Turkey season opens, and other outdoor news

Mon, 03/10/2008 - 11:55am
By: The Citizen


Statewide turkey hunting season opens this month

SOCIAL CIRCLE, Ga. (March 6, 2008) - Turkey hunters across the state are dusting off their calls in preparation for another exciting turkey season. Opening day is Sat., Mar. 22 and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division (WRD) anticipates another enjoyable season.

According to WRD Wild Turkey Project Coordinator Chris Baumann, Georgia’s current turkey population is estimated at 300,000 birds. While the 2008 season should be respectable, the harvest levels are expected to decrease in comparison with past year’s harvests. A variety of factors affecting the wild turkey population and wild turkey habitat account for this, including consistently low reproduction for the past few years, recent statewide extreme weather conditions and considerable habitat loss and habitat alteration in many areas of the state.

“Overall, the state’s turkey population is good but in need of a few years of better reproduction and more of an emphasis on good brooding and nesting habitat across the landscape,” explains Baumann. “While success rates remain variable from season to season, one major contributing factor continues to be the weather. As we continue to see relief from the extreme drought, hopefully reproduction will rebound and the future will remain bright for this important game bird.”

Statistics from the 2007 season harvest summary indicate that an estimated 48,459 resident Georgia hunters bagged some 23,655 turkeys last year. The bird to hunter ratio for 2007 — .49 birds per hunter — was down by 22 percent from 2006.

Georgia turkey hunters, privileged with one of the longest turkey seasons nationwide, have nearly two months to bag themselves a bird or two, or maybe even three. With a bag limit of three gobblers per season, hunters have from Mar. 22 through May 15 to harvest their bird(s).

Because most hunters pursue wild turkeys on private lands, WRD reminds hunters to always obtain landowner permission before hunting.

WMA Hunting Opportunities

Georgia’s Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) offer excellent turkey hunting opportunities. Through the WMA system, resident hunters have access to nearly one million acres of prime hunting land for just $19/year.

According to Baumann, harvest success rates from 2007 indicate which WMAs hunters should target this year. In northwest Georgia — the Ridge and Valley region of the state — Pine Log WMA and Berry College WMA reported the highest harvest rates. In northeast Georgia — the Blue Ridge Mountains region of the state — Warwoman WMA and Swallow Creek WMA had the highest success rates in 2007.

Hunters in west central Georgia — the Piedmont region of the state — should try Blanton Creek WMA and Rum Creek WMA during the season. For those in east central Georgia — the upper coastal plain region — should visit Di-Lane Plantation WMA and Yuchi WMA. In southeast Georgia — the state’s lower coastal plain region — hunters should visit the two WMAs that reported the highest success rates last year — Dixon Memorial WMA and Griffin Ridge WMA.

A special WMA license is required for any person 16 years or older who does not possess a valid honorary, sportsman or lifetime license when hunting wild turkey on a WMA, Public Fishing Area or State Park. In addition, both a valid hunting license and a big game license are required to legally hunt wild turkey. Wild turkey legally can be hunted with shotguns, loaded with No. 2 or smaller shot, any muzzleloading firearm, longbow, crossbow or compound bow.


SOCIAL CIRCLE, Ga. (March 6, 2008) - Successful hunting trips require a combination of skill, patience and most importantly, preparation. As turkey season rapidly approaches, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division (WRD) is concentrating on the preparation aspect, encouraging hunters to brush up on important turkey hunting safety tips before hitting the woods.

In preparation for the upcoming season, WRD Hunter Education Coordinator Capt. James Bell offers some sound instruction. “Hunters should always be sure to identify their target before pulling the trigger and should never shoot at sound or movement,” advises Bell. “Turkey hunters have to utilize their firearms safety knowledge and remember ways to keep themselves and others safe while in the woods.”

Hunters are encouraged to review the following turkey hunting season safety precautions before the season opens on Sat., March 22:

· Never wear red, white, blue or black clothing while turkey hunting. Red is the color most hunters look for when distinguishing a gobbler’s head from a hen’s blue-colored head, but at times it may appear white or blue. Male turkey feathers covering most of the body are black in appearance. Camouflage should be used to cover everything, including the hunter’s face, hands and firearm.

· Select a calling position that provides at least a shoulder-width background, such as the base of a tree. Be sure that at least a 180-degree range is visible.

· Do not stalk a gobbling turkey. Due to their keen eyesight and hearing, the chances of getting close are slim to none, but a hunter in motion greatly increases his/her chances of being mistaken for game.

· Be careful using a turkey call. The sound and motion may attract other hunters. Do not move, wave or make turkey-like sounds to alert another hunter to your presence. Instead, yell in a loud voice so other hunters know you are in the area.

· Be careful when carrying a harvested turkey from the woods. Do not allow the wings to hang loosely or the head to be displayed in such a way that another hunter may think it is a live bird. If possible, conceal the turkey in a blaze orange garment or other material.

