In April 1 Issue
With Kentucky's spring wild turkey season just over two weeks away, state wildlife officials are saying this could be the most productive spring seasons in more than a decade.
The season officially kicks off on April 17 and spans 23 days before it closes on May 9 with the youth-only weekend, for those 15 years of age and under, slated for this upcoming weekend.
A total of 169 birds were harvested in Russell County last season with all but one of them being gobblers. The other was a bearded hen, according to the department of fish and wildlife.
That number could rise this spring as state wildlife biologists predict a big season.
“It’s looking like one of the best seasons in the past eight to 10 years,” said Steven Dobey, the wild turkey biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “There will be lots of 2-year-old birds, and they do most of the gobbling.”
Kentucky's statewide turkey population is around 220,000 while around 90,000 people hunt the birds in the state, according to officials.
Dobey cites record reproduction two years ago as the main reason for the optimistic outlook on this upcoming season.
“It was a great hatch,” Dobey said. “The conservation officers and wildlife biologists who took part in our annual brood survey observed an average of 3.7 turkey chicks per hen, and the highest ever total number of chicks.”
Last season, hunters harvested just over 29,000 bearded birds during the spring season, good enough for a state record. Ten years ago, the state averaged only about 10,000 turkey harvests.
“We have a very stable percentage of adult gobblers in the harvest,” Dobey said. “That's something turkey managers like to see.”
More than two decades ago, an effort to restore the wild turkey population in Kentucky began and the flock continues to grow larger and larger.
“Of the seven states surrounding Kentucky, we tied for first place in 2009 with Tennessee in the number of birds harvested per square mile,” Dobey said. “That is quite an accomplishment considering Tennessee has a much longer season and hunters can take double our bag limit.”
For its size, Russell County does fairly well in the number of spring and fall turkey harvests.
With a lot of open land, woodlands and waterways, this area is a haven for turkey flocks.
Turkeys need large timber for roosting, and depend on acorns and other hard mast as a seasonal food source, according to Dobey.
He said good nesting areas are stands of hardwood trees or overgrown fields that provide concealment and cover from the elements and humans.
The state season limit this spring is two bearded turkeys per hunter, with hunters only allowed to harvest one bird per day and any turkey with a visible beard may be taken, including bearded hens.
Hunting over bait, such as grain, seed or manufactured animal feed, is illegal, state officials say. Feeding wildlife outside the area of a home, basically the area immediately surrounding a home or group of homes, is illegal from March 1 through May 31.
For complete regulations regarding Kentucky's spring wild turkey season visit the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources website at fw.ky.gov, or pick up a copy of the spring turkey hunting guide whenever hunting licenses are sold.
Information from Kentucky Afield contributed to this article.
The following are safe turkey hunting tips courtesy of the department of fish and wildlife:
• Don’t stalk a turkey. The chances of getting close enough for a shot are slim, and your chances of becoming involved in an accident increase.
• Eliminate the colors red, white and blue from your turkey hunting outfit. Red is the color most hunters count on to differentiate a gobbler’s head from the hen’s blue-colored head. White can look like the snowball-colored top of a gobbler’s head. Leave those white tee-shirts and socks at home. Not only will these colors put you in danger, but they can be seen by turkeys as well.
•3. Don’t move, wave or make turkey sounds to alert another hunter of your presence. A quick movement may draw fire. Yell in a loud voice and remain hidden.
• Do not attempt to approach closer than 100 yards to a roosting turkey. The wild turkey’s eyesight and hearing are much too sharp to let you get much closer.
• Be particularly careful when using the gobbler call. The sound and motion may attract other hunters.
• When selecting your calling position, don’t try to hide so well that you cannot see what’s happening. Remember, eliminating motion is your key to success, not total concealment.
• Select a calling position that provides a background as wide as your shoulders, and one that will completely protect you from the top of your head down. Small trees won’t hide slight movements of your hands or shoulders, which could look like a turkey to another hunter who might be stalking your calls. Position yourself so you can see 180 degrees in front of you.
• Camouflage conceals you. It does not make you invisible. When turkey hunting, think and act defensively. Avoid all unnecessary movement. Remember, you are visible to both turkeys and hunters when you move even slightly. Sitting perfectly still will help you more than all the camouflage you can wear.
• Never shoot at a sound or movement. Be 100 percent certain of your target before you pull the trigger.
• When turkey hunting, assume that every sound you hear is made by another hunter. Once you pull the trigger, you can never call that shot back.