SE counties dominate NC’s second-biggest turkey harvest

Turkey Harvest
Halifax County hunters tagged 479 turkeys during the spring 2019 season, the second-highest total by county. One was this fine gobbler taken by Leon Pruzen of Wilmington, the first of his hunting career.

Duplin County tops the list

Thirty years ago, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission was embarking on a program to fill the state with wild turkeys through restocking. The belief was that the best habitat was in the northern Piedmont and in the northwestern corner of the state, then in the mountains.

That’s how the restocking program cranked up, with counties in those areas getting birds first that had been trapped elsewhere in North Carolina or brought in from other states.

Counties in the eastern part of the state were, essentially, last in line. That’s because the habitat wasn’t considered as good for turkeys.

My, how times have changed.

4 of top 10 counties are from southeastern corner of state

The Commission released harvest figures for the 2019 spring season. And the preponderance of birds killed came from the southeastern corner of the state: 4 of the top 10 counties, including No. 1 Duplin County with a harvest of 497 bearded birds. Columbus County was No. 4 with 443. Bladen was No. 6 with 432, and Pender was No. 10 with 370. Northeastern counties took 3 of the top 10 spots, with Halifax No. 2 with 479, Bertie No. 5 with 437 and Northampton No. 7 with 427.

“It shows we don’t know as much as we thought we knew,” said Chris Kreh, the biologist who leads the wild-turkey program for the Commission. “Those areas were stocked 10 or 15 years ago, and it took a while for turkeys to spread into all of them. I think we’re just about at the tail end of it.

“There aren’t many things not to like about this harvest.”

The total harvest of 18,730 birds was the second-highest on record. Five of the six biggest harvests on record have been in the past five seasons.

“We’ve had some bounces, but it’s likely that we’re getting to the point of stability in our harvest,” Kreh said. 

Top Counties N.C. Turkey Harvest 2019 

  1. Duplin 497
  2. Halifax 479
  3. Rockingham 453
  4. Columbus 443
  5. Bertie 437
  6. Bladen 432
  7. Northampton 427
  8. Franklin 390
  9. Rutherford 382
  10. Pender 370

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Dan Kibler
About Dan Kibler 810 Articles
Dan Kibler is managing editor of Carolina Sportsman Magazine. If every fish were a redfish and every big-game animal a wild turkey, he wouldn’t ever complain. His writing and photography skills have earned him numerous awards throughout his career.