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2011 Turkey Season Opens April 25
Youth Day is April 23

April 14, 2011

The arrival of spring is eagerly anticipated by many, but more so by turkey hunters anxious for the beginning of New Jersey's Spring Wild Turkey Hunting Season. This year's regular season kicks off on Monday April 25 and runs for five weeks. With turkey populations restored statewide, Garden State hunters can enjoy some of the finest turkey hunting on the East Coast right in their own backyards.

Spring turkey hunting is the fastest growing hunting pursuit in the nation and it's easy to see why. The tranquility of being in the pre-dawn and early morning forest coupled with the adrenaline surge caused by turkeys gobbling from the roost and on the ground provide an incredibly exciting and rewarding experience. If you've never tried spring turkey hunting or have been away from it, make this the year you get hooked on the experience!

Father and son with turkey

YOUTH DAY SCHEDULED FOR APRIL 23

Youth hunters will get the first chance to harvest a bird during the Special Youth Turkey Hunting Day scheduled for Saturday, April 23. Youth hunters with a Youth License who have obtained a turkey permit may begin their spring turkey season on this day prior to the opening of the regular season.

The Youth Turkey Hunting Day is considered an extension of the regular season permit held by the youth. If a youth hunter harvests a turkey on this youth hunting day the "Y" period permit is no longer valid for future hunting. All other spring turkey hunting regulations apply.

Direct supervision of the youth hunter by a non-hunting adult 21 years of age or older who also possesses a valid New Jersey hunting license is required

MANAGEMENT UPDATES

There are many factors that contribute to changes in the wild turkey population, and very few of these factors (spring rainfall, for example) can be controlled by wildlife managers. One factor that can be controlled by wildlife managers is the length and timing of hunting seasons. Spring gobbler hunting seasons are usually set to coincide with the time when hens begin to incubate their eggs. In New Jersey, this occurs in late April.

Starting a spring season too early may be detrimental to turkey populations because hens will abandon nests more readily if they are disturbed before they start to incubate. In addition, illegal take of hens occurs more frequently if a spring season starts before incubation, when hens are still mobile. The second peak in gobbling activity occurs at the start of incubation as well, when nesting hens are no longer available to gobblers. The spring season is best timed to better coincide with this peak in gobbling activity.

Local and regional data on wild turkey hens showed New Jersey's spring season start date was not optimally timed to match gobbling activity and to help prevent nest abandonment and illegal take of hens. Therefore, New Jersey's spring gobbler season has been reformatted to begin later in April. This new season structure will favor the success of nesting hens, and will more closely match peaks in gobbling activity.

STATEWIDE SPRING OUTLOOK

The statewide wild turkey population is currently estimated at more than 20,000 birds, and the outlook for this spring's turkey season is good statewide. Poult production in 2010 was good to excellent throughout New Jersey, and as a result, a higher proportion of juveniles (jakes) is expected in this year's harvest. If New Jersey experiences another year or two of weather conditions conducive to good summer productivity our turkey population should continue to rise

The winter survival rate of poults has been good throughout the state, and there have been no reports of turkey mortality due to winter weather. Snowfall totals this past winter were quite high, especially in southern and eastern counties, but this did not seem to have an impact on turkey survival. Conditions with powdery snow did not last long, and a crust formed quickly, allowing birds to walk to favored feeding areas.

LAST SPRING'S HARVEST

Spring wild turkey hunters harvested 3,031 gobblers during the five-week season that began on April 24 and ended on May 28, 2010. It was the ninth largest harvest since the spring turkey season was established in 1981, and was below the average harvest of the last five years.

PERMIT INFORMATION

The spring season quota was 25,825 permits. Over the counter permits are now available and can be purchased at license agents or on the Internet at www.wildlifelicense.com/nj/. Permits will be available as long as the permit supply lasts or the season ends. If you decide to use the Internet you cannot print the permits from home. They must be mailed, and can take 7 - 10 business days (additional shipping charges apply.)

