Wild turkeys, once pushed to the brink of extinction, represent one of North America’s landmark wildlife management success stories. Today’s healthy wild turkey populations provide many benefits for hunters, outdoor recreationists, and the general public, but may also foster concerns about crop damage, vehicle collisions, or neighborhood nuisance. With varied public values and opinions about wild turkeys (even among hunters), turkey management continues to provide challenges for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) to meet its mission of managing “wildlife…to maintain optimum populations…to serve the needs of the Commonwealth”. Optimum turkey populations will balance positive demands (e.g., hunting, viewing) with negative demands (e.g., agricultural damage, other conflicts).
Embodying the interests of all citizens, the Virginia Wild Turkey Management Plan was developed using a stakeholder involvement process to reflect the values of a diverse public about what should be accomplished with turkey management in Virginia. Public stakeholders interested in turkeys made value choices about turkey management, while wildlife professionals focused on technical and biological aspects. While considering technical background information from VDGIF staff and other public input (e.g., focus group meetings, public meetings, public comments) from throughout Virginia, a citizen Stakeholder Advisory Committee (SAC) met four times to develop the values and goals found in the Virginia Wild Turkey Management Plan. The SAC, initially comprised of 13 individuals from key stakeholder groups, represented various turkey-related interests from all across the state, including public landowners, sporting interests (e.g., fall hunters, spring hunters), private landowners, non-consumptive interests, and agricultural producers.
A Turkey Technical Committee, involving VDGIF staff with technical expertise in turkey management, provided scientific and technical information. In addition to providing technical feedback to the SAC, the Turkey Technical Committee also focused on identifying the objectives and potential strategies to achieve the goals drafted by the SAC.
The Virginia Wild Turkey Management Plan contains two sections: the technical portion (pages 1–48), and the Values, Goals, Objectives, and Strategies portion (pages 49–64). The technical portion describes wild turkey management history, life history and biology, and status (supply and demand) in Virginia. The Virginia Wild Turkey Management Plan includes seven value and goal areas that address populations, recreation, and human-turkey problems. Specific objectives were developed to help guide the attainment of each goal. Potential strategies suggest ways that each objective might be achieved. The specific goals address:
- Turkey Populations (6 objectives, 18 potential strategies, pages 49–54): Manage turkey populations using innovative, flexible, publicly accepted, cost-effective, and technically sound practices that balance the varied needs and expectations of stakeholders statewide and locally (cultural carrying capacity).
- Turkey-Related Recreation (4 objectives, 17 potential strategies, pages 54–56): Manage wild turkey-related recreation (including hunting and non-hunting recreation) to optimize the multiple factors that determine participants’ satisfaction. Turkey-related recreational opportunities should not support activities that prevent attainment of turkey population objectives to meet cultural carrying capacity.
- Hunting Tradition (2 objectives, 6 potential strategies, pages 56–58): Encourage participation in lawful methods of turkey hunting in both spring and fall in Virginia. Promotion of hunting traditions should not support activities that prevent attainment of turkey population objectives to meet cultural carrying capacity.
- Allocation of Fall Harvest (2 objectives, 9 potential strategies, pages 58–60): Provide opportunities for all hunters to harvest turkeys, but with primary emphasis on hunters who specifically pursue wild turkeys, including quality fall hunting opportunity prior to significant disruptions from deer hunting activity (primarily muzzleloading and firearms seasons). Fall harvest allocations and hunting opportunity should not prevent attainment of turkey population objectives to meet cultural carrying capacity.
- Safety (3 objectives, 15 potential strategies, pages 60–61): Promote safety for hunters and non-hunters without diminishing the quality of the hunting experience during both spring and fall.
- Ethics & Compliance with Law (2 objectives, 9 potential strategies, pages 62–63): Demand a culture of high ethical standards among hunters and develop respect for the interests of non-hunters, other hunters, and landowners, while working to reduce poaching and unethical practices.
- Human-Wild Turkey Problems (2 objectives, 8 potential strategies, pages 63–64): Reduce the negative consequences upon affected stakeholders from conflicts caused by wild turkeys through shared public/private responsibility and in a manner consistent with population and recreation objectives.
The Virginia Wild Turkey Management Plan provides a blueprint for future management directions through 2022 of what needs to be done for turkey management, how it should be done, and when it should be done. By clarifying management goals and objectives, the Virginia Wild Turkey Management Plan will help VDGIF Board members, VDGIF administrators, VDGIF staff, and the public to effectively address wild turkey management issues into the future.