- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 28, 2004

A lot can be learned about the havoc wreaked on wildlife when hurricanes occur — including our area that occasionally is visited by remnant hurricane winds and rains. News passed along by the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) seems to prove as much. Three hurricanes that visited Florida in less than a month had biologists evaluating the effects of the storms on wild turkey populations.

“We don’t think that a lot of habitat was damaged, but in the forests that were hit the hardest, turkey populations are going to take a hard hit,” said Larry Perrin, wild turkey programs coordinator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “When hurricanes knock down a lot of trees, it can be devastating to brooding habitat, and that can hurt turkey populations for several years.”

That’s what wildlife scientists with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources found when they studied the effects of a Class 5 hurricane on wild turkeys after monstrous Hurricane Hugo blew through Francis Marion National Forest in 1989. Hugo destroyed about half of the turkey habitat there.

Researchers David Baumann, William Mahan and Walter Rhodes researched the effects of the storm on how wild turkeys fared from 1989 until 1995 and presented their findings at the recent National Wild Turkey Symposium in Rapid City, S.D.

The South Carolinians showed that the radical habitat changes caused by hurricanes were far more damaging to the future of turkey populations than the turkey deaths that occurred during the storm.

During Hurricane Hugo, about 1 billion board feet of timber was damaged or destroyed in Francis Marion’s 250,000-acre forest. Broken and uprooted trees, combined with additional sunlight that now reached the forest floor, caused rapid germination of new soft- and hardwood trees. The result was a dense tangle of woody undergrowth far too thick for turkeys to travel through.

Now add the loss of acorn and other mast and you can see how it placed tremendous strain on wildlife trying to find food. The state’s wild turkey numbers — and subsequent hunter success rates — plummeted. For example, hunters shot 421 turkeys in 1989, but by the spring of 2004 only 54 were taken.

Fortunately for Florida’s wild turkeys, before Hurricane Jeanne arrived, the pair of storms that battered the South and East coasts were not as strong as Hugo, according to the NWTF.

Meanwhile, the federation is busy with conservation programs that will make it easier for members to replant hardwoods lost because of hurricanes. Each year oak seedlings are distributed to each NWTF chapter in Florida, Louisiana, Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas and Texas through Operation Oak.

For information about how to purchase oak trees through the NWTF’s Hardwood Initiative, call Jeff Fields at Flint River Nursery 229/268-7308.

Hunting with crossbows in Maryland — Maryland hunters are reminded deer hunting with crossbows will be legal during the state’s archery season, Oct.1-15 and Jan.15-31.

All crossbow hunters must possess resident or nonresident hunting licenses and bow stamps. Any whitetailed or sika deer taken with a crossbow will count toward the appropriate regional archery deer bag limit, and all bow-hunting regulations apply to crossbow hunters.

Crossbows must have a minimum draw of 75 pounds and have a working safety. Arrows used for deer hunting must have sharpened broadhead with a 7/8-inch minimum cutting surface. Cocked crossbows may not be transported in a vehicle whether unloaded or loaded with an arrow.


U.S. Sailboat Show — Oct.8-11, 10a.m. to 6p.m., City Dock and Harbor, Annapolis. Admission $16 ($8 for children 12 and under), less if bought in advance. More than 250 sailboats from daysailers and catamarans to ocean-going high performance boats, marine apparel, electronics, booths that sell sails, cookbooks, sunglasses — you name it. Ticket information, 410/267-6711; show information, 410/268-8828.

U.S. Powerboat Show — Oct.15-17, 10a.m. to 6p.m., at City Dock and Harbor, Annapolis. Admission $16 ($8 for children 12 and under), less if bought in advance. Come and see dozens of sportfishermen, offshore and cruising boats, center consoles, yachts, jetboats and runabouts. Buy nautical equipment, accessories, marine electronics. Ticket information, 410/267-6711; show information, 410/268-8828.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday, and his Fishing Report on Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected]

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