By: Staff Reports | Gwinnett Citizen

Statewide turkey hunting season opens March 26

Social Circle - Hunters are eager for opening day of the statewide turkey hunting season in Georgia. 

The highly anticipated day is Saturday, Mar. 26 and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division expects that the 2016 season should be a fair one.  

“Perspective is important because Georgia is still in the top six states in terms of eastern wild turkey harvest and population, even while we have had some declines in reproduction and the overall turkey population,” says Kevin Lowrey, Wildlife Resources Division wild turkey project coordinator. “Hunters heading to the woods need to remember that there is a new requirement this year to have a harvest record and that they will need to report their harvest through Georgia Game Check.”

With a generous bag limit of three gobblers per season, hunters have from Mar. 26 through May 15 – one of the most liberal turkey seasons in the nation - to harvest their bird(s).  With many pursuing wild turkeys on private land, hunters are reminded to always obtain landowner permission before hunting.

What should hunters expect this spring? The Lower Coastal Plain and Ridge and Valley will have an above average season this year and next year, due to better reproduction levels than other parts of the state.  While other regions saw some reproduction improvement in 2015, the lower cycle in 2014 may mean fewer 2-year old gobblers, so hunters likely will be pursuing older birds, which may raise the challenge level.

NEW this year: all turkey hunters, including those under 16 years of age, landowners, honorary, lifetime, and sportsman license holders, must obtain a free harvest record each season.  Before moving a harvested turkey, hunters are required to immediately enter the date and county on the harvest record, and within 72 hours, must complete the reporting process through Georgia Game Check.  More information about this requirement at www.georgiawildlife.com/HarvestRecordGeorgiaGameCheck.

A WMA license is required for any person 16 years or older who does not possess a valid honorary, sportsman or lifetime license when hunting wild turkey on a WMA or public fishing area. In addition, a valid hunting license and a big game license are required. Legal firearms and archery equipment for hunting wild turkey are shotguns (loaded with No. 2 or smaller shot), any muzzleloading firearm, longbow, crossbow or compound bow.  

Where can you get a license? Buy it online, find a list of retail license vendors at www.georgiawildlife.com/licenses-permits-passes or buy it by phone at 1-800-366-2661.

Conservation of the Wild Turkey in Georgia

The restoration of the wild turkey is one of Georgia’s great conservation success stories.  Currently, the bird population hovers around 300,000 statewide, but as recently as 1973, the wild turkey population was 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. This successful effort resulted from cooperative partnerships between private landowners, hunters, conservation organizations like the National Wild Turkey Federation, and the Wildlife Resources Division.

The Georgia Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation has donated more than $3,700,000 since 1985 for projects that benefit wild turkey and other wildlife. The NWTF works in partnership with the Wildlife Resources Division and other land management agencies on habitat enhancement, hunter access, wild turkey research and education. The NWTF has a vital initiative called “Save the Habitat, Save the Hunt” focused on habitat management, hunter access and hunter recruitment. 

“Hunters should know that each time they purchase a license or equipment used to turkey hunt, such as shotguns, ammunition and others, that they are part of this greater conservation effort for wildlife in Georgia,” said Lowrey.  “Through the Wildlife Restoration Program, a portion of the money spent comes back to states and is put back into on-the-ground type efforts such as habitat management and species research and management.”

For more hunting information, visit www.georgiawildlife.com/hunting/regulations.  

Safety first while turkey hunting

Heading to the woods to go turkey hunting requires more than just ensuring your firearms are ready.  The Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division encourages all hunters to review important turkey hunting safety tips.

“Firearms safety knowledge is critical to keeping you, and others, safe while in the woods,” advises Walter Lane, hunter development program manager for the Wildlife Resources Division. “In addition to firearms safety tips, hunters should review and practice safety precautions relative to turkey hunting.” 

The 2016 statewide turkey season opens Saturday, Mar. 26, take time to review the following:

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, but at times it may appear white or blue. Male turkey feathers covering most of the body are black in appearance. Camouflage should be used to cover everything, including the hunter’s face, hands and firearm.

Select a calling position that provides at least a shoulder-width background, such as the base of a tree. Be sure that at least a 180-degree range is visible.

Do not stalk a gobbling turkey. Due to their keen eyesight and hearing, the chances of getting close are slim to none.

When using a turkey call, the sound and motion may attract the interest of other hunters. Do not move, wave or make turkey-like sounds to alert another hunter to your presence. Instead, identify yourself in a loud voice.

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 that another hunter may think it is a live bird. If possible, cover the turkey in a blaze orange garment or other material.

Although it’s not required, it is suggested that hunters wear blaze orange when moving between a vehicle and a hunting site. When moving between hunting sites, hunters should wear blaze orange on their upper bodies to facilitate their identification by other hunters.

NEW this year: all turkey hunters, including those under 16 years of age, landowners, honorary, lifetime, and sportsman license holders, must obtain a free harvest record each season.  Before moving a harvested turkey, hunters are required to immediately enter the date and county on the harvest record, and within 72 hours, must complete the reporting process through Georgia Game Check.  More information about this requirement at www.georgiawildlife.com/HarvestRecordGeorgiaGameCheck.

Turkey hunters must possess a valid hunting license and a big game license to legally hunt turkeys in Georgia. If hunting on a wildlife management area, hunters must also possess a WMA license.  Sportsmen and women must always obtain permission from a landowner before hunting on private land. Only male turkeys may be harvested, and the season bag limit is three gobblers per hunter.  

Where can you get a license? Buy it online, find a list of retail license vendors at www.georgiawildlife.com/licenses-permits-passes or buy it by phone at 1-800-366-2661.

For more hunting information, visit www.georgiawildlife.com/hunting/regulations.    

Get hunter education requirement met before turkey season

Hunters in need of the Georgia hunter education course  have two options - completely online or a classroom course, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division.

“This past fall, our customers were provided with the new opportunity to take the hunter education course completely online,” says Walter Lane, hunter development program manager with the Wildlife Resources Division.  “This allows students to complete the course at THEIR convenience.  We also continue to offer the more traditional classroom course.” 

The four available online courses each require a fee (from $9.95 - $24.95) but all are “pass or don’t pay” courses.  Fees for these courses are charged by and collected by the independent course developer.  If the online course vendor fees are an obstacle, students can obtain a free CD-ROM by contacting their local DNR law enforcement office or the Hunter Development Office (770-761-3010).  Additionally, the classroom course is free of charge. 

Completion of a hunter education course is required for any person born on or after January 1, 1961, who:

purchases a season hunting license in Georgia.

is at least 12 years old and hunts without adult supervision. 

hunts big game (deer, turkey, bear) on a wildlife management area. 

The only exceptions include any person who:

purchases a short-term hunting license, such as the Apprentice License or the 3-day Hunting and Fishing Combo License (as opposed to a season license). 

is hunting on his or her own land, or that of his or her parents or legal guardians.

For more information, go to www.gohuntgeorgia.com/hunting/education or call 770-761-3010.