“We want to stress is no turkeys over bait, that is illegal; of course the limit is three gobblers per season per person ... and make sure you’re hunting on land where you have permission,” DNR Conservation Ranger First Class Zack Hardy said. “A lot of people when they turkey hunt they go off the land where they have permission to hunt because they hear a bird gobbling and they go wherever that bird is and a lot of times they cross property lines.”
Hardy said DNR is serious about enforcing the law and violators will face consequences.
“If we catch them hunting over bait within that [10-day period], they will receive a citation for hunting big game over bait and the judge sets those fines — it’s just a misdemeanor fine, nothing to go to jail over, but in Bartow County the probate judge sets those fines pretty high [and] he’s good about doing that,” Hardy said. “If somebody does it one time and pays [the fine] they may think ‘I won’t do it again because the fine is so high.’”
Georgia has one of the longest turkey seasons in the U.S. at about two months and during that time, Hardy said DNR wants hunters of all ages to be safe.
“One thing we stress during hunter safety courses is while turkey hunting, you don’t want to wear red, white or blue because that’s the colors of a gobbler’s head,” Hardy said. “... If you walk around in one of those colors, somebody else might mistake you for a gobbler’s head or something like that.”
Kevin Lowrey, Wildlife Resources Division wild turkey project coordinator, said in a press release one of the best areas of the state to hunt turkey will be the coastal plain, but due to low reproduction numbers and a good harvest of gobblers for the past two years, 2014 might be a challenging year for hunters, particularly in the piedmont and ridge and valley.
According to the release, “The state’s current turkey population is estimated at 335,000 birds and turkey hunters in this state are privileged with one of the longest turkey seasons nationwide. With a bag limit of three gobblers per season, hunters have from Mar. 22 through May 15, 2014 to harvest their bird(s). With many pursuing wild turkeys on private land, hunters are reminded to always obtain landowner permission before hunting.”
A new video featuring Lowrey, available at www.youtube.com/user/GeorgiaWildlife, provides forecast information about the 2014 Georgia turkey hunting season.
WMA Hunting Opportunities
“Georgia offers excellent turkey hunting on several wildlife management areas,” the release states. “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 the highest 2013 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
“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,” the release states. “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.”
Licenses can be acquired at www.georgiawildlife.com/licenses-permits-passes, or by phone, 1-800-366-2661.
“The restoration of the wild turkey is one of Georgia’s great conservation success stories,” the release states. “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 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 $3,612,478 since 1985 on projects that benefit wild turkey and other wildlife. The NWTF works cooperatively in partnership with the Wildlife Resources Division and other land management agencies with the focus on habitat enhancement, hunter access, wild turkey research and education. The NWTF has an exciting new initiative called “Save the Habitat, Save the Hunt” focused on habitat management, hunter access and hunter recruitment.”
Lowrey said in the release hunters have been an integral part in making such conservation possible.
“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,” Lowrey said in the release. “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.