April 17, 2014
The arrival of spring is eagerly anticipated 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 22, and runs for five weeks. Turkey populations are restored statewide, and hunters can enjoy some of the finest turkey hunting on the East Coast right here in the Garden State.
Spring turkey hunting continues to grow in popularity 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 provides an incredibly exciting and rewarding experience. If you have never tried spring turkey hunting, or have been away from it for a while, why not get outside this year and give it a try. Be aware though, that once you do you will more than likely get hooked on the experience!
YOUTH DAY SCHEDULED FOR APRIL 19
Youth hunters will get the first chance to harvest a turkey during the Special Youth Turkey Hunting Day scheduled for Saturday April 19. Youth hunters with a valid Youth License who have obtained a turkey permit may begin their spring turkey hunting 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 If a youth hunter harvests a turkey on this youth hunting day the "Y" period permit is no longer valid for future hunting.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 properly licensed non-hunting adult 21 years of age or older is required. The adult may not shoot on this day.
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 2013 was a bit lower than desired, with 2.6 poults per hen measured during summer brood counts. However, the excellent poult production in 2012 (more than 4 poults/hen) should mean lots of 2-year old birds will be available.
The winter survival rate of poults was not affected by the extreme cold and persistent snows experienced throughout the state - the absense of deep powdery snow and the icy crusts which formed allowed the birds to walk atop the snow and get to food sources; , and there have been no reports of turkey mortality due to winter weather.
LAST SPRING'S HARVEST
Spring wild turkey hunters harvested 3,046 gobblers during last year's five-week season. It was the tenth largest harvest since the spring turkey season was established in 1981, and was comparable to the average harvest of the previous five years (3,161).
Over the counter permits are now available and can be purchased at license agents or online at www.nj.wildlifelicense.com. 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.nj.wildlifelicense.com/ALS/unit_report.php.
TURKEY HUNTING AREA RECOMMENDATIONS
New Jersey's 121 Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) offer diverse landscapes and endless opportunities for turkey hunters. More than 344,000 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 and Forests 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 2014 NJ Wild Turkey Hunting Season Information booklet or online at www.njfishandwildlife.com/pdf/2014/turkey14.pdf (pdf, 510kb). NOTE: On page 6 of the booklet, Parvin State Park was omitted from THA 21.
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 2014 NJ Wild Turkey Hunting Season Information booklet (pdf, 510kb) for a listing of official turkey check stations to locate one near your hunting area.
ALERT: Two turkey check stations listed in the 2014 Turkey Hunting Booklet will not be checking turkeys this season. The two stations, and alternate stations hunters can use, are as follows:
Main Street Hardware in Atlantic County is closed. Hunters from this area should now check their birds at Butterhof's Farm & Home Supply, 5715 White Horse Pike, Egg Harbor City; phone is 609-965-1198.
Also, there are two new check stations in Sussex County and another with a new phone number:
Mountain Mike's Sport Shop, 7 Old Rudetown Road, McAfee (open Tues. - Fri. only 10 - 5); phone is 973-827-6527. And the Swartswood Deli is under new ownership with a new phone number: 973-579-3354.
Another new check station is in Camden County: Bangers Sport Shop, 840 Piney Hollow Rd., Winslow; phone is 609-561-1717.
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.
Remember to put safety first. The National Wild Turkey Federation has issued the following turkey hunter safety tips.
Before the Hunt:
During 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.
- 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 2014 NJ Wild Turkey Hunting Season Information booklet (pdf, 510kb).