The highly anticipated opening day of turkey hunting season is Saturday, Mar. 25 and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division expects that the 2017 season will be better than 2016.
“Reproduction in 2016 was the best we have seen since 2011, so I am hopeful we can build on that recent success and expect 2017 to be a better hunting season,” says Kevin Lowrey, Wildlife Resources Division wild turkey project coordinator. “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 Mar. 25 through May 15 – one of the longest seasons in the nation - to harvest their bird(s). 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 this spring. 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 years of age, 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 any person 16 years or older who does not possess a valid honorary, sportsman or lifetime license when hunting wild 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.
Buy it online (www.gooutdoorsgeorgia.com), at a retail license vendor (list at www.georgiawildlife.com/licenses-permits-passes ) or buy it by phone at 1-800-366-2661.
Conservation of the Wild Turkey in Georgia
The restoration of the wild turkey is one of Georgia’s great conservation success stories. Currently, the bird population hovers around 300,000 statewide, but 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 establishment of biologically sound hunting seasons facilitated the recovery of wild turkeys in every county. This successful effort resulted from cooperative partnerships between private landowners, hunters, conservation organizations like the National Wild Turkey Federation, and the Wildlife Resources Division.
The Georgia Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation has donated more than $3,700,000 since 1985 for projects that benefit wild turkey and other wildlife. The NWTF works in partnership with the Wildlife Resources Division and other land management agencies on habitat enhancement, hunter access, wild turkey research and education. The NWTF has a vital initiative called “Save the Habitat, Save the Hunt” focused on habitat management, hunter access and hunter recruitment.
“Hunters should know that each time they purchase a license or equipment used to turkey hunt, such as shotguns, ammunition and others, that they are part of this greater conservation effort for wildlife in Georgia,” said Lowrey. “Through the Wildlife Restoration Program, a portion of the money spent comes back to states and is put back into on-the-ground type efforts such as habitat management and species research and management.”
For more hunting information, visit www.georgiawildlife.com/hunting/regulations .