· Although it’s not required, it is suggested that hunters wear blaze orange when moving to and from their vehicle and hunting site. When moving between hunting sites, hunters should wear blaze orange on their upper bodies to lessen chances of being mistaken for game.

Wild turkey hunters must possess a valid hunting license and a big game license to legally hunt turkeys in Georgia. If hunting on a wildlife management area (WMA), hunters should also possess a WMA license. Sportsmen and women should always obtain permission from the landowner before hunting on private land. Only male turkeys may be harvested and the season bag limit is three gobblers per hunter.

For additional turkey hunting information or turkey hunting safety tips, visit www.gohuntgeorgia.com , contact the nearest WRD Law Enforcement Office or call (770) 784-3068.

Conservation of the Wild Turkey in Georgia

The comeback of the wild turkey is one of Georgia’s great conservation success stories. Although the bird population currently hovers around 300,000 statewide, as recently as 1973, the wild turkey population was as low as 17,000. Intensive restoration efforts, such as the restocking of wild birds and increased emphasis on biologically sound hunting seasons, have helped re-establish turkeys in suitable habitat in every county. This resurgence is due to the efforts of private landowners, hunters and conservation organizations like the National Wild Turkey Federation.

The Georgia Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) has donated more than $3 million since 1985, and over $290,000 during the past year, on projects that benefit wild turkey and other wildlife. The NWTF works cooperatively in partnership with WRD and other land management agencies to put such projects on the ground. There currently exist 112 state chapters of the NWTF with membership totals more than 18,000.

For more information regarding wild turkey hunting opportunities, WMA hunting opportunities, 2008 wild turkey hunting seasons, regulations or license requirements in Georgia, visit www.gohuntgeorgia.com .


WILD Fact: When cranes call

If you hear a chorus of trumpeting rattles high overhead, try to find a flock of migrating sandhill cranes nearby. You may see dozens or even hundreds of these long-necked, long-legged, gray birds heading toward breeding grounds in the northern U.S. and Canada.

Despite their large size and loud calls, spotting sandhill cranes in flight can be difficult. They typically migrate thousands of feet high, riding thermals to gain altitude. But their prehistoric sounds can be heard from a mile away. According to fossil records, the sandhill crane is the oldest known bird species alive.

WILD Facts is a regular feature written by Linda May, a wildlife interpretive specialist with the Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division.



SOCIAL CIRCLE, Ga. (March 6, 2008) - News in the latest issue of “Georgia Wild” ranges from a crucial conservation planning project along Georgia’s coast to details on a slimy mountains stream creature nicknamed the snot otter.

The Georgia Wildlife Resources Division e-newsletter exploring nongame wildlife and natural habitats is free and sent bimonthly. Subscribe at www.georgiawildlife.com. (Click “Nongame Animals & Plants” and the e-news sign-up link.) The Web site also has an issues archive.

Meanwhile, for those wondering what a snot otter is, the better known name is hellbender, the state’s largest amphibian. Find out more in the March-April “Georgia Wild.”



FORSYTH, Ga. (March 6, 2008) — Who’s teaching Georgia’s teachers how to go wild in the classroom? Mary Terry, of course — the new Project WILD coordinator for Georgia’s educators.

After serving more than 14 years as an interpretive park ranger/naturalist for Davidson-Arabia Mountain Nature Preserve in Lithonia, Terry joined the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division in February, bringing to the state’s Project WILD program a wealth of knowledge, and most importantly, a contagious enthusiasm and love for Georgia’s wildlife.

Project WILD is one of the most widely used conservation and environmental education programs among educators of students in kindergarten through high school throughout Georgia and the United States. The award-winning curriculum helps teachers and youth leaders teach a wide range of subjects such as math, science, social studies, language arts and expressive arts while also explaining the importance of the environment.

As Georgia’s Project WILD coordinator, Terry plans and conducts training workshops statewide for educators and others interested in teaching children about wildlife. At the workshops, participants receive two activity guides consisting of more than 170 hands-on activities. Teachers become students, participating in exciting wildlife conservation activities that become valuable resources to take back to the classroom.

In 2006, Project WILD celebrated a milestone, having trained one million educators since its introduction in 1983. In Georgia, more than 20,000 educators have been trained. Using the Project WILD curriculum, these educators have provided environmental education instruction to more than 3 million students across the state, enabling the students to experience the outdoors and gain a deeper appreciation for wildlife and the need to conserve natural resources.

The Georgia Department of Education recognizes Project WILD workshops for Professional Learning Unit credits. Educators can learn more about Project WILD and view a list of upcoming workshops at the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division’s Web site, www.georgiawildlife.com. (Click on the link for education.)

What drives Project WILD’s Mary Terry to share her knowledge about Georgia’s wildlife? Here’s a closer look.

Q: What makes you love what you do?

A: I have been teaching Project WILD since it began! When I first went to training, I thought, “How cool is this! What a great way to inform kids and adults about wildlife management and habitats. This is something everyone needs to experience!”

