Semester of Graduation

Fall 2019

Degree

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Renewable Natural Resources

Document Type

Thesis

Abstract

Wild turkeys (Meleagris gallapavo, hereafter turkey) are the second most pursued big game species in the United States. Turkey hunting occurs primarily during spring, and on publicly-owned lands managers monitor hunter numbers and harvest to adjust hunter opportunity. Contemporary research has shown a decline in productivity and harvest of turkeys in the Eastern United States. Studies have also found that hunting activity on public lands can influence male turkey behavior, hence research detailing hunter behaviors and hunter-wild turkey interactions is needed to better inform management activities. We found turkey hunters exhibited both stationary and active behaviors while hunting and on average had 2 hunting bouts per day. We found that 70.2% of hunting activity occurred during the first 2 weeks of hunting season (~1 April to April 15). Access to roads appeared to be the primary driver of hunter movements, with 40.1% of all hunter locationshunters, percent of time spent active and total time spent hunting decreasing with increasing days since the season opened.

To measure whether space use by hunters impacted turkey space use concurrently we created resource selection functions. We found that habitat type and distance to roads best predicted space use of both hunters and turkeys throughout the hunting season. Our findings suggest that turkeys displayed anti-predator behaviors by avoiding areas adjacent to roads, which were the areas hunters used most, on days when hunting pressure was highest, but shifted back to areas adjacent to roads once hunting pressure subsided. We suggest wildlife managers explore alternate season frameworks. Some states employ time-period based hunting seasons that allot a certain number of harvest authorizations to hunters for each time-period and management zone to evenly distribute harvest spatially and temporally, this framework also helps decrease competition among hunters. If a continuous season is employed we suggest creating and maintenance of roads and trails as well as a gradient of vehicle access to avoid high concentrations of hunters.

Date

10-4-2019

Committee Chair

Collier, Bret

Available for download on Monday, September 28, 2026

Included in

Agriculture Commons

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