An up to date chart of all leftover permits is available at www.wildlifelicense.com/nj/. Click on "Check Permit Availability" in the Notices box for information.

TURKEY HUNTING AREA RECOMMENDATIONS

New Jersey's 121 Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) offer diverse landscapes and endless opportunities for turkey hunters. More than 327,000 acres statewide currently comprise the WMA system so hunters are sure to find a prime hunting spot to fit their needs. New properties and additions to existing properties are continually being added, so hunters should check the Fish and Wildlife website regularly for updates to the WMA system.

Many State Parks are also open to turkey hunting, as is the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.

A comprehensive list of public land available for turkey hunting can be found in the 2011 NJ Wild Turkey Hunting Season Information booklet available at license agents and Division of Fish and Wildlife offices, as well as on the Fish and Wildlife Web site at www.njfishandwildlife.com/pdf/2011/turkey11.pdf (pdf, 280kb).

MANDATORY GOBBLER CHECK IN

All harvested gobblers must be tagged immediately with a completed transportation tag. The turkey must then be taken by the person who killed it to the nearest turkey check station before 3 p.m. on the day it is killed. Personnel at the check station will issue a legal possession tag. Consult the 2011 NJ Wild Turkey Hunting Season Information booklet (pdf, 280kb) for a listing of official turkey check stations to locate one near your hunting area.

WEATHER

Weather can affect turkey-hunting success. Hunter success rates are lower in windy and rainy weather for several reasons, one being that many individuals do not like to hunt under these conditions. More importantly, this type of weather also affects turkey behavior and causes the birds to become more wary and less vocal.

SAFETY TIPS

Remember to put safety first. The National Wild Turkey Federation has issued the following turkey hunter safety tips.

Before the Hunt:

  • Check with your doctor if you have any medical concerns.
  • Hunt within your physical limitations.
  • Let your hunting partners know if you have physical limitations.
  • Let someone know where you are hunting and when you expect to return.
  • Work to have a basic understanding of first aid.
During the hunt:
  • Set up against a tree that is greater in diameter than the width of your shoulders and taller than your head whenever possible for maximum safety.
  • Should you see other hunters (especially close to your line of sight) call out to them in a loud, clear voice. Their presence has already compromised your location and a soft call may only confuse them instead of alerting them to your presence.

KNOW YOUR BIRD

Before you shoot, be sure the bird is a gobbler. Don’t depend on the beard to determine the turkey’s sex since some hens do have beards. The beard of a wild turkey is a group of hair-like feathers ranging from 2 inches to 12 inches in length located on the center of the breast. Bearded hens are not legal game during the spring season.

During the spring breeding season, toms or gobblers are not difficult to distinguish from hens. Look closely at the head of the bird as it comes to your calling. Gobblers’ heads are naked and very colorful. Their heads are a brilliant red, white and blue. The head of a wild turkey hen is blue-gray in color and may have a line of feathers up the back of the neck. Hens are not as colorful as gobblers.

After checking the head color, look at the color of the breast feathers. Dark black feathers indicate a tom, while the hen appears to be dark brown. If the head of the turkey is naked and colorful, the breast is black and the bird has a beard, you may be confident it is a gobbler. If you have any doubts, simply don’t shoot.

REGULATIONS AND OTHER INFORMATION

Hunters should familiarize themselves with the rules and regulations for spring turkey hunting in the Garden State. New Jersey spring gobbler hunters are limited to the use of shotguns or bows and arrows, which now includes crossbows. Hunting hours are a half-hour before sunrise to noon. One male wild turkey may be taken with each permit, but only one turkey may be taken in a given day.

Helpful turkey hunting information and tips can be accessed through the Wild Turkey in New Jersey page at www.njfishandwildlife.com/turkey_info.htm. Additional turkey hunting regulations and other information can be found in the 2011 NJ Wild Turkey Hunting Season Information booklet (pdf, 280kb).

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Last Updated: April 19, 2010