experiencing declining turkey harvest. "All of the states bordering Arkansas have experienced a general downward trend in eastern wild turkey populations and harvest the past few years. Below average turkey reproduction seems to be the main reason for the decline in all these states," he said.
There is a silver lining in all of the gloom and doom, Widner said. "On the bright side, the decreased harvest due to weather the past two spring seasons has helped us carry over additional gobblers during a time of continued poor turkey reproduction in most of Arkansas. Spring harvests are not going to improve significantly, however, until we see above average reproduction for several years in a row like we saw in the late 1990s," he explained.