GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Don’t worry, this Thanksgiving Floridians will still be gobbling turkey as November approaches, while other states face turkey shortages.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission does not plan to change its fall 2023 and spring 2024 turkey hunting schedule as of Sept. 18, according to FWC spokesperson Lauren Claerbout.
Florida isn’t experiencing the same turkey decline as other southeastern and midwestern states, meaning its turkey hunting season can essentially remain the same, said Marcus Lashley, an assistant professor at the University of Florida department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation.
“Unless things change from the productivity metrics that we have observed recently in Florida, I don’t foresee changes being made,” he said.
Regardless, UF is still tracking and evaluating turkey populations along with the FWC, Lashley said.
Florida, Tennessee and Alabama — three of the southeastern states still open for fall turkey hunting — might see more turkeys caught this time of year because of the Thanksgiving tradition, Lashley added.
“You may see an increase to get that Thanksgiving turkey, so to speak,” he said. “But many states don’t have a fall turkey season, especially the ones that are experiencing declines.”
Florida hasn’t experienced a significant decline in turkey populations over the past three years. The number of poults — or, turkey babies — per hen decreased only 2.9% from 2020 to 2022, according to summer surveys from the National Wild Turkey Federation.
Florida reported about 2.31 poults per hen spotted among 16,456 wild turkeys in 2022. An average of three poults per hen is considered ideal, since it indicates a growing turkey population; two poults per hen is just enough to sustain the population.
Among the states without a fall turkey season are Kansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Delaware, Georgia and Arkansas, according to the National Wild Turkey Federation.
Kansas canceled its fall season most recently, citing consistently decreasing turkey numbers over the past 15 years. Habitat destruction and extreme weather events might be to blame, though the exact impact of each is still unclear.
Turkey hunting in north central Florida, including Alachua County, will run from Nov. 4 to Dec. 31, with a limit of two turkeys for the season.