CONCORD, N.H. — N.H. Fish and Game Turkey Biologist Ted Walski predicts a possible record harvest in the upcoming 2018 spring gobbler season. The spring turkey hunt opens on May 3, and runs through May 31, statewide.
New Hampshire’s Youth Turkey Hunting Weekend is set for April 28-29, 2018. Last year’s youth weekend hunters registered 494 turkeys, or 11.0% of the spring season total.
Note: Any proposed changes to the spring turkey season rules made during the current 2018 biennial season-setting process WILL NOT BECOME EFFECTIVE UNTIL SPRING 2019.
About 20,000 people hunt turkey in New Hampshire, out of a total of approximately 60,000 hunters in the state. Last year (2017), spring turkey hunters took 4,482 birds. See turkey harvest by town and Wildlife Management Unit in the newly published NH Wildlife Harvest Summary, available at www.huntnh.com/hunting/documents/2017-harvest-summary.pdf for more information.
“There should be a good turkey harvest during the May 2018 Spring Gobbler Season,” said Walski. “While spring 2017 had some potentially poor hatching weather with rainy/cold periods, late summer showed some fairly good reproductive success.” The Summer 2017 Public Internet Turkey Brood Survey recorded 1,784 turkey brood observations, and the month of August had a statewide average of 3.32 poults per hen.
Winter 2018 has been relatively easy for wild turkeys. There were three thawing periods during January, which created bare ground sites on south-facing slopes. Again in February a 19-day thawing period produced numerous bare ground sites. Turkeys have also fattened up on the abundant acorn crop still laying on the ground.
Since the middle of February turkey flocks have been congregating, with gobblers displaying and fighting. Numerous flocks were observed during winter 2018, typically of 25 to 30 turkeys per flock, and some flocks of 50 to 75 turkeys. Statewide, New Hampshire is estimated to have approximately 40,000 turkeys. “That’s about as many wild turkeys as the land can support, or, in biological terms, the carrying capacity has probably been reached,” said Walski.
Now is the time to get in your pre-season scouting if you are planning to take part in the spring gobbler season. “Do some early morning gobbling surveys on the back roads,” says Walski. “Start about one-half hour before sunrise. Drive and stop at one-half to one mile intervals, and get out and listen for four minutes at each stop.”
Get more great tips by attending a free Turkey Hunting 101 seminar at 7:00 p.m. on April 19, 2018, at the NH Fish and Game Department, 11 Hazen Drive, Concord, NH. Learn more at www.huntnh.com/newsroom/news.html?news=920.
A New Hampshire turkey license is required for hunters of all ages ($16 for state residents and $31 for nonresidents). This license allows the taking of one gobbler during the spring season (May 3-31, 2018) and one turkey of either sex during the fall archery season (September 15- December 15) OR during the week-long fall shotgun season. Hunters age 16 and older must hold either a current New Hampshire hunting or archery license AND a turkey permit. Licenses are available online at www.huntnh.com or from any license agent.
If you want to try turkey hunting this spring and haven’t gotten your Hunter Education course done yet, consider the Apprentice Hunting License. This license allows those 16 and older interested in trying hunting to do so under the guidance of an experienced hunter without first taking Hunter Education. Learn more at www.huntnh.com/hunting/apprentice.html.
All hunters should keep in mind key safety guidelines for turkey hunters:
Always positively identify your target.
Never assume that calls and movement indicate the presence of a turkey – hunters commonly imitate turkey calls and use decoys in order to locate and/or attract turkeys.
Never stalk a turkey; you could be mistaken for game – rather than stalking, scout out a good spot, call and wait for the turkeys to come to you.
Be seen! Turkey hunters should always wear a blaze orange hat or vest as they enter and leave the area they are hunting. Tie blaze-orange survey tape around a decoy/calling location to alert other hunters to your presence; it won’t scare the birds.
Avoid clothes with the colors red, white, blue, and black, as these are the colors of the male turkey.
You can find more information on turkey hunting in New Hampshire, including a summary of rules, a list of registration stations, and a three-minute video about a successful New Hampshire spring turkey hunt, at www.huntnh.com/hunting/turkey.html.