Hunters are eager for opening day of turkey hunting season in Georgia. The highly anticipated day is Saturday, Mar. 26 and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division expects that the 2016 season should be a fair one.
“Perspective is important because Georgia is still in the top six states in terms of eastern wild turkey harvest and population, even while we have had some declines in reproduction and the overall turkey population,” says Kevin Lowrey, Wildlife Resources Division wild turkey project coordinator. “Hunters heading to the woods need to remember that there is a new requirement this year to have a harvest record and that they will need to report their harvest through Georgia Game Check.”
With a generous bag limit of three gobblers per season, hunters have from Mar. 26 through May 15 – one of the most liberal turkey seasons in the nation - to harvest their bird(s). With many pursuing wild turkeys on private land, hunters are reminded to always obtain landowner permission before hunting.
What should hunters expect this spring? The Lower Coastal Plain and Ridge and Valley will have an above average season this year and next year, due to better reproduction levels than other parts of the state. While other regions saw some reproduction improvement in 2015, the lower cycle in 2014 may mean fewer 2-year old gobblers, so hunters likely will be pursuing older birds, which may raise the challenge level.
NEW this 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. More information about this requirement 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.
Where can you get a license? Buy it online, find a list of retail license vendors 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.