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Early spring presents turkey hunting challenges

 

As Indiana’s spring turkey season approaches, DNR Wildlife Research Biologist Steve Backs said hunters should plan to work a little harder this year.

Spring turkey season begins with the youth season April 21 and 22. The regular spring turkey season is April 25 through May 13.

Backs is forecasting a spring turkey harvest of 11,000, plus or minus 1,000. His prediction is about 6 percent less than the 11,669 birds harvested in 2011, and 20 percent less than the 2010 spring harvest, when hunters bagged a record 13,742 turkeys.

Expectations are lower this year for two reasons – several years of below normal brood production and the advanced progression of vegetation.

Indianahas experienced seven consecutive summers of below normal turkey production primarily due to above normal precipitation in June. Several other states in the Midwest and South have experienced similar or worse drops in production.

Due to the record warm weather, the spring progression of vegetation is three to four weeks ahead of schedule. More greenery will make seeing and hearing turkeys more difficult, but also provide more concealment for hunters.

“The increased concealment gets us into a potential hunter safety issue,” Backs said. “Hunters are going to have to be very vigilant in correctly identifying their target and also recognize that the hunter’s presence may not be as easily detected by another hunter in the same area.”

When hunters do hear a turkey, they could be more likely to overestimate the distance to the bird and may end up spooking or “over-running” the location of the gobbler as they approach, Backs said.

“It may be just a different year,” he said. “Anybody that’s been around turkey hunting realizes you can’t predict the weather, you can’t predict the timing of spring greenup, you can’t predict how turkeys will respond.”

Hunters shouldn’t get too discouraged.

There are reasons for optimism this year, Backs said. Mushroom season came early, and morel hunters are likely to be out of the woods by the time turkey season comes. Additionally, hunters might find some extra gobblers in areas where flooding limited hunting last year.

Hunters are allowed one bearded or male turkey. A wild turkey license and a game bird habitat stamp are required unless otherwise exempted. Exemptions are detailed in the online Turkey Hunting Guide.

The online Turkey Hunting Guide also contains license requirements, bag limits, hunting hours, equipment regulations, a comprehensive list of public hunting areas, and contact information for DNR district wildlife biologists and DNR law enforcement districts.

To hunt wild turkey, Indiana residents need a resident spring turkey license and a valid game bird habitat stamp. A lifetime comprehensive hunting or lifetime comprehensive hunting and fishing license will also work.

Non-resident hunters must purchase a non-resident turkey license and a game bird habitat stamp. A lifetime comprehensive hunting license or a lifetime comprehensive hunting/fishing license will also work. Additionally, non-residents from some states, including Illinois, Kentucky and Ohio, must also purchase an annual non-resident hunting license. 

The restoration of wild turkey is one of the greatest wildlife success stories in Indiana. By 1900, uncontrolled hunting and habitat loss had nearly wiped out wild turkeys in Indiana. This restoration project was funded both by license fees and by federal funds from the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration (WSFR) programs. Funding for WSFR comes from an excise tax charged to manufacturers of fishing equipment, bows and arrows, ammunition, recreational guns, and motor boat fuel. For more information on wild turkey hunting or the Division of Fish and Wildlife, visit hunting.IN.gov.