From the Georgia Department of Natural Resources
-- With the March 26 opening of Georgia's turkey hunting season, wildlife officials are anticipating a harvest below the last year. Statistics from 2010 indicate an estimated 47,275 resident Georgia hunters bagged 34,001 turkeys last year.
"We had a real productive 2010, so there will be many juvenile turkeys available for harvest," according to Kevin Lowrey, wild turkey project coordinator. "However, the poor reproduction levels in 2007 and in 2009 will lower the supply of vocal adult gobblers."
Georgia's current turkey population is estimated at 335,000 birds and turkey hunters here are privileged with one of the longest turkey seasons nationwide. With a bag limit of three gobblers per season, hunters have from March 26 through May 15 to harvest birds.
Because most hunters pursue wild turkeys on private lands, the wildlife officials remind hunters to always obtain landowner permission before hunting.
Georgia's Wildlife Management Areas offer excellent public land turkey hunting opportunities. Resident hunters have access to nearly one million acres of prime hunting land for just $19 a year. Success rates and total harvest numbers from 2010 may help indicate which WMAs hunters should target this year.
In the northwest, Johns Mountain and Paulding Forest WMAs reported the highest harvest. In the northeast, Lake Russell and Dawson Forest WMAs had the highest harvest. In west central Georgia, hunters should try Blanton Creek and Big Lazer WMAs. In east central Georgia, Di-Lane Plantation and Yuchi WMAs reported the highest harvest. In the southeast, hunters should visit Paulks Pasture and Sansavilla WMAs. Middle Georgia hunter should try Big Hammock and Beaver Dam WMAs. Finally, in southwest Georgia, River Creek and Chickasawhatchee WMAs had the highest harvest rates.
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 to legally hunt wild turkey. 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.
The restoration of the wild turkey is one of Georgia's great conservation success stories. Although the bird population currently hovers around 335,000 statewide, 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 and 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 $3,326,481 since 1985 on projects that benefit wild turkey and other wildlife.
For more information regarding wild turkey hunting opportunities, WMA hunting opportunities, 2011 wild turkey hunting seasons, regulations or license requirements in Georgia, visit www.gohuntgeorgia.com.