It’s the time of year when men and women across Georgia will “cammy up” and dress out in their best hunting gear.
Spring gobbler season starts Saturday and continues through May 15.
There are thousands of birds available, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
“The statewide turkey population is estimated at 335,000,” said Melissa Cummings, GDNR Wildlife Resources Division communications/outreach specialist. “I don’t know the regional population numbers (for Coastal Georgia). There is a three-bird bag limit for spring gobbler season.”
Cummings referred to DNR’s website, www.georgiawildlife.com, which notes
that 41 years ago, the estimated turkey population was 17,000 birds. From 1973-96, more than 4,500 turkeys were trapped in other states and relocated to Georgia. Now, there are turkeys in every county in the state, the DNR website says.
The website also explains why most states only have a spring season. If turkeys were hunted in the fall along with deer season, more hunters would be in the woods and therefore more turkeys would be harvested. The website stressed that only gobblers can be hunted during the spring because the hens are tending their clutch or poults.
“To hunt turkey, a hunter age 16 and older needs a hunting license and a big-game license,” Cummings said. “If (he or she) is hunting on a wildlife-management area, (he or she) will also need a WMA license. (Additionally), completion of a hunter education course is required for any person born on or after Jan. 1, 1961.” She explained that completing a hunter-education course is required to purchase a hunting license for anyone at least 12 years old to hunt without adult supervision or hunt big game (deer, bear and turkey) on a WMA. The education course is not required for those hunting on their own land, she said.
In addition to the required safety class and licenses, Game Management Officer David Mixon said there’s not a check-in location, but there is a sign-in sheet at each WMA open for turkey hunting.
He said a hunter must park without blocking the road, and then hunt at least 50 yards from the road.
All-terrain vehicles are not allowed behind closed gates, he added.
“First, they need to make sure the (WMA) is open,” Mixon said. “Not all our WMAs are open during the spring (gobbler) season. Most of all, you want to make sure you know where you are and who you’re hunting with. I always try to have my back against a large tree, so I’m focused on what’s in front of me and protected from what’s behind me.”
He said it is important to observe all the hunting safety rules during spring gobbler season, noting that hunters are not required to wear reflective orange vests or hats because a turkey can discriminate color and spot the slightest movement.
Mixon added the lack of an orange reflective vest is why it’s all the more important that a hunter never shoot without first identifying his target and always know what or who’s beyond his target.
Cummings said firearms and archery equipment legal for turkey hunting include shotguns, muzzleloaders, longbows, crossbows and compound bows.
Mixon added that the shot best used by shotgun hunters is No. 2, 4 or 5.
He said that it depends a lot on the gauge of the shotgun and the hunter’s preference.
Cummings and Mixon deferred to DNR’s website questions about the difference between wild turkeys and domestic turkeys.
A Nov. 22, 2013, article posted on DNR’s website notes turkeys have been raised domestically for thousands of years, having been specifically bred to have larger breast and shorter legs.
Mixon added that a special youth spring gobbler season began this past weekend for youths younger than 16 who can hunt on private land if accompanied by an adult.
He emphasized the youth season is only for hunting on private land.