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Hunting public land turkeys

Outta' the Woods

Friday, April 01, 2011

Media contact: Tony Young

Back in November, my girlfriend, Katie Hughes, and I each applied for 2011 spring turkey quota hunt permits.  Katie has never bagged a turkey before, so I really want her to have an opportunity to get one. 

I was hoping the "guest permit" would increase the odds of us being able to hunt together.  If I got drawn, we would obtain a guest permit in her name, and if she got drawn, she would take me as her guest. 

I was not successful this year in drawing a spring turkey quota permit, but I am happy to report that Katie was, drawing the weekend of April 15-17 on L. Kirk Edwards Wildlife and Environmental Area in Tallahassee.

For those who didn't get drawn, missed the application period or want even more hunting opportunities, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has 42 wildlife management areas (WMAs) where you don't need a quota permit to hunt during all or parts of the spring turkey season.  All you need in most cases is a hunting license ($17 for residents, $46 for a 10-day nonresident license), a management area permit ($26) and a turkey permit ($10 for residents, $125 for out-of-state hunters).  On a few of them, you also need a daily quota or daily use permit, both of which are free and given out at the management areas' check stations on a first-come, first-served basis.  For a list of these 42 WMAs, go to MyFWC.com/Hunting.

Hunting spring turkeys on WMAs is much like hunting them on private property, except for a couple of things.  The first exception is that you may not shoot a turkey past 1 p.m. on a WMA.  On private lands, you may hunt them until sunset.  The other thing I need to mention doesn't have anything to do with legal requirements, but is arguably more important, and that is, that you don't know who else is hunting around you on a WMA.

On private property, you may be the only person hunting a particular small tract of land.  In the case of a hunting club or large piece of leased property, you might have to stay within a designated area or you mark where you're going to be hunting that day on the camp's check-in map.  That way, everyone knows where everyone else is going to be.

On WMAs, however, you don't have that luxury, so you should take even more proactive steps to ensure safe hunting.  The FWC and National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) stress to hunters to always positively identify your target before pulling the trigger.

Here are a few things you can do to help prevent such unwanted incidents:

Some of the turkey hunters you're likely to run into out there are so good at their "calling" that it's sometimes hard to tell if it's a nearby hunter making those sounds or if it's the real thing.  Always assume such questionable sounds and movements are being made by another hunter, until you can positively identify the source.

And if you do come across another turkey hunter, and you're not sure if he sees you, wave your arms and whistle, or say something loud enough for him to hear you, to announce your presence.

Speaking of turkey calling, there's one turkey call I plan on leaving at home, and that's my gobble tube.  I don't mind other hunters thinking there may be a crow, owl or hen turkey nearby, but I sure don't want to be shaking a gobble tube (imitating a gobbler) in the brush and have any hunters within hearing distance start heading my way - or, worse yet, make a hunter within gunshot range think there's a big tom in the bushes.

While I might be leaving that gobble tube behind, one other thing we will be bringing and using, even though it's not required, is hunter-orange vests.  We plan to wear them when we walk to and from the truck and any set-up points.  As soon as we settle in and get in position, we'll remove them and place them out of sight of any approaching turkey.

As a safety precaution, the NWTF urges hunters not to stalk turkeys.  But, if Katie and I decide to pick up and go after a bird we hear that may be "henned up" and not responding to our calls - in order to get better position on him - you can bet we'll both be wearing our orange vests. 

Good luck and be safe out there, y'all.



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