Northwest Georgia DNR Conservation Rangers currently are investigating an incident in which an area hunter allegedly took a female hen instead of a male gobbler. Conservation Ranger Zack Hardy urges anyone entering the woods in search of turkey this week to be sure of what they’re after.
“Before you go out, make sure you know the difference. The season is only for gobblers, no hens can be taken,” Hardy said. “You should always be able to tell. The main difference is the size and color, gobblers will have a red-blue-colored head — and they do have a beard, but some hens have beards, too.”
A bag limit of three and a gobbler-only rule for Georgia turkey hunters are population control measures to ensure the state’s turkey herd remains healthy. While DNR Wildlife Biologist David Gregory describes the population as “stable,” this year’s harvest is on track to be larger than the year before even though the number of hunters this year is expected to be the same or less than previous years — another reason officials enforce the imposed limits.
“As far as the overall turkey population in Georgia, I would classify it as stable,” Gregory said in a prepared statement. “From 2009 to 2011, there seemed to be some really good reproduction years and our harvest in the past couple years, private land and public land, seemed to reflect that uptick.”
Bartow County hunters unable to hunt on private property have two local options for hunting on public land with Pine Log and Allatoona wildlife management areas totaling more than 20,000 acres.
“In my opinion, Bartow County has an above-average supply of turkeys throughout the county,” Hardy said. “By the middle of April, both WMAs had gobbler harvests that already reached into the double digits. This is, on average, or just slightly above the harvest in years past.”
Hardy continued with tips for landowners hoping to prepare their property for future turkey seasons, suggesting either Chufa or clover for food plots.
“The Eastern wild turkey likes open habitat, such as fields and mature open hardwoods to feed in,” Hardy said. “Fields offer a variety of options for turkeys to eat, lots of grass materials and different bugs for instance. Thick areas are danger areas for them because predators, like coyotes and bobcats, can ambush them.
“If you have property that is in the process of being logged or thinned, those loading areas can be made into a great area for feeding and strutting zones if planned as a food plot.”
For more information, visit www.georgiawildlife.org.
A Georgia nonprofit conservation organization, Turn In Poachers, has set up a hotline for poaching and litter information. To turn in a poacher or litterer, call 1-800-241-4113.