North Carolina hunters broke the state's wild-turkey harvest record during the 2013 spring gobbler season for the sixth-straight year, according to statistics released by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.

In a 19-percent increase from 2012, hunters tagged 18,409 turkeys during the 4-week season, compared to 15,451 in 2012; it was only 2006 when the harvest broke the 10,000 mark.


"The harvest was up 2,958 birds from the 2012 season," said Evin Stanford, the Commission's turkey biologist. "Harvest during the youth week (1,193 turkeys) was up 361 birds (43 percent) from youth day during the 2012 season (832)."


Stanford said that the 6-day youth season - up from one day in previous years - led to a 43-percent increase in the youth harvest, "but it wasn't a large proportion (of the total harvest). The overall harvest had gone up only five to six percent the last two or three years."


Stanford listed several possible reasons for 2013's significant harvest jump.


"The increase was somewhat unexpected, but I kind of anticipated it might be another record season because it had been trending upward, and we had good poult-survival two years earlier," he said. "Those 2011 poults were 2-year-old birds in 2013 and made up the bulk of the harvest because they're the most vocal and easiest to kill."


Decent weather during the spring season also was a factor.


"At the beginning of the season, the weather wasn't all that great, but it wasn't horrible," he said. "There weren't a lot of heavy rain days. (Weather) was somewhat mixed. But (in 2012) a lot of hunters complained because everything seemed ahead of schedule when it was intensely hot at the beginning of the season, then rainy. This year there could have been more (hunter) effort because hunters didn't feel they had a good (2012) season."


Two counties from northeastern North Carolina led the harvest: Northampton with 571 birds and Halifax with 539. Bladen County was third with 490, followed by Rockingham (457), Rutherford (406), Caswell (390), Pender (374), Wilkes (364), Bertie (350) and Stokes (341).

 "The northeastern counties, Northampton, Halifax and Bertie, showed the same results as deer, because those counties have some of the best habitat in the state," Stanford said. "They  are in the Roanoke River drainage and have a lot of hardwoods and forested agriculture landscape. And a lot of hunting effort is expended."