Turkey season opened Saturday, and the Coastal Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation did its part to ensure that only legal hunters get gobblers.
Local NWTF representatives on Wednesday presented the Georgia Department of Natural Resources with a special robotic turkey used to snare poachers in the act.
DNR conservation ranger Jason Miller said it is a tool they plan to use immediately.
“I just received it so, right now, it is a learning process, but it was donated to us and we are trying to put it to work, maybe by this weekend,” he said.
Miller added that poaching is prevalent in the area.
“It is a constant battle, and that is why we are working full-time on it,” he said. “Poachers have no set schedules, so that means neither do we. But it is prevalent, and not just with wild turkeys … pretty much every game and sometimes even non-game animals.”
Miller is based in the main office in Brunswick but said he and others patrol areas within Liberty and Bryan counties. He added that the tough part of catching poachers is knowing when and where they might strike.
“You have to catch them in the act,” he said. “You have to be at the right spot at the right time and knowing the area is a huge deal. It helps in knowing whether poaching had occurred in that area in the past, and you have to adapt because these folks are good at what they do, and it is hard to catch them.”
Miller said the fines and penalties are set by each county but, for the most part, all are misdemeanors subject to a $1,000 fine or up to a year in jail.
Andrew Standard, a founding member of the National Wild Turkey Federation’s Coastal Chapter, said the robotic decoy was funded by the local chapter and a national funding reserve. The decoy, a lifelike and realistic moving robotic turkey, cost approximately $1,200.
Standard said the remote control allows the rangers to be within 100 yards of the decoy, enough to be downrange from potential poachers but still close enough to nab anyone attempting to shoot at the decoy.
Standard said the regular turkey quota is three male birds per season.
The federation’s Coastal Chapter is celebrating its 30th year.