Highlights from the 2017 Wild Turkey Hunting Season

Statewide 2018 Season Begins April 14; Youth-Only Season Runs April 7-13

Author: NCWRC blogger/Friday, March 23, 2018/Categories: Hunting, Regulations, Wildlife Management

Highlights from the 2017 Wild Turkey Hunting Season

With the statewide 2018 wild turkey hunting season set to open on April 14, Chris Kreh, the Wildlife Commission’s Upland Game Bird Biologist, provides a few highlights from the 2017 season below.

  • Hunters harvested a record-setting 18,919 birds — a 5 percent increase from 2016. The previous record high was 18,409 birds reported in 2013.


  • Youth-season harvest was 1,183 turkeys.  This was the 5th year since youth-season was extended to a full week.  Harvest during these last 5 years has been fairly consistent with approximately 1,200 turkeys reported each year.  From 2006 through 2012, youth-only hunting was limited to a single day each year.  During that time period, youth-day harvest increased from 312 turkeys in 2006 to 832 turkeys in 2012.


  • Counties with highest levels of reported turkey harvest
    • The top 5 counties for Total Harvest were Rockingham (495 turkeys), Halifax (455 turkeys), Northampton (452 turkeys), Pender (450 turkeys), and Duplin (425 turkeys).
    • The top 5 counties for Harvest Per Square Mile were Stokes, Caswell, Rockingham, Northampton, and Franklin.  Reported harvest in these counties was greater than 0.8 turkeys per square mile.


  • Though turkey harvest in 2017 was a record for the entire state, not all counties saw increases.  In fact, turkey harvest has declined considerably in some traditionally strong areas in the last few years.  A few examples of this are:
    • Alleghany’s harvest of 150 turkeys was 51% less than its peak of 309 turkeys in 2001
    • Watauga’s harvest of 142 turkeys was 36% less than its peak of 223 turkeys in 2001
    • Person’s harvest of 207 turkeys was 30% less than its peak of 296 turkeys in 2003
    • Ashe’s harvest of 238 turkeys was 28% less than its peak of 333 turkeys in 1994


  • Jakes (i.e. 1-year old males) comprised only 12% of the reported harvest.  The percentage of jakes in the harvest is typically higher and over the past decade has ranged from 15% to 20%.  The low percentage of jakes in this year’s harvest may be reflective of poor reproduction during the summer of 2016.  


2018 Wild Turkey Hunting Season

The statewide 2018 turkey hunting season runs from April 14 through May 12. It is preceded by the Spring Youth Only Wild Turkey Season, which runs from April 7-13. The daily limit is one turkey and the possession and season limit is two turkeys per hunter, only one of which may be taken during youth season.

Hunting is only allowed for those younger than 18 years of age during the youth season, but hunters age 16 and 17 must be properly licensed. Each youth must report a harvest to the Wildlife Commission through a Big Game Harvest Report Card. License-exempt youths should report their harvest using a Big Game Harvest Report Card for License-Exempt Hunters. Those under the age of 16 are exempt from license requirements provided they are accompanied by a licensed adult at least 18 years of age. If youth are properly licensed or have successfully obtained a hunter education certificate, they may hunt without the supervision of an adult.



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