Changes To Turkey Hunting, But Why?
Avid turkey hunters are displeased to hear about the changes to this season's limits. The State estimates there are a little over 45,000 participants each year in Georgia. Over time how has this affected the Turkey population and what does the State of Georgia plan to do?
From the late 1950s to 1966 the state of Georgia tried to raise and release turkeys with little success. In 1973 the Georgia DNR made another attempt at restocking with a better understanding of the turkey’s needs and a focus on large (8,000+ acres) properties for restocking. In 1973 the turkey population was estimated at 17,300 and in 1984 it was estimated at 113,000. As a result of the successful restocking in the ’70s and ’80s, in 1993 state biologists determined that there was a large enough population throughout the state to have a turkey hunting season. Turkey season was set for mid-March through mid-May with a 3 gobbler per hunter season limit. The season and the limit have remained basically the same for the last 28 years.
In the last several years' biologists have noticed a drop in the number of polts per hen and some areas of the state are noticing a real decline in the turkey numbers. It is obvious that the lowering of the bag limit from 3 to 2 gobblers per season will help with the turkey numbers. But the bigger question is why move the season to start in early April instead of mid-March? State biologists are trying to find the answer to the population decline and they know that predation is part of the problem as coyote populations increase in parts of the state but they also feel that the hunting pressure and removal of mature Tom’s in the peak of the breeding season is also a major factor. By moving the season to early April, the mature Tom’s can breed undisturbed during the peak of breeding season.
For some, these changes are disappointing but when we are talking about a relatively new resource here in Georgia (less than 30 years), we owe it to the turkeys and the conservation efforts of the past to figure out the problem and protect this valuable resource. Good luck and happy hunting!