SOCIAL CIRCLE, Ga. – Georgia turkey hunters are practicing their best turkey calls as they get ready for the statewide turkey hunting season opening Saturday, Mar. 21, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division.
“We saw an uptick in reproduction in 2018, so that could mean a better number of 2-year-old birds in the woods this year,” explains Emily Rushton, Wildlife Resources Division wild turkey project coordinator. “We also had a higher than average jake harvest in 2019, nine percent of the total harvest, which typically means a better harvest the following spring.”
What can hunters expect across state regions this spring? Harvest in the Ridge and Valley region of the state could be up, as 2018 was a phenomenal reproductive year. The Blue Ridge Mountain region also saw a jump in poults per hen, indicating promise of a good harvest. The other regions of the state, the Piedmont and Coastal Plain, had increases of varying levels, suggesting a fair to good harvest in these areas.
With a bag limit of three gobblers per season, hunters have from Mar. 21 through May 15 – one of the longest seasons in the nation – to harvest their bird(s).
Cedar Creek and Cedar Creek-Little River WMA Hunters, take note! The 2020 turkey season will run April 4-May 15 on these properties. This is two weeks later than the statewide opening date. This difference is due to ongoing research between the University of Georgia and WRD, who are investigating the timing of hunting pressure and its effects on gobbler behavior and reproductive success. Through this research, biologists and others hope to gain insight to the reasons for an apparent population decline in order to help improve turkey populations and hunter success at Cedar Creek WMA and statewide.
Georgia Game Check: All turkey hunters must report their harvest using Georgia Game Check. Turkeys can be reported on the Outdoors GA app (www.georgiawildlife.com/outdoors-ga-app), which now works whether you have cell service or not, at gooutdoorsgeorgia.com, or by calling 1-800-366-2661. App users, if you have not used the app since deer season or before, make sure you have the latest version. More information at www.georgiawildlife.com/HarvestRecordGeorgiaGameCheck.
Hunters age 16 years or older (including those accompanying youth or others) will need a hunting license and a big game license, unless hunting on their own private land. Get your license at www.gooutdoorsgeorgia.com, at a retail license vendor or by phone at 1-800-366-2661. With many pursuing wild turkeys on private land, hunters are reminded to obtain landowner permission before hunting.
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 250,000-300,000 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 $6,000,000 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 Rushton. “Through the Wildlife Restoration Program, a portion of the money spent comes back to states and is put back into on-the-ground efforts such as habitat management and species research and management.”
For more hunting information, visit www.georgiawildlife.com/hunting/regulations.