Q: What began your in interest in nature? In education?

A: I was lucky to have grown up on a farm where I had access to hundreds of acres of land where I could experience the out of doors and nature. I loved every minute of being on the farm. ...My first job in the field was at an environmental education center. There, one of our tasks was to rescue and rehabilitate wildlife. I was hooked! I wanted to teach everyone about wildlife. From there, my interests just kept growing. I had always loved wildlife, but now I had a passion to teach!

Q: What have these many years of experience shown you about teaching teachers?

A: Teachers love Project WILD! It gives them activities and lesson plans that are fun and educational for the students. The teacher trainings are so much fun. One of the main things I realized about teachers was something that I find very dear to my heart - resources, resources, resources. They love posters, lesson plans and freebies. And so do I!

Q: Why have you stuck with this field?

A: Working with kids, adults, teachers and wildlife professionals who love to explore habitats is a great job! I cannot imagine not working in this field. I get to be outdoors, meet interesting people, see great sites, experience wildlife closely and work in the greatest of environments.



A continuing success since its conversion from a rattlesnake roundup

FITZGERALD, Ga. (March 6, 2008) - The Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division, in partnership with local organizers and community leaders, announces the upcoming annual Fitzgerald Wild Chicken Festival. The celebration began as an annual Rattlesnake Roundup but was converted by progressive organizers in 2000 to a festival that honors the town’s unique resident wild Burmese chicken population.

Scheduled for March 14-15 in the heart of historic downtown Fitzgerald, the festival will attract thousands of participants who will enjoy a variety of good food, arts, crafts, and other activities and attractions amid beautiful blooming azaleas and newly hatched wild Burmese chickens.

“Fitzgerald and surrounding Ben Hill County are unique in that we enjoy a diversity of wildlife and also boast the state’s only known resident population of wild Burmese chickens,” festival organizer Barry Peavey said. “The festival committee is proud to say that the festival has experienced enormous success since the change in focus that highlights a positive and unique feature of our community, and the participants continue to come out and enjoy the many exciting events we have planned during this beautiful season in Fitzgerald.”

For 28 years the festival had been known as “The Rattlesnake Roundup” where people came to see many eastern diamondback rattlesnakes collected by snake hunters. However, due to declining diamondback populations and the highly destructive collecting technique of gassing gopher tortoise burrows, organizers decided the responsible course of action would be to change the focus of the event and rename it the Wild Chicken Festival.

In the 1960s, wild Burmese chickens were stocked all over the state as an additional game bird to be hunted like pheasant or quail. Populations of the birds dwindled and disappeared in other parts of the state, but somehow they prospered in Fitzgerald’s downtown area. According to John Jensen, a Wildlife Resources Division senior wildlife biologist, the change in festival focus was a positive step in spreading awareness of the ecologically important role that rattlesnakes play as natural predators in the landscape of Ben Hill County and surrounding areas.

“Rattlesnake roundups originated as local, community-level efforts to remove snakes that posed a legitimate danger to humans and pets because they took up residence a little too close for comfort — near houses, offices, playgrounds and schools, etc.,” Jensen said. “Today, actual nuisance rattlesnakes are only a small fraction of those collected, with the bulk coming from far away, even from ‘wild’ lands, where they pose virtually no danger to people but are actively searched for and removed.

“The ‘roundup’ aspect of these festivals today is so limited in participation and interest that it could easily be replaced with captive snakes without impacting the success of the events, and without contributing to further declines of this magnificent predator and the many other species that seek shelter in gopher tortoise burrows.”

Annual rattlesnake roundups continue in the south Georgia communities of Claxton and Whigham, although the Department of Natural Resources, other wildlife agencies, and many conservation organizations and concerned citizens are encouraging those organizers to covert to other wildlife and family friendly festivals, or at least to drop the “roundup” aspect of their rattlesnake themes and focus on constructive “infotainment.”

“It is obvious that Fitzgerald’s Wild Chicken Festival enjoys even more success than its rattlesnake roundup predecessor,” said Jensen. “We are optimistic that those communities still holding rattlesnake roundups will be encouraged by Fitzgerald’s successful move, and they, too, will adopt more environmentally friendly themes.”

The 2008 Fitzgerald Wild Chicken Festival will feature something for everyone, including food vendors, arts and crafts attractions, rock wall and bungee jumps, pony rides, face painting, pancake breakfast, a hot-wing eating contest, a wild chicken crowing contest, the Chicken Sprint 5K, Cub Scout Pine Wood Derby, Lovem’ or Hatem’ Chicken Vote and Pet Adoptathon, and even festival clown entertainment for the children. Music entertainment will feature Danny Stone, Todd Lambers, Pop Shop, Okefenokee Joe and community Street Dance.

Admission to the festival is free (additional activity fees may apply). For more information, call (800) 386-4642 or visit the festival Web site at www.wildchickenfestival.com


login to post comments