Turkey Changes Highlight Hunting Reg Proposals
Later start date, two-bird limit, daily limit and even tighter public-land regs proposed.
Brad Gill | March 24, 2021
Changes to the 2022-2023 turkey seasons were the most significant proposals in WRD’s hunting regulations package presented to the DNR Board on March 23. All of the proposed hunting regulations would take Georgia hunters through the next two hunting seasons, beginning in the fall of 2021 and running through turkey season 2023.
For years, southeastern states have seen noticeable declines in their turkey populations, which has prompted all of those states to make changes to their turkey hunting regulations. Georgia WRD has now taken action with its proposals.
The below proposed hunting-regulation changes in italics on turkey and deer were provided to GON by Alan Isler, WRD’s Game Management Chief.
“1) On private lands we are proposing to open the turkey season the first Saturday after March 26 (one week later).
2) On public lands (i.e., WMAs and National Forest Lands) we are proposing to open turkey season the second Saturday in April (two weeks later).
3) We are proposing changing the statewide bag limit to two gobblers per hunter per season with a daily bag limit of one.
4) On WMA and NF (national forest) lands, we are proposing to limit hunters to one gobbler per area per season. Meaning a hunter can kill one bird on all of the Chattahoochee NF outside of the WMAs. They can kill one bird on all of Oconee NF outside of WMAs. They can kill only one bird on any single WMA. If they do kill a bird on any one WMA or the forest, they can go kill their second bird on some other piece of public land. (NFS requested their regulations match WMA.)”
Georgia’s turkey season has opened statewide on the first Saturday after March 19 since the early 1990s, so moving the private lands opening date to the first Saturday after March 26 will be an adjustment to those hunters. Disgruntled public-land hunters have already taken to social media to share their dislike about not getting to hunt until the second Saturday in April, two weeks after private-land hunters hit the woods.
“Because hunting pressure is greater on public lands, we opted to make that opening date closer to peak incubation, which occurs around the second week of April in Georgia. This protects more gobblers and reduces breeding season disturbance, which is intended to improve both gobbler survival and successful breeding by dominant males,” said Emily Rushton, WRD’s state wild turkey coordinator.
The days of shooting multiple gobblers with one shot or on the same day could be a thing of the past, at least for the next two springs.
“A daily bag limit (to one bird) is expected to reduce the total harvest by about 850 birds (the 5-year average for second or third bird harvested on the same day),” said Emily. “In addition to reducing harvest, and retaining more gobblers in a flock, a daily bag limit will allow more gobblers to be retained in the population to continue to contribute to reproduction in future years.”
Under the proposed regs, public-land hunters would have to abide by the one-bird daily limit and only be permitted to kill one gobbler per season on a particular WMA or national forest land. For example, if a hunter killed a bird on the Chattahoochee National Forest, he could not take his second bird on the Chattahoochee NF. That hunter would have to go to a WMA or down south to the Oconee National Forest to kill bird No.2, on a different day. This tighter regulation on public-land hunters has also spurred those with social media accounts to claim, “WRD is punishing us.”
“That could not be more untrue,” said Tina Johannsen, WRD’s Game Management assistant chief. “Hunting pressure and harvest per unit area on public land is slightly less than twice that seen across our private lands. We have to do more on public land to improve turkey production. We put a huge amount of resources into habitat efforts on WRD-managed lands, but if we don’t effectively manage hunting pressure and disturbance, we won’t see the full benefit of other management actions. We don’t have the control over private lands; we rely on landowners and hunters to manage themselves, their habitat and their turkey populations within the season dates and limits statewide. Reducing the limit to one per area is not only to help reduce overall gobbler mortality on any given area, but it also better allocates opportunity amongst public-land hunters.”
Proposed Changes To Deer Regulations
Another proposal of interest to many will be an adjustment of current statewide antler regulations that require one of two bucks to have a minimum of 4 points on one side. The rule would be changed to include bucks with a 15-inch spread. This has been a consistent discussion point because some bucks, like old, mature 6-points, will never grow 4 points on one side.
“For deer, we are proposing a standard definition for a quality buck (4 points on one side or a 15-inch spread). This will be the standard on all WMA and private lands except for Macon and Dooly County,” said Alan Isler.
A copy of the proposed regulations should be available later today at https://georgiawildlife.com/regulations/meetings.
Comment On Proposed Hunt Regs
April 30 is the last day for hunters to make comments on WRD’s proposed hunting regulations that will carry hunters through the next two hunting seasons. Hunters have several options to make comments: attend one of the three public meetings below, send an email to [email protected], or write a letter to Tina Johannsen, 2067 Hwy 278 SE, Social Circle, GA 30025.
In-person public meetings are below:
• April 13: Gordon Central High School, 335 Warrior Path NE #9266, Calhoun, GA 30701.
• April 14: Southwest GA Bank Conference Center, Southern Regional Technical College, 800 Veterans Parkway North, Moultrie, GA 31788.
• April 15: Lothair United Methodist Church, GA Hwy 199 & Hwy 199 Spur, Soperton, GA 30457.
There will be a virtual meeting at 7 p.m. on April 13, but comments on the proposed regs will still need to be made in person or by email to [email protected]. There will be a question/answer portion at the end of the virtual meeting similar to what is done at in-person meetings.
Again, the deadline for comments is April 30.
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