Campus News

Wildlife ecologist discusses hunter attitude changes as turkey populations decline

Michael Chamberlain, professor of wildlife ecology and management in the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, discussed hunter satisfaction with American Hunter.

Turkey populations around the country have seen large declines in recent years. States like Wisconsin have been able to maintain their bag limits (how many turkeys you can shoot in a season) despite the declines, but other states haven’t been able to do the same.

“Bird numbers are still pretty good in Wisconsin and the upper Midwest, and Wisconsin still offers a multiple-bird season bag limit,” Chamberlain said. “But hunters I talk to see issues with bird numbers in most places. They’re calling on agencies and biologists to do something about it. That’s not a model for hunter happiness and turkey-management job satisfaction.”

Georgia recently reduced their bag limit to two birds, down from three birds in previous years.

“I expect more states to move that direction, rather than stay put or increase it,” Chamberlain said. “When you explain the situation to hunters, they’re generally willing to try something. Before Georgia made its change, our surveys the previous four years showed 70 percent of hunters favoring bag-limit reductions.”

Chamberlain said that hunters were experiencing the same things that biologists were documenting, and for this reason, they were more likely to support reduced bag limits in order to preserve the overall turkey population.

“Today’s hunters have more opportunities than ever to share pictures and firsthand observations with each other,” Chamberlain said. “Some people see social media as a negative, but it’s also a positive. Because of it, more people are paying attention to the challenges turkeys face. The hunting community is giving turkey research and management more traction.”