Hunters are eagerly anticipating opening day of the Georgia turkey hunting season coming on Sat., Mar. 24 and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division (WRD) anticipates that the 2012 season should be a good one.
“Georgia appears to be set for a great turkey hunting season this spring, with good turkey poult production in the Piedmont, Blue Ridge and Ridge and Valley geographical portions of the state,” says Kevin Lowrey, Wildlife Resources Division wild turkey project coordinator. “And while reproduction in the coastal plain was poor due to drought conditions, the good news is that there are many vocal two-year old gobblers from the 2010 production year that will be available to harvest this year.”
Georgia’s current turkey population is estimated at 335,000 birds and turkey hunters in this state are privileged with one of the longest turkey seasons nationwide. With a bag limit of three gobblers per season, hunters have from Mar. 24 through May 15, 2012 to harvest their bird(s). With many hunters pursuing wild turkeys on private land, WRD reminds hunters to always obtain landowner permission before hunting.
WMA Hunting Opportunities
For those looking to hunt turkey on public land, Georgia’s Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) offer excellent opportunities. Through the WMA system, resident hunters have access to nearly one million acres of prime hunting land for just $19 a year. Detailed below are some of the WMAs with the highest 2011 turkey hunting season success rates in the state:
- Northwest: Berry College and Paulding Forest WMAs
- Northeast: Lake Russell and Dawson Forest WMAs
- West Central: Blanton Creek and Rum Creek WMAs
- East Central: Di-Lane and Tuckahoe WMAs
- Southeast: Penholoway and Sansavilla WMAs
- Middle: Big Hammock and Horse Creek WMAs
- Southwest: River Creek and Chickasawhatchee WMAs
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 to legally hunt wild turkey. 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.
Where can you get a license? Buy it online or find a list of retail license vendors at www.georgiawildlife.com/recreational-licenses 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. Although the bird population currently hovers around 335,000 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 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 $3,434,478 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 local Georgia chapters of the NWTF with membership totals of more than 17,000.
For more information regarding wild turkey and hunting opportunities, visit www.gohuntgeorgia.com .