Legal wild turkey quarry arrives on Saturday


You just have to love October … the month of harvest that continues to give!

The archery deer season is in full swing, as are the rabbit, squirrel, and mocking bird seasons, and there are still a few days left in the early part of the southern area duck season.

And this Saturday, the fall wild turkey season opens and continues until next Saturday. Permits are still available and, unlike the spring season which lasts several weeks, the hens can be harvested.

The fall season was instituted in 1997, and the early years interest was relatively high. The four-week spring season began in 1981 after a successful reintroduction of wild turkeys obtained from another state, with an average harvest number of 2,900-3,000 gobblers.

In contrast, harvest numbers for both sexes in the fall season can be low (96 in 2020 and 77 in 2019), averaging around 150 since the start of the fall hunt. In 2000, 239 birds were tagged, with 2001 having the highest number with 258.

Why this huge difference? Factor # 1 is that there is so much going on in October between the aforementioned hunting seasons and the increasingly warm salt and freshwater fishing that who has time for turkeys? Factor # 2 is that many undead hunters consider spring the ‘real’ turkey season as bringing in an ever-wary gobbler within range is one of the hunting’s biggest challenges.

Fall turkeys? You walk them around, disperse a flock of chickens, mature gobblers and jakes (“teenagers”), notice where some of the birds have flown, settle down, and after waiting for about 20 minutes, start calling, in hoping that one or more of the gregarious of the flock will respond and come back to you.

Sometimes it’s an opportunistic encounter that has happened to us more than once walking slowly through the woods and along the fields, chasing squirrels, and then meeting a herd momentarily more interested in pecking and scratching than be aware of the environment.

Some employ specially trained dogs to locate and dismantle a herd and give a brief chase. We had the opportunity to participate in such a hunt and it is thrilling to watch the dog work and then once the birds have dispersed return to the chosen spot where he lies down and patiently waits for the rest of the hunt is taking place.

The limit is one bird per permit, but only one turkey can be harvested per day. Hunting hours range from half an hour before sunrise to half an hour after sunset. Artificial lures can be used and a turkey call must be in possession. A harvested bird must be immediately tagged and reported through the automated harvest reporting system. Permits ($ 21) are always available from licensing agents or at The turkey hunting area (THA) map can be found on page 51 of the Hunting & Trapping Digest. In South Jersey, THA numbers are 14, 15, 16, 20-22. Lots of land and lots of birds, that’s for sure.

Wouldn’t it be cool to make the main course for the Thanksgiving feast ?!

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