Field & Stream: N.H. Turkey Season Could Be a Record-breaker
New Hampshire Fish and Game Turkey Biologist Ted Walski predicts a possible record harvest for the upcoming 2018 spring gobbler season. The spring turkey hunt opens on May 3 and runs through May 31 statewide.
About 20,000 people hunt turkeys in New Hampshire. Last year, spring turkey hunters took 4,482 birds, which is a huge take. New Hampshire’s Youth Turkey Hunting Weekend is set for April 28-29. Last year’s youth weekend hunters registered 494 turkeys, or 11% of the spring season total.
“There should be a good turkey harvest during the May season,” said Walski. “While spring 2017 had some potentially poor hatching weather with rainy/cold periods, late summer showed some fairly good reproductive success.”
Winter 2018 has been relatively easy for wild turkeys. There were three thawing periods during January, which created bare ground sites on south-facing slopes. Again in February a 19-day thawing period produced numerous bare ground sites. Turkeys have also fattened up on the abundant acorn crop still laying on the ground.
Since the middle of February turkey flocks have been congregating, with gobblers displaying and fighting. Numerous flocks were observed during winter 2018, typically of 25 to 30 turkeys per flock, and some flocks of 50 to 75 turkeys. Statewide, New Hampshire is estimated to have approximately 40,000 turkeys.
“That’s about as many wild turkeys as the land can support, or, in biological terms, the carrying capacity has probably been reached,” said Walski.
Now is the time to get in your pre-season scouting if you are planning to take part in the spring gobbler season. “Do some early morning gobbling surveys on the back roads,” says Walski. “Start about one-half hour before sunrise. Drive and stop at one-half to one mile intervals, and get out and listen for four minutes at each stop.”
Get more great tips by attending a free Turkey Hunting 101 seminar at 7 p.m. on April 19 at the N.H. Fish and Game Department, 11 Hazen Drive, Concord, N.H. Learn more at www.huntnh.com .
A New Hampshire turkey license is required for hunters of all ages ($16 for state residents and $31 for nonresidents). This license allows the taking of one gobbler during the spring season and one turkey of either sex during the fall archery season (Sept. 15- Dec. 15) or during the week-long fall shotgun season. Licenses are available online at www.huntnh.com or from any license agent.
All hunters should keep in mind key safety guidelines for turkey hunters:
* Always positively identify your target.
* Never assume that calls and movement indicate the presence of a turkey -- hunters commonly imitate turkey calls and use decoys in order to locate and/or attract turkeys.
* Never stalk a turkey; you could be mistaken for game -- rather than stalking, scout out a good spot, call and wait for the turkeys to come to you.
* Be seen! Turkey hunters should always wear a blaze orange hat or vest as they enter and leave the area they are hunting. Tie blaze-orange survey tape around a decoy/calling location to alert other hunters to your presence; it won’t scare the birds.
* Avoid clothes with the colors red, white, blue, and black, as these are the colors of the male turkey.
Massachusetts hunters will take to the field on April 30 for four weeks. Never has there been a better time for Bay State hunters to bag a bird with the number of birds now greater than 50,000. The same rules apply no matter where you hunt.
Think smart and don’t overcall. Know your territory and hopefully you have asked permission of the landowner. Shooting starts at a half hour before sunrise and you are all done at noon. Unlike New Hampshire, where you can hunt seven days a week because they have a smart legislature, Mass. hunters can only hunt Monday through Saturday.
Outdoor news & notes
Trout stocking has been going on in the rivers and ponds this week with the Nissitissit River, the Squannacook River, Fort Pond, Lake Wallum, Baddacook, and Mirror Lake each receiving rainbows.
The saltwater scene is heating up fast. The first herring are in the river, shad are just beginning and the striped bass are at the southwestern part of Connecticut. I am willing to say that the next time we meet the first striped bass will be at the mouth of the Merrimack. It will be a small schoolie but nonetheless it will be here for May 1st.
Bill Davis, the Central Manager for Mass Wildlife, retires this week after 37 years of very dedicated service. Bill has been a great friend to the sportsman and non-sportsman alike. He has helped with open space projects, turkey, bear, haying, dumping, trout stocking all over the state and has helped untangle many rifts with hunters and landowners. He is part of the “old guard” and will be greatly missed.
On a non-hunting note, you have to take a look outside at the great migration of birds coming back from the south in all their dress colors. It is tremendous. Even the ospreys at Hog Island, Maine, have returned to their nest from the very deep south to once again raise a family and do it all on live TV. It is spring after all!
Bill Biswanger’s email is bboutdoor1@ aol.com