The first day of turkey season could be a wet one, but the threat of rain won’t stop the avid sportsmen from taking to the woods. Most of them have been out in the woods scouting turkey habitat for weeks
Martin Duke, a longtime turkey hunter who lives in the Coosa area, said the art of calling turkeys is one thing, but the real challenge surrounds the fact that in the wild, a male turkey has established his strut zone and is puffed up and gobbling, calling all the hens to him. When the hunter hides in his camouflage and tries to call the male in, he’s reversing the course of nature.
Duke said that turkeys have the sharpest eyes of any game animal in North America. “If a turkey had the nose of a white-tail deer, you’d never kill one.”
Ben Winkelman, assistant director of the Rome-Floyd E.C.O. River Education Center, is also an avid turkey hunter. He bagged his first gobbler when he was 16 and took his sons Lane and Hayden into the woods with him when they were around 6 years old. For Winkelman, turkey hunting is one of the rites of spring.
“It’s different than any other type of hunting in terms of interacting with the wildlife,” Winkelman said, “trying to call one in, within shotgun range or camera range, keeping in mind that their eyesight is seven times better than ours.”
The Department of Natural Resources estimates Georgia’s turkey population at 335,000. The bag limit is three and the season runs from March 23 - May 15, one of the longest hunting seasons in the nation.
“Overall reproduction declined by 30 percent last year and while hunters won’t feel the effects this year, it may be noticed in 2014,” said Kevin Lowrey, Wildlife Resources Division wild turkey project coordinator.
Duke said the ideal time for calling turkeys occurs around mid-April after all the hens have been bred and are sitting on their eggs. The males are then a little more willing to respond to calls since the tom is always in a breeding state of mind.
For hunters who prefer state operated Wildlife Management Areas, the Berry WMA, the J.L. Lester WMA in Polk County and Paulding Forest WMA in Paulding County are among the most fertile hunting grounds for turkeys in the region.