The 2012 Georgia turkey season promises to be a good one. According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division’s estimates, hunters should have ample opportunity to match wits with a fine gobbler like this one.
Hunters are eagerly awaiting the March 24 opening day of the Georgia turkey hunting season and the Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division anticipates a good season for 2012.
“Georgia appears set for a great turkey season this spring,” WRD wild turkey project coordinator Kevin Lowrey said. “While reproduction in the coastal plain was poor due to drought conditions, the good news is that there are many vocal two-year-old gobblers from the 2010 production year that will be available for harvest.”
Georgia’s current turkey population is estimated at 335,000 birds and state turkey hunters are blessed with one of the longest turkey seasons nationwide. With a bag limit of three gobblers per season, hunters have from March 24 through May 15 to harvest their birds.
With many hunters pursuing wild turkeys on private land, WRD reminds them to always obtain landowner permission before hunting. For those looking to hunt on public land, many of the state’s wildlife management areas offer excellent opportunities. Some of the WMAs with consistently high turkey-hunting success rates are:
Northwest: Berry College and Paulding Forest WMAs
Northeast: Lake Russell and Dawson Forest WMAs
West Central: Blanton Creek and Rum Creek WMAs
East Central: Di-Lane and Tuckahoe WMAs
Southeast: Penholoway and Sansavilla WMAs
Middle: Big Hammock and Horse Creek WMAs
Southwest: River Creek and Chickasawhatchee WMAs
A WMA license is required for any person 16 years of age and older who does not possess a valid honorary, sportsman, or lifetime license when hunting turkeys on a WMA or public fishing area. In addition, a valid Georgia hunting license and a big game license are required. Legal weapons for turkey hunting are shotguns loaded with number-two or smaller shot, any muzzleloading firearm, longbow, crossbow, or compound bow.
Successful turkey hunting requires a combination of skill, patience and, most importantly, preparation. As the season rapidly approaches, WRD encourages preparation first, hoping that hunters will brush up on important turkey hunting safety tips before entering the woods.
“Hunters should be 100 percent certain of their target and what is in front of and beyond it before pulling the trigger and should never shoot at sound or movement,” advised WRD hunter development program manager Walter Lane. “Turkey hunters have to utilize their firearms safety knowledge and remember ways to keep themselves and others safe while in the woods.”
Hunters should review the following additional turkey-season safety precautions before opening day.
1 - Never wear red, white, blue, or black clothing while turkey hunting. Red is the color most hunters look for when distinguishing a gobbler’s head from a hen’s blue-colored head. At times, however, the head may appear white or blue. Feathers covering most of a male turkey’s body appear black at a moderate distance. Camouflage should be used to cover everything, including the hunter’s face, hands and firearm.
2 - Select a calling position that provides at least a shoulder-width background, such as the base of a tree. Be sure at least a 180-degree range is visible.
3 - Do not stalk a gobbling turkey. This practice is extremely unsafe and, due to the turkey’s keen eyesight and hearing, the chances of getting close are slim at best.
4 - When using a turkey call, the sound and motion may attract the interest of other hunters. Do not move, wave, or make any turkey-like sound should another hunter venture into your area. Instead, identify yourself in a loud voice.
5 - Be careful when carrying a harvested turkey from the woods. Do not allow the wings to hang loosely or the head to be displayed in such a way as to make another hunter think it is a live bird. If possible, conceal the turkey in a blaze-orange garment or other material.
6 - Though it is not required, it is recommended that hunters wear blaze orange when moving between their vehicles and their hunting sites. When moving between hunting sites, hunters should wear blaze orange on their upper bodies to facilitate their identification by other hunters.
In addition to safety concerns, be concerned with hunting ethics and conservation as well. Wild turkey restoration is one of Georgia’s great conservation success stories. Although the population currently hovers around 335,000 statewide, as recently as 1973 wild turkey numbers were as low as 17,000. Intensive restoration efforts, such as the restocking of wild birds and establishment of biologically sound hunting seasons, facilitated the recovery of wild turkeys in every county in the state. This successful effort resulted from cooperative partnerships between private landowners, hunters, and conservation organizations like the National Wild Turkey Federation and the Wildlife Resources Division.
Do your part. Hunt ethically and with an eye toward conservation. Help ensure this Georgia wildlife conservation triumph continues for generations to come.