LITTLE ROCK — The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is opening up participation in the state’s annual Wild Turkey Brood Survey and Annual Northern Bobwhite Survey to the general public for the first time, thanks to a new online surveying tool.
These surveys have been conducted each spring for more than 30 years to monitor reproduction and population trends in Arkansas’s wild turkeys and quail.
Because both turkeys and Northern bobwhites have relatively short lifespans, annual reproduction is extremely important to the total population and the quality of hunting.
Data collected during the last three decades has shown turkey hunting success is closely linked to annual poult production and survival.
Similar studies in bobwhite ecology show a similar correlation between reproduction and future hunting success.
Traditionally, these surveys were carried out by AGFC staff and volunteers from partner organizations such as timber companies, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Postal Service and county extension offices.
However, thanks to the increased ability to communicate with members of the general public about aging poults and the increased enthusiasm of citizen-science projects, the AGFC has opened the surveys to any conservation-minded hunter or outdoorsperson who is willing to help keep tabs on Arkansas’s game birds.
Jeremy Wood, turkey program coordinator for the AGFC, says the change also comes as a result of fewer survey participants being available at partner agencies.
“Over time we have seen a decrease in the number of participants from natural resource fields,” Wood said. “As jobs have been consolidated and staff retired, new staff have not filled their place in the survey. We are reaching out to all of our partner agencies and staff to increase these numbers, but it also is a good time to open it up to the public.”
Wood explains that other states have opened such surveys to public participation, and have seen results very similar to those submitted by natural resource professionals.
“We are looking at trends in the ratios of hens versus gobblers and hens versus the number of poults with them,” Wood said. “Just as with other statistical surveys, the more sightings we get, the more detailed and precise we can be in our results.”
Hunters and other conservationists interested in participating in the survey should visit www.agfc.com/turkeysurveys and choose between entering their results online through the new survey software or downloading a file to print and mail back to the AGFC.
“Some people may still prefer a written version of the survey, so we are offering that as well,” Wood said. “But with the technology available to everyone through smartphones, we want to make it as convenient as possible to participate in helping keep an eye on our turkey and bobwhite populations. Either way, I encourage anyone with a passion for conservation to join and help us with this important research.”