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May 21, 1999

For more information contact:
Bob Eriksen at 908-735-8793

According to the New Jersey Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife, spring gobbler hunters harvested a record number of birds throughout the state during the first week of the 1999 Spring Gobbler Season. An estimated 780 gobblers were taken during week one of the five-week season which began on Monday, April 26.

"Spring turkey hunting has become a popular tradition among hunters in the Garden State," said Division Director Bob McDowell. "Turkey populations are at their highest levels since colonial times and New Jersey turkey hunters are benefiting from their abundance."

"Mild winter weather enhanced the condition of the birds, setting the stage for some excellent weights," added Division Wild Turkey Project Leader Bob Eriksen. "The weather could not have been better for the first week. Cool nights and clear, calm mornings are exactly what turkey hunters want to have when it's their week to hunt."

Wildlife biologists contacted a majority of the 66 official turkey check stations within the state to estimate the number of birds harvested. Turkey hunters are required to take gobblers to official check stations by 3 p.m. on the day of harvest.

The spring gobbler hunting season was established in 1981 with a harvest of 71 birds. An aggressive trap and transfer program begun in 1977 helped wild turkeys become widely distributed in 20 of New Jersey's 21 counties by 1995. The statewide wild turkey population is estimated to be more than 16,000 birds.

"The re-establishment of the wild turkey as a viable game species is a tremendous success story," said Eriksen. "They have proven to be more adaptable than was previously thought possible. Our best turkey range is found in Sussex, Warren, Hunterdon, Salem and Morris counties, but the birds are also thriving throughout the rest of the state. We estimate that more than 2,300 gobblers will be taken by hunters in New Jersey this spring."

Following is a comparison of opening week harvest totals by turkey hunting area for 1998 and 1999.

Turkey Hunting Area 1999 Harvest 1998 Harvest
01 52 42
02 44 41
03 17 14
04 55 43
05 56 51
06 54 60
07 55 45
08 84 82
09 44 49
10 24 21
11 66 74
12 17 21
14 7 8
15 22 6
16 16 14
20 107 125
21 40 47
22 20 19
Total 780 762