Turkey hunters across the state are practicing their yelps and clucks in preparation for the upcoming turkey season. Opening day is Sat., Mar. 20 and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division anticipates that the 2010 season should be good, and harvest levels should be similar in comparison to the past several years.
“There should be many vocal 2-year old gobblers available for harvest this year thanks to the high reproduction rate in the summer of 2008,” says Kevin Lowrey, Wildlife Resources Division wild turkey project coordinator.
Statistics from the 2009 season harvest summary indicate that an estimated 56,113 resident Georgia hunters bagged 27,323 turkeys last year. The bird to hunter ratio (harvest rate) for 2009 was .49 birds per hunter – the same as in 2007 and 2008.
According to Lowrey, Georgia’s current turkey population is estimated at 300,000 birds.
Georgia turkey hunters are privileged with one of the longest turkey seasons nationwide. With a bag limit of three gobblers per season, hunters have from Mar. 20through May 15 to harvest their bird(s). Because most hunters pursue wild turkeys on private lands, the Wildlife Resources Division reminds hunters to always obtain landowner permission before hunting.
Georgia’s Wildlife Management Areas offer excellent turkey hunting opportunities. Through the WMA system, resident hunters have access to nearly one million acres of prime hunting land for just $19 a year. Success rates and total harvest numbers from 2009 may help indicate which WMAs hunters should target this year.
In the northwest, Crockford-Pigeon Mountain and Berry College WMA reported the highest harvest rates. In the northeast, Dukes Creek WMA and Wilson Shoals WMA had the highest harvest rates. In west central Georgia, hunters should try Joe Kurz WMA and Rum Creek WMA. In east central Georgia, Di-Lane Plantation WMA and Tuckahoe WMA reported high harvest rates. In the southeast, hunters should visit Dixon Memorial WMA and Sansavilla WMA. Middle Georgia hunter should try River Bend WMA Finally, in southwest Georgia, River Creek WMA and Chickasawhatchee WMA had the highest harvest rates.
A special 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, Public Fishing Area or State Park. In addition, both a valid hunting license and a big game license are required to legally hunt wild turkey. Wild turkey legally can be hunted with shotguns, loaded with No. 2 or smaller shot, any muzzleloading firearm, longbow, crossbow or compound bow.
Conservation of the Wild Turkey in Georgia
The comeback of the wild turkey is one of Georgia’s great conservation success stories. Although the bird population currently hovers around 300,000 statewide, 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 increased emphasis on biologically sound hunting seasons, have helped re-establish turkeys in suitable habitat in every county. This resurgence is due to the efforts of private landowners, hunters and conservation organizations like the National Wild Turkey Federation.
The Georgia Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation has donated more than $3,220,977 since 1985 on projects that benefit wild turkey and other wildlife. The NWTF works cooperatively in partnership with the Wildlife Resources Division and other land management agencies with the focus on habitat enhancement, hunter access, wild turkey research and education. There currently are 96 state chapters of the NWTF with membership totals of more than 16,000.
For more information regarding wild turkey hunting opportunities, WMA hunting opportunities, 2010 wild turkey hunting seasons, regulations or license requirements in Georgia, visit www.gohuntgeorgia.com .