Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Calling All Gobblers, Statewide Turkey Hunting Season Opens Mar. 21

Turkey hunters across the state are dusting off their calls in preparation for the upcoming turkey season. Opening day is Sat., Mar. 21 and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division anticipates another enjoyable season.

The 2009 season should be respectable, and harvest levels should be similar in comparison with past years’ harvests.

Last year’s reproduction data suggests that turkey production was good in many parts of Georgia in 2008,” explains Kevin Lowrey, Wildlife Resources Division wild turkey project coordinator. “In fact, last year’s hatch was the best since 2002.”

“However, reproduction rates in four of the last five years have been poor and we have seen a decline in the overall turkey population,” continues Lowrey. “While it likely will take some time for the population to rebound, last year’s increase in reproduction is a positive reminder that when habitat conditions are right and weather is favorable, the turkey population is quick to respond.”

Statistics from the 2008 season harvest summary indicate that an estimated 49,237 resident Georgia hunters bagged 24,297 turkeys last year. The bird to hunter ratio (harvest rate) for 2008 was .49 birds per hunter – the same as in 2007.

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. 21 through 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.

WMA Hunting Opportunities

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 2008 may help indicate which WMAs hunters should target this year.

In the northwest, Pine Log WMA and Berry College WMA reported the highest harvest rates. In the northeast, Warwoman WMA and Swallow Creek WMA had the highest success rates. In west central Georgia, hunters should try Blanton Creek WMA and Rum Creek WMA. In east central Georgia, Di-Lane Plantation WMA and Yuchi WMA reported high harvest rates. In the southeast, hunters should visit Dixon Memorial WMA and Griffin Ridge WMA.

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 million 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 to put such projects on the ground. There currently are 112 state chapters of the NWTF with membership totals of more than 18,000.

For more information regarding wild turkey hunting opportunities, WMA hunting opportunities, 2009 wild turkey hunting seasons, regulations or license requirements in Georgia, visit .

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