The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and West Virginia Division of Natural Resources conducted a band-recovery study on male eastern wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) during 1989–1996. Our main objectives were to estimate survival and band-reporting rates and to determine whether longer fall hunting seasons resulted in lower male turkey survival. Length of fall turkey hunting season varied from zero to 9 weeks at 3 study areas, while spring hunting season was relatively constant at 4 or 5 weeks. We attached reward leg bands to 473 male wild turkeys. Effects of different fall seasons were evaluated using survival and band-reporting rates. We used program MARK to construct a series of models including hunting-season structure, age (juvenile or adult), year, and period (fall or winter–summer) effects to estimate survival and band-reporting rates and to evaluate the effects of length of fall hunting on survival and band-reporting rates. Annual survival rates in our 3 study areas (range = 0.24–0.27) were lower than most studies. Survival estimates were significantly (P < 0.05) lower in the winter–summer (range = 0.16–0.18) than in the fall (range = 0.58–0.62). We found little difference in band-recovery estimates between age classes in the fall, but adults had significantly higher band-recovery estimates in the winter–summer. Male wild turkey mean annual survival did not decrease as fall hunting season length increased. In contrast, band-recovery rates increased as the length of the fall season increased. If band-recovery estimates indexed hunting mortality, then hunting mortality increased as length of fall hunting season increased. Moreover, if band-recovery rates represented hunting mortality, then the constancy of survival estimates among areas with different lengths of fall hunting season, coupled with the pattern of band-recovery rates, suggest that fall hunting mortality is not additive for male wild turkeys in Virginia and West Virginia, USA.
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Vol. 68 • No. 2