RALEIGH, N.C. – North Carolina’s 5-week wild turkey season had its highest ever recorded harvest of 23,341 birds, according to recent results from the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission’s annual turkey harvest summary. The 2020 season far surpassed the previous record of 18,919 harvested birds set three years ago in 2017.
Agency biologists said most of the increase in harvest is likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic statewide “stay at home” orders, under which people had more time to hunt, including youth hunters. Harvest during the week-long youth season increased by 110 percent over previous years.
To put this harvest in perspective, biologists typically compare it to the average harvest of the previous three years. Additional statistics for this season are:
Harvest in the mountains increased by 14 percent
Harvest in the piedmont increased by 26 percent
Harvest in the coast increased by 37 percent
Harvest on public game lands decreased by 0.4 percent
Number of adult gobblers harvested increased by 18 percent
Number of jakes harvested increased by 87 percent
Jakes comprised 20% of the harvest this year, as compared to 12-15 percent in previous three years.
The top five counties for the number of turkeys harvested were Duplin, 686 birds; Bladen, 571 birds; Columbus, 539 birds; Pender, 532 birds; and, Franklin, 516 birds. When considering the size of counties, the top counties for turkeys harvested per square mile were: Franklin, Rockingham, Duplin, Stokes and Caswell.
“Our estimates of hunting pressure come from a mail-in survey, so we will not have exact figures for the 2020 season for quite some time,” said Chris Kreh, the agency’s wild turkey biologist. “However, many hunters were telling us that pressure was up considerably this year, especially on game lands.”
In each of the previous three hunting seasons, approximately 70,000 to 76,000 hunters