Hunting & Fishing
Now Is The Time To Hunt NC Turkeys
There has never been a better time to hunt turkeys in North Carolina.
Turkey hunters are known for their stealth and control in the woods, but it’s hard for even the most successful hunter to remain calm about the exploding population of wild turkeys in the state and the opportunities it brings.
The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission has spent more than 40 years helping bolster natural reproduction by releasing more than 6,000 turkeys across the state. Evin Stanford, wildlife biologist for the commission, puts the current population at 260,000 birds. Now hunters are reaping the rewards of all that work.
Today, you’ll find turkeys in all 100 of North Carolina’s counties, but your best shot at a bird is in the northern Piedmont and Foothills. This area’s diverse cover allows turkeys to thrive. A mix of hardwoods that includes oak and hickory, with more spruce and pines at higher elevations, covers most of the land. Open areas – both naturally occurring and remnants of Native Americans’ agricultural efforts –break up the forests.
In 2010, Northampton, Halifax and Rockingham counties led the harvest with a combined 1,329 turkeys, which is close to what the entire state’s turkey population was in 1970.
There are more than 2 million acres of game lands open to hunting in the state, and most have turkeys strutting across them. On some of the game lands you’ll need a permit, which brings along its own set of rules. The Wildlife Commission offers game land maps and details for applying for permits at its website, NCWildlife.org.
North Carolina opens a statewide spring season each year. It runs from the first Saturday in April through the first Saturday in May. Hunters can take two turkeys over the course of the season, but each turkey must be harvested on a different day. Hunters can expect birds up to 25 pounds with beards 2 to 13 inches long, said Clay McPherson of Cutawhiskie Creek Outfitters in Ahoskie, NC.
The state organizes a Youth Day the Saturday prior to opening the statewide season. Accompanied by a licensed adult hunter, this day lets the next generation get in the field without competition from other sportsmen.
Investing some of your time scouting nighttime roosting areas will pay off when you start calling birds into range. Hunters can harvest a bird in season from a half hour before sunrise till a half hour after sunset. Since most turkeys roost in the same place each night, knowing these sites gives you a shot at a bird in the morning and evening.
Turkeys have keen eyesight and hearing, which makes hunting them one of the most difficult tasks in the outdoors. Full camouflage is a must as is keeping your movements to a minimum. Hunters may use shotguns, but pistols and rifles can’t be used to take a Tar Heel turkey.
After you pose for pictures, but before you take your turkey to the table, you need to report your harvest to the Wildlife Commission. It helps biologists monitor the population and ensures future hunts are just as successful. This can be done over the phone at 1-800-I-GOT-ONE or online at NCWildlife.org. For more on permits, licenses and regulations, visit NCWildlife.org.
By Peter Anderson
By Peter Anderson
added: March 21, 2011
updated: March 24, 2011