March 22-May 15 (Statewide)
Limit three Gobblers per season
Georgia’s turkey hunting season is only about a month away.
With that in mind it’s time to talk about some things that could help you bag one of these wily critters of our woodlands.
First let’s take a quick look at one of Georgia’s most popular and prized trophies. Wild turkeys usually have long reddish-yellow to grayish-green legs and a black body. The feathers can have areas of red, purple, green, bronze and gold.
Males have a large featherless, reddish head, red throat and red wattles on the throat and neck. Each foot has three toes and males have a spur behind each of their legs. An adult male turkey normally weighs between 11 and 24 pounds and has a wingspan of 49 to 57 inches. Males, also called toms or gobblers, usually have a beard (actually a tuft of coarse hair) growing from the center of the breast that average about nine inches in length. The record wild turkey taken in the United States weighed in at a whopping 38 pounds, according to the National Wild Turkey Federation.
Turkeys are agile fliers, swift runners and are extremely cautious. They will fly or run at any signs of danger therefore making them difficult for the hunter to bag unless great care is taken to be concealed. In early spring the toms will begin to gobble to let the females and their male competitors know of their presence. These piercing sounds can carry up to a mile under the right conditions.
Turkeys prefer foraging for acorns and nuts of various types as well as seeds, grasses, berries and insects. They will sometimes even eat small reptiles such as lizards. They are often seen feeding in cow pastures. The most common subspecies of our area is the Eastern Wild Turkey.
In the months prior to hunting season it is good strategy to scout and observe extensively to give you the best chance to take one of these prizes. Scouting helps to put you in the right place at the right time and thus enhances your opportunities. It is a good idea to record information in some type of organized journal so you can refer back to it each season. The more information you record (weather conditions, routes, feeding areas, time of day, month, etc.)the better you will know your prey and his habits.
One important thing to help in planning your hunt is the location of gullies, streams, fences or other obstacles that turkeys may not cross. You don’t want to put yourself in the position of trying to call in a bird through an area that he is hesitant to navigate through.
Another consideration is to try to find a set-up position that will allow you to be above your quarry. Turkeys would rather move uphill than downhill.
A big part of your pre-season objective is to figure out where the feeding, roosting and watering areas are and the routes the birds take to these places. Sometimes you can hear the birds and that may give you some clues but it is better if you can observe the turkeys first hand for more reliable information. A primary consideration here is that you don’t want to disturb the birds because they are extremely wary and could change their habits if they consistently sense danger.
Even though you will probably scout out areas for much of the year to get a general idea of whether or not turkeys are present, the most important time is the two weeks prior to opening day. If the weather is warming up the spring habits of the flock will start becoming consistent and you will observe the males strutting and fighting. It will also be easier to pick out their routes to these places and the times they will likely be there.
You need to avoid calling birds during this preseason time. Even though it may seem like good practice, all you are doing is harming your chances, especially if you are doing a lot of calling. A few calls to locate birds may be all right but consistently calling them before the season begins is only going to make them harder to trick when the season arrives.
With the right approach, you can set yourself up for a banner year of turkey hunting. The time is at hand to take care of the most important ingredient to success. Scout them hard now and those efforts will pay dividends in the upcoming season.
Alvin Richardson is a contributing writer, retired educator, and public speaker. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org