Fall Turkey Season Opens October 31

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Fall is a great time to be outdoors in New Jersey and our colorful foliage rivals that of any New England state. The cooler temperatures and low humidity of autumn are ideal conditions for the turkey hunter.

The Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Fish and Wildlife continually monitors wild turkey populations to ensure their continued success and survival. The Division’s Wild Turkey Project Leader reports that although turkey populations were depressed in recent years due to poor productivity, preliminary research indicates fair to good production of young birds (poults) this year.

The lack of lengthy, cool, rainy periods this past summer allowed for better survival of poults; however, the number of adult hens available for nesting was diminished due to the poor productivity of past years. Hunters should expect a fair density of juvenile birds in the forests and fields this fall.

FALL TURKEY PERMITS

Turkey permits are now available for the following Turkey Hunting Areas (THAs): 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 10, 11 and 20 at the Pequest, Northern Region, Central Region (Assunpink WMA), Southern Region and Trenton offices.

These are permits that were left over after the lottery was held and will be sold on a first come, first served basis. Sales will be held weekdays ONLY from 9 a.m. to 12 noon, and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. for as long as the supply lasts. Adults interested in purchasing an unclaimed permit must bring their 2005 hunting license along with cash or check for $21 per permit. Youth hunters must bring their youth license, hunter education certificate or previous year’s youth license and cash or check for $12 per permit.

For more information on over-the-counter turkey permit sales; call the 24-hour computerized permit hotline at 609-292-9192 or visit www.njfishandwildlife.com/trkpermsale05-fall.htm.

HUNTING SAFETY AND GENERAL REGULATIONS

Turkey hunting in New Jersey is an extremely safe activity. Successful hunter education programs and low turkey hunter densities help ensure participants will have a safe and enjoyable hunting experience. While hunter orange is not required for hunting turkeys in New Jersey, it is recommended that hunters wear orange when walking through woods in search of flocks, especially since other hunting seasons are open at the same time. Hunters should always understand and follow the regulations in the New Jersey Fish and Wildlife Digest hunting issue.

Turkey hunting areas 1-11, 20 and 21 are open for hunting. Hunting hours are ½ hour before sunrise to ½ hour after sunset. Turkey hunters may take only one wild turkey of either sex per permit during the fall season. However, hunters may only take one turkey per day regardless of the number of permits the hunter holds.

Dogs and artificial decoys may be used while turkey hunting during the fall season, however, the use of electronically-operated decoys and electronic calling devices is prohibited. All turkey hunters are required to have a calling device with them while hunting and turkeys may not be hunted by a group of hunters larger than five individuals. Hunters may not attempt to chase or drive turkeys for the purpose of putting them in range of other hunters. However, hunters may rush a flock of turkeys in order to scatter them.

No shot larger than #4 fine shot or smaller than #7½ fine shot can be used. Hunters may not use shotguns larger than 10 gauge or smaller than 20 gauge. Properly licensed hunters may use archery tackle for hunting turkeys. Turkeys may not be hunted within 300 feet of any baited area.

Successful turkey hunters must complete the transportation tag on their fall hunting permit immediately upon killing a turkey and must take the bird to an official wild turkey check station by 7 p.m. on the day it is killed. The hunter who killed the bird is the only person who may transport and check the turkey.

TURKEY RESTORATION IN NEW JERSEY

The Wild Turkey Restoration Project represents one of the greatest wildlife management success stories in the history of the state. By the mid-1800s, turkeys had disappeared in New Jersey due to habitat changes and over-exploitation. In 1977 biologists released turkeys captured in other states and as the population grew, biologists and technicians began to live-trap and re-locate birds. Since then, using rocket nets and drop nets, nearly 1,700 birds have been trapped and re-located, resulting in healthy populations of wild turkeys throughout most of the state. Even in South Jersey (parts of Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland and Gloucester counties) where wild turkeys had been struggling just a few years ago, intensive restoration efforts have improved population numbers significantly.

OUTSTANDING GARDEN STATE GOBBLER RECORDS PROGRAM

The Outstanding Garden State Gobbler Records Program is administered by the New Jersey Chapter of the Wild Turkey Federation. Minimum entry weight is 20 pounds. The minimum score for a typical entry is 60; non-typical (multiple beards or spurs) is 80.

To calculate the score, add the weight plus two times the beard length plus 10 times the combined spur lengths. For example, a 19-pound gobbler with a 9-inch beard and one-inch spurs would score 57 points. A wild turkey that scores more than 50 points is considered an outstanding bird. For more information, contact a chapter representative at 856-785-0455.