The highly-anticipated opening day for turkey hunting season is Saturday, and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division expects that the 2015 season should be a fair one.
“The coastal plain continues to have a stable to increasing population of turkeys, and we expect a good season from this area,” said Kevin Lowrey, Wildlife Resources Division wild turkey project coordinator. “However, due to low reproduction numbers over the past three years, 2015 might be a challenging year for hunters, especially in the piedmont blue ridge and ridge and valley systems in Georgia.”
With a bag limit of three gobblers per season, hunters have from March 21 through May 15 to harvest their bird(s). With many pursuing wild turkeys on private land, hunters are reminded to always obtain landowner permission before hunting.
WMA hunting opportunities
Georgia offers excellent turkey hunting on several wildlife management areas. 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 traditionally higher turkey hunting season success rates in the state:
Northwest: Berry College and Paulding Forest WMAs
Northeast: Lake Russell and Dawson Forest WMAs
West Central: Clybel and Rum Creek WMAs
East Central: Di-Lane and Tuckahoe WMAs
Southeast: Griffin Ridge and Sansavilla WMAs
Middle: Moody Forest and Horse Creek WMAs
Southwest: River Creek and Chickasawhatchee WMAs
Many WMAs have special regulations for turkey season, so check the Georgia Hunting Regulations guidebook found at www.georgiawildlife.com/hunting/regulations or at license vendors.
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 335,000 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 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 $3.6 million 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 new 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.