2009 Spring Wild Turkey Hunting Season Opens April 13
March 25, 2009
Youth Day Scheduled for April 11
Spring has officially arrived, which means it's nearly time for New Jersey's Spring Wild Turkey Hunting Season to begin. This year the regular season starts on April 13 and runs for six weeks. With turkey populations restored statewide, Garden State hunters can enjoy some of the finest turkey hunting on the East Coast right here in the Garden State.
In addition to the regular season and prior to its opening, young hunters will get the chance to harvest a bird on their own Special Youth Turkey Hunting Day scheduled for April 11. Youth hunters with a valid Youth License who have obtained a turkey permit may begin their spring turkey season on this day. Direct supervision of the youth hunter by an adult 21 years or older who also possesses a valid New Jersey hunting license is required.
The statewide wild turkey population is currently estimated at more than 22,000 birds, and the outlook for this spring's turkey season is good statewide. Poult production in 2008 was good in northern and central parts of the state and less than optimal in southern areas. However, production in southern parts of New Jersey has been good during most recent years, so the season outlook is good there as well.
The winter survival rate of poults has been good throughout the state, and there have been no reports of turkey mortality due to winter weather. Snowfall totals this past winter did not seem to have an impact on turkey survival. In fact, even smaller poults from late hatches in 2008 probably had high survival rates this past winter due to the lack of extreme conditions.
Last year, biologists viewed long term trends in harvest data. Every township statewide was analyzed for the past 10 years to determine which areas had a spring harvest that was increasing, decreasing, or stable. The data received from the fifty-one statewide mandatory checking stations was critically important for this study, and it continues to be a huge asset to managing wild turkeys in New Jersey.
The results of the analysis showed that townships in far northern New Jersey, including Turkey Hunting Areas 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, and 7, had fairly stable harvests over the past few years. Townships in north-central New Jersey have experienced large declines in spring harvest during the same time period. The areas with declining harvests include Turkey Hunting Areas 4, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12.
Areas of Pennsylvania directly across the Delaware River from these Turkey Hunting Areas are also experiencing declines in spring harvest according to Pennsylvania biologists. Reasons for this decline may include poor summer weather conditions for young poults, and loss of turkey habitat.
In southern New Jersey most Turkey Hunting Areas experienced stable or increasing spring harvests over the past several years. These areas include Turkey Hunting Areas 14, 15, 16, 20, 21 and 22.
LAST SPRING'S HARVEST
Spring wild turkey hunters harvested 3,433 gobblers during the six-week season that began on April 12 and ended on May 23, 2008. It was the third largest harvest since the spring turkey season was established in 1981, and was slightly above the average harvest of the last five years.
Approximately 21,718 spring turkey-hunting permits were issued for the 2008 season with hunters achieving a success rate of 15.8 percent. This is the highest success rate achieved since 2003.
For information on spring turkey permit availability see the Spring Turkey Permit Information page.
TURKEY HUNTING AREA RECOMMENDATIONS
New Jersey’s Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) offer excellent hunting opportunities. Presently there are more than 324,000 acres in 120 areas, and new properties and additions to existing properties are continually being added. This acreage represents more than 44% of New Jersey's state-owned public open space.
In Northern New Jersey rugged mountainous regions containing vast areas of unbroken forest provide hunters excellent opportunities for harvesting a gobbler. Hunters may want to try the Hamburg Mountain, Walpack and Sparta Mountain WMAs in this part of the state.
In the central region, the Assunpink Wildlife Management Area offers good hunting opportunities. Easily accessible from both the north and the south, it contains diverse terrain as well as plenty of huntable ground.
In South Jersey abundant public land and a low density of hunters makes for great turkey hunting. The nearly 50,000 combined acres of the Peaslee and Millville (Bevans) Wildlife Management Areas make good choices in this part of the Garden State.
Other good turkey hunting areas include the Newark Watershed properties, Stokes State Forest and the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. Please note though, that these areas are not part of the wildlife management area system and may have other regulations that pertain to them.
For a statewide list of public land open for turkey hunting, check the 2009 NJ Wild Turkey Hunting Season Information booklet (pdf, 220kb) available at license agents and Division of Fish and Wildlife offices. Also check the Public Hunting Land in NJ page (not all areas open to turkey hunting).
MANDATORY GOBBLER CHECK IN
All harvested gobblers must be tagged immediately with a completed transportation tag. The turkey must then be taken by the person who killed it to the nearest turkey check station before 3 p.m. on the day it is killed. Staff at the check station will issue a legal possession tag. Consult the 2009 NJ Wild Turkey Hunting Season Information booklet (pdf, 220kb) for a listing of official turkey check stations to locate one near your hunting area.
Often hunters are curious about how the weather can affect turkey-hunting success. Windy and rainy weather diminishes hunter success rates for the simple fact that many individuals do not like to hunt under these conditions. In addition, this type of weather affects turkey behavior and causes the birds to become more wary and less vocal.
Remember to put safety first. The National Wild Turkey Federation has issued the following turkey hunter safety tips.
Before the Hunt:
During the hunt:
- Check with your doctor if you have any medical concerns.
- Hunt within your physical limitations.
- Let your hunting partners know if you have physical limitations.
- Let someone know where you are hunting and when you expect to return.
- Work to have a basic understanding of first aid.
- Set up against a tree that is greater in diameter than the width of your shoulders and taller than your head whenever possible for maximum safety.
- Should you see other hunters (especially close to your line of sight) call out to them in a loud, clear voice. Their presence has already compromised your location and a soft call may only confuse them instead of alerting them to your presence.
KNOW YOUR BIRD
Before you shoot, be sure the bird is a gobbler. Don’t depend on the beard to determine the turkey’s sex since some hens do have beards. The beard of a wild turkey is a group of hair-like feathers ranging from 2 inches to 12 inches in length located on the center of the breast. Bearded hens are not legal game during the spring season.
During the spring breeding season, toms or gobblers are not difficult to distinguish from hens. Look closely at the head of the bird as it comes to your calling. Gobblers’ heads are naked and very colorful. Their heads are a brilliant red, white and blue. The head of a wild turkey hen is blue-gray in color and may have a line of feathers up the back of the neck. Hens are not as colorful as gobblers.
After checking the head color, look at the color of the breast feathers. Dark black feathers indicate a tom, while the hen appears to be dark brown. If the head of the turkey is naked and colorful, the breast is black and the bird has a beard, you may be confident it is a gobbler. If you have any doubts, simply don’t shoot.
REGULATIONS AND OTHER INFORMATION
Hunters should familiarize themselves with the rules and regulations for spring turkey hunting in the Garden State. New Jersey spring gobbler hunters are limited to the use of shotguns or bows and arrows. Hunting hours are a half-hour before sunrise to noon. One male wild turkey may be taken with each permit, but only one turkey may be taken in a given day.
Helpful turkey hunting information and tips can be accessed through the Wild Turkey in New Jersey page at www.njfishandwildlife.com/turkey_info.htm. Additional turkey hunting regulations and other information can be found in the 2009 NJ Wild Turkey Hunting Season Information booklet (pdf, 220kb).