The 2012 bear season also saw a new record bait harvest set, surpassing the previous high of 372 bears taken in both 2009 and 2010. The increase in bait harvest, as well as the overall bear harvest, during 2012 represents both continued increased participation in baiting, as well as lower food abundance.
The primary cause of the high bear harvest in 2012 was the decrease in the abundance and distribution of fall bear foods. Similarly to previous high-harvest years, bears become more consistent and predictable in their movements, thus more vulnerable, when food is scarce or localized. Typical fall foods were generally absent this year — fruit crops were poor and beechnuts were absent. While acorns were locally abundant in select areas, the overall nut crop was poor.
Bears were heavily attracted to cornfields and select oak groves with nuts. As a result, hunters encountered bears at a much higher rate compared to years when foods were widespread and abundant. Additionally, the success rate of bait hunters tends to be higher compared to the other methods of bear harvest. While this does vary some from one year to the next, bait hunting success is usually high during poor food years.
For a comparison of bear season results in recent years, visit huntnh.com/Hunting/bear_hunt_take.htm.
Fall turkey hunters also did well. Preliminary reports indicate that overall results for the five-day fall shotgun season and 3-month archery seasons, New Hampshire hunters registered a total of 1,024 turkeys, a 60 percent increase over last year’s combined fall turkey seasons.
The higher numbers are primarily due to the semi-drought conditions (good for hatching) early in the year that led to good turkey productivity in 2012, as well as the scarcity of mast (acorns, apples, beechnuts, etc.) in the woods this fall, making turkeys more vulnerable to hunters, according to Fish and Game Turkey Biologist Ted Walski. The preliminary 2012 breakdown was 707 wild turkeys harvested during the fall shotgun season and 311 turkeys harvested during the fall archery season.