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Maryland spring turkey hunters set new harvest record

Maryland hunters harvested 5,356 wild turkeys during the 2023 spring regular and junior turkey seasons, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources reported. This year’s harvest was 27% higher than the 2022 harvest and surpassed the previous record harvest of 4,303, set in 2020.

Washington County hunters took 515 turkeys during the spring season, up from 400 last year.

“A combination of high turkey populations, good weather, and additional hunting opportunities set the stage for the large increase in harvest,” said Wildlife and Heritage Service Acting Director Karina Stonesifer. “It is an exciting time to be a Maryland turkey hunter, particularly in regions of the state that historically did not produce many birds.”

A wild turkey. photo by Stephen Badger, Maryland Department of Natural Resources

Spring harvests increased in all counties, but the central and western regions saw the largest jumps. Every county west of the Chesapeake Bay, except Calvert, posted new record harvests.

Maryland’s westernmost three counties produced the highest harvests this year, with Garrett County reporting 579 turkeys, followed by Washington County with 515, and Allegany County with 483.

Much of the increase can be attributed to the Brood X cicada emergence in the summer of 2021, which provided abundant food and increased survival of newly-hatched turkeys in a large part of the state.

The bumper crop of birds resulted in plenty of two-year-old gobblers available for hunters this spring. Ideal weather during the beginning of the season also bolstered success, with 60% of the total take coming from the first week of the regular season.

Youth hunters started the spring turkey season statewide on April 15-16 with the Junior Turkey Hunt. Junior hunters harvested 383 wild turkeys during that weekend, accounting for about seven percent of the total spring harvest.

Sunday turkey hunting opportunities continue to grow and helped to further boost hunter harvest. A total of 503 birds were taken on Sundays, comprising nine percent of the record harvest.