Delaware announces 2017 turkey hunting season dates

DOVER – DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife announced today turkey hunting opportunities for the upcoming season, starting with a special one-day hunt Saturday, April 1 for youth ages 10 through 15 and for hunters who are disabled and use a wheelchair. The regular turkey hunting season opens Saturday, April 8, and runs through Saturday, May 6, with no Sunday hunting. Hunting hours for both the youth/disabled hunt day and the regular hunting season are a half-hour before sunrise until 1 p.m.

Hunters are reminded that only bearded birds may be taken, and that all harvested birds must be checked at an authorized turkey check station by 2:30 p.m. on the day of the harvest. Bag limit is one bearded bird per turkey hunter per year.

On the special hunt day April 1, youth hunters must be accompanied by a licensed, non-hunting adult who is 21 years of age or older who has completed a Delaware approved turkey hunter safety class. Hunters 10 through 12 years of age must have a License Exempt Number (LEN). Hunters 13 years of age or older must have a junior or adult hunting license or a LEN, and must have successfully completed a mandatory turkey education class before they can legally hunt wild turkeys in Delaware. Turkey hunters must carry their Hunter Education/Turkey Education card while hunting.

Except during the special one-day hunt for youth and hunters with disabilities, hunting on public lands, including state forest lands, is by lottery permits only, which were issued this past January for the 2017 hunting season. Hunters must carry their public lands permit while hunting and may only hunt the designated area and season segment/dates specified in the permit. The application form for the 2018 Public Land Turkey Hunt can be found in the upcoming 2017/2018 Hunting and Trapping Guide.

Division of Fish & Wildlife Hunter Education Coordinator Mark Ostroski offered some tips for a safe and successful hunt. “A successful turkey hunt depends on many factors, including skill, careful preparation and attention to safety details,” Ostroski said. “Hunters should be sure to pattern their gun, because knowing where and how your gun shoots can be the difference in bagging that big gobbler.”

Ostroski noted that hunters also should remember these important safety practices:

· Take time to identify your target and what lies beyond;

· It is illegal and unsafe to wear clothing that includes the colors red, blue, black or white while turkey hunting;

· Never stalk a wild turkey; and

· Do not imitate the male gobbling call while trying to attract another gobbler.

The wild turkey continues as one of Delaware’s top wildlife restoration successes after being on the verge of extinction in the state by the early 20th century. In the early 1980s, the Division of Fish & Wildlife partnered with the Delaware chapters of the National Wild Turkey Federation and Delaware Wild Lands to reestablish a wild turkey population in the state. By 1991, the population had grown large enough to permit opening a wild turkey hunting season, and the turkey population continues to thrive.

Last year, 706 birds were harvested, the highest record to date. “Over the past four seasons, hunters have harvested more than 600 turkeys each season, which can be attributed to the growing popularity of spring turkey hunting and a healthy turkey population,” said Gamebird Biologist Justyn Foth, Division of Fish & Wildlife.

For a list of authorized turkey check stations for 2017, click Delaware Turkey Hunting information.

NOTE: The list of check stations is subject to change without notice. Check station hours may vary, so hunters are advised to call the station where they are likely to check a bird to confirm the hours of operation.

Hunters who want to have their bird scored and entered into the National Wild Turkey Federation records are reminded to have their bird’s live weight recorded on a certified scale. If the check station does not have a certified scale, hunters will be directed to another station to have the turkey re-weighed.

Hunting licenses are sold online, at the licensing desk in DNREC’s Richardson & Robbins Building, 89 Kings Highway, Dover, and by license agents statewide. To find a participating agent, or to purchase a license online, visit Delaware Licenses. For additional information on Delaware hunting licenses, call 302-739-9918.

For more information on hunting in Delaware and information about turkey season segments, click on 2016-2017 Delaware Hunting and Trapping Guide. The guide also is available in printed form at DNREC’s Dover licensing desk, and from license agents throughout the state. For more information about public lands that allow turkey hunting, click Wildlife Area Hunting Maps or State Forest Maps.