New Hampshire Turkey Season Set to Open May 3rd

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Things are looking good this year for New Hampshire's turkey hunters, according to New Hampshire Fish and Game Department turkey biologist Ted Walski. The spring gobbler season opens Tuesday, May 3, and runs through Tuesday, May 31, statewide.& New Hampshire's Youth Turkey Hunt Weekend comes just before the season opens, taking place on Saturday, April 30, and Sunday, May 1.

Watch a short video about turkey hunting in New Hampshire at www.huntnh.com/Hunting/Hunt_species/hunt_turkey.htm. Turkeys are doing well in New Hampshire, in part because the state enjoyed sunny, dry conditions during the spring and summer months last year. This contributed to a good 2010 turkey hatch and survival of poults, which should help to make up for the below-average hatching success from the two previous years, Walski explained. As a result, he expects that hunters are likely to take a relatively high percentage of 1-year old gobblers during the upcoming May 2011 season.

Last year's good turkey hatch and strong numbers reported during this winter's turkey flock survey (conducted online from January through March 2011) support Walski's assessment that the state's spring turkey harvest could top 4,000 turkeys this year.  During the 2010 spring gobbler season, New Hampshire hunters harvested 3,669 turkeys (2,741 adult gobblers, 909 jakes and 19 bearded hens).

Winter weather can have a big impact on turkey populations, but this winter worked out okay for them, Walski says.  The first half of the 2010-2011 winter was easy for turkeys, with little snowfall and plentiful acorns for fattening up on. After the first big snowfall in mid-January, flocks turned to backyard birdfeeders and dairy farms. Walski reported observing good turkey numbers mid-winter, with 50 to 100 turkeys seen at ten farms. Come February, turkeys were feeling pretty good; a couple of sunny 55°F days mid-February warmed things up, and a snow crust made it easier for them to get around. On February 24, Walski observed turkeys gobbling and displaying. The challenges of winter faded after rain and thawing days in early March created bare ground patches on steep, south-facing slopes.

Walski advises hunters to do some pre-season scouting: "Try to get out and drive some early morning gobbling routes. Start about a half-hour before daybreak. Stop at one-half to one-mile intervals along a 5-to 10-mile route in the region you intend to hunt; get out of the vehicle and listen for gobbling turkeys and drumming grouse for four minutes at each stop." This is the method Fish and Game biologists use while surveying several 10-mile routes each spring between April 15 and May 10, listening for turkey and grouse.

The purchase of your N.H. turkey license (required for all ages; $16 for state residents; $31 for nonresidents).  This permit allows the taking of one gobbler during the spring season (May 3-31, 2011) and one turkey of either sex during the fall archery season (September 15 – December 15, 2011) OR during the fall shotgun season (October 10-14, 2011). All Wildlife Management Units in the state are open in the spring season, but certain northern units are closed during the fall season. Licenses are available online at http://www.huntnh.com or from any license agent.

All hunters should keep in mind some key safety guidelines for turkey hunting:

  • 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.
  • 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 and blue and black, as these are the colors of the male turkey.

For more information on turkey hunting in New Hampshire, including a list of registration stations and turkey hunting regulations, visit www.huntnh.com/Hunting/Hunt_species/hunt_turkey.htm.