SOCIAL CIRCLE — Opening day of turkey hunting season is Saturday, and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division expects the season will be better than 2016.
"Reproduction in 2016 was the best we have seen since 2011," Kevin Lowrey, Wildlife Resources Division wild turkey project coordinator, said. "So I am hopeful we can build on that recent success and expect 2017 to be a better hunting season. Turkey hunters also need to remember the Georgia Game Check requirement for all harvested birds."
With a bag limit of three gobblers per season, hunters have from Saturday through May 15 — one of the longest seasons in the nation — to harvest their birds. With many pursuing wild turkeys on private land, hunters are reminded to obtain landowner permission before hunting.
What should hunters expect this spring? The Ridge and Valley, and Lower Coastal Plain should have a good season. These regions maintained good reproduction the last few years. The Piedmont and Upper Coastal Plain will have a fair year, but a bad hatch in 2015 may result in fewer 2-year-old gobblers. Based on the good mast crop, and a mild winter, the Blue Ridge region should have a fair season, with expectations for better than last year.
All turkey hunters, including those under 16, 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 or go "paperless" and report through the Outdoors GA app. www.georgiawildlife.com/outdoors-ga-app. More information at www.georgiawildlife.com/HarvestRecordGeorgiaGameCheck.
A WMA license is required for anyone 16 or older who does not possess a valid honorary, sportsman or lifetime license when hunting 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.
You can buy licenses online (www.gooutdoorsgeorgia.com), at a retail license vendor (list at http://www.georgiawildlife.com/licenses-permits-passes%20) or by phone at 1-800-366-2661.
Be safe in the woods
Here are some safety tips, specifically for turkey hunting:
• 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. 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.
For more hunting information, visit www.georgiawildlife.com/hunting/regulations.
— Georgia DNR