More turkey hunting? DEC data breaks down 2020 increases as pandemic, meat shortages make headlines

– By Gabriel Pietrorazio

Annual hunting licenses and preliminary turkey hunting permit sales for the regular spring season are on the rise, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conversation.

The sale of annual hunting licenses and turkey permits in the prior months ahead of opening the regular spring hunting season has increased, and even an uptick amid the pandemic. 

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen an increase in hunting license sales, especially in junior hunting licenses, as well as turkey permits throughout the state,” read in a statement issued by the Department of Environmental Conversation.

Lori Severino, a NYSDEC public information officer spills the details on the surprisingly active spring hunting season, which started on May 1st.

“There was a 60% increase in turkey permit sales from late March through early May compared to the same five-week period in 2019,” Severino told FingerLakes1.com.

Purchasing a hunting license and turkey hunting permit is as simple as finding a license issuing agent at any online.

In addition to acquiring the permit, hunters must participate in a safety course in order to receive their certification through the DEC’s Hunter Education Program, and because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this course is being offered online rather than in person.

Still, despite the global pandemic, sales statewide are in fact increasing.

“Compared to last year at this time, both hunting license and turkey permit sales are up significantly. This is likely due to people having more free time and fewer restrictions due to work, travel, and other activities,” Severino stated.

But in this instance, the phrase hunting for sport can also mean hunting for subsistence and sometimes even survival, especially when some residents are attempting to avoid overcrowded grocers altogether amid the rising prevalence of statewide and even national meat shortages across supermarkets. 

Regardless of the reason, this spurt in sales shall be reflected in their finances as well. Although most hunters purchase their permits during the previous fall season ahead of the spring according to NYSDEC, this spike in the last few weeks starting in late March is noticeable by the department, especially in comparison to last year. 

The sale of hunting licenses contributes “a significant share of funding for wildlife management,” as told by Severino. 

“Based on preliminary sales figures DEC will see an increase in turkey hunting participation (and license-related revenue) this spring compared to last year. While we have observed an increase in license sales over the past few weeks, it is unclear whether this will continue or whether it will have a significant impact on overall annual license revenues,” he continued. 

An annual hunting license costs $22 for state residents ages 16 to 69, covering the training course and turkey permits costs $10 each with a limit of two bearded turkeys throughout the spring season from the start of May until Memorial Day.

In 2019, NYDEC collected upwards of an estimated $170,780 in turkey permit sales alone during the spring season.

Although a renewed fervor for hunting the large fowl is apparent, this season accounts for only a sliver percentage of the total number of permits sold annually – a mere 5 percent.

“While it is a big increase in spring sales, the number of permits typically sold during this period is approximately 5% of the total number of turkey permits sold annually,” Severino added.

However, since the spring season is already underway, the NYSDEC is still uncertain about whether this harvest shall see significant financial changes.

While the distant fall season where the rest of big game hunting is reserved for whitetail deer and black bear feels seemingly far off, NYSDEC does not plan on calling-off any upcoming hunting seasons at this time. 

“There are currently no plans to cancel hunting seasons. Hunting is a largely solitary activity that a person can engage in with minimal risk of being infected with COVID-19,” Severino concluded.

Crunching Tallies: Counting Turkeys

Last year, Steuben County led the pack with the greatest number of permits sold across the state, an estimated 676 turkeys against 55 other counties.

In 2019, an estimated 2,377 wild turkeys were hunted during the spring season, accounting for almost 14 percent of the total season’s harvest of 17,078 across the state – producing $23,770 in permit sales.

On average, a mature male turkey yields 8 to 10 pounds of meat, meaning that these 2,377 turkeys provided an estimated 19,016 to 23,770 pounds in that year alone assuming that all were of equal or similar size.

Essentially, at $10 per each turkey permit, it costs almost less than a dollar a pound depending on the size.

Below is data from eight regional counties: Cayuga, Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Tompkins, Wayne, and Yates, which comes from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and tracks the historical spring season harvest trends.

Here’s How It Shapes in Our Region:

This ranking represents the total number of turkeys hunted from 2010-2019.

  1. Steuben County – 7,471
  2. Cayuga County – 4,622
  3. Ontario County – 4,389
  4. Yates County – 3,398
  5. Wayne County – 3,661
  6. Tompkins County – 3,057
  7. Schuyler County – 2,146
  8. Seneca County – 1,657 

New York State Spring Turkey Harvest Estimates 2010-2019

Cayuga County

  • 625 – 2010
  • 435 – 2011
  • 462 – 2012
  • 581 – 2013
  • 543 – 2014
  • 497 – 2015
  • 473 – 2016
  • 347 – 2017
  • 344 – 2018
  • 315 – 2019

4,622 – 2010–2019

Ontario County

  • 510 – 2010
  • 426 – 2011
  • 448 – 2012
  • 456 – 2013
  • 608 – 2014
  • 400 – 2015
  • 421 – 2016
  • 457 – 2017
  • 348 – 2018
  • 315 – 2019

4,389 – 2010–2019

Schuyler County

  • 346 – 2010
  • 260 – 2011
  • 222 – 2012
  • 185 – 2013
  • 249 – 2014
  • 154 – 2015
  • 163 – 2016
  • 210 – 2017
  • 209 – 2018
  • 148 – 2019

2,146 – 2010–2019

Seneca County

  • 242 – 2010
  • 199 – 2011
  • 178 – 2012
  • 169 – 2013
  • 186 – 2014
  • 115 – 2015
  • 112 – 2016
  • 199 – 2017
  • 116 – 2018
  • 141 – 2019

1,657 – 2010–2019

Steuben County

  • 985 – 2010
  • 767 – 2011
  • 781 – 2012
  • 729 – 2013
  • 894 – 2014
  • 673 – 2015
  • 616 – 2016
  • 661 – 2017
  • 689 – 2018
  • 676 – 2019

7,471 – 2010–2019

Tompkins County

  • 540 – 2010
  • 387 – 2011
  • 362 – 2012
  • 382 – 2013
  • 366 – 2014
  • 317 – 2015
  • 323 – 2016
  • 245 – 2017
  • 300 – 2018
  • 285 – 2019

3,507 – 2010–2019

Wayne County

  • 485 – 2010
  • 313 – 2011
  • 383 – 2012
  • 447 – 2013
  • 399 – 2014
  • 306 – 2015
  • 337 – 2016
  • 448 – 2017
  • 252 – 2018
  • 291 – 2019

3,661 – 2010–2019

Yates County

  • 442 – 2010
  • 398 – 2011
  • 343 – 2012
  • 408 – 2013
  • 481 – 2014
  • 296 – 2015
  • 324 – 2016
  • 279 – 2017
  • 221 – 2018
  • 206 – 2019

3,398 – 2010–2019


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