Despite a major cold front and Easter services for many families April 11-12, the annual Arkansas youth turkey hunt showed a 27 percent increase from last year.


Hunters under the age of 16 checked 882 birds during the two-day hunt to open the 2020 spring turkey season, according to the Arkansas Wildlife Weekly Newsletter.


The increase came despite more than a few circumstances working against the hunters. The timing of the hunt this year happened to fall on Easter weekend, which may have prevented some hunters from participating, particularly on Sunday morning.


Additionally, current concerns over the spread of coronavirus may have kept some hunters at home, as many campgrounds and even one wildlife management area cooperatively managed by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and the National Park Service had to be closed.


Top all this off with a major storm front that blew through the state Sunday, and conditions were stacked in favor of the turkeys. But many youths and their mentors found a way to bring home their bird during the hunt.


“Opening day had pretty decent conditions, and we saw almost a 50 percent increase in harvest compared to opening day last year,” said Jeremy Wood, AGFC Turkey Program Coordinator. “Sunday did see a drop, but there were still plenty of people able to connect with a bird. There were a few portions of the state that saw a few hours of good conditions on Sunday afternoon that some youth hunters capitalized on.”


Regular turkey season began April 13 and runs through April 28 in turkey zones 1, 2, 3, 4B, 5, 5B, 6, 7, 7A, 8, 9, 10 and 17 with a two-bird bag limit. Zones 1A, 4, 4A, 5A and 9A close April 21 and have a one-bird bag limit. Only youth hunters may harvest immature gobblers (jakes), and they may only take one per season.


Wood says the front that may have affected Sunday’s harvest also brought some cold, windy conditions that have made for a tough start to the regular season.


“It’s been hard to hear the birds gobbling on the limb in the wind during morning hunts,” Wood said. “But, it looks like we’re going to get some good weather to close out the week for hunters continuing to chase birds on into the weekend.”


Wood said there are still many ways hunters can contribute to turkey conservation in Arkansas. One way is to purchase a voluntary $9.50 turkey stamp, now in its inaugural year. The stamp, available through any license dealer or agfc.com is not required to hunt, but the proceeds go to turkey conservation in Arkansas.


“Hunters also can continue to help us track turkey populations by participating in the 2020 Spring Gobbler Hunting Survey right now, and the annual summer Quail and Turkey Brood Survey this summer,” Wood said. “Counting checked birds gives us one piece of the puzzle, but these surveys help us get a clearer picture of how the turkey flock is doing and responding to different management practices.”


Visit https://www.agfc.com/en/hunting/turkey for more information on turkey seasons, harvest summaries and ways you can help in turkey conservation.