NWTF and Georgia DNR Answering the Call
The sound of a wild turkey gobbling gets louder every year in Georgia. Pretty amazing, considering that wild turkeys were nearly silenced in the 1900s following a century of habitat loss and market hunting, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division. If only Ben Franklin were alive today—the bald eagle would surely take a back seat to the cagey bird the American statesman considered the most regal of our winged friends.
Many hunters in Georgia, and throughout the nation, agree with the Founding Father and have done their part to restore wild turkeys to historic numbers. Georgia’s Eastern wild turkey population now stands at 350,000, up from only 17,000 as recently as 1973. Georgia trails just behind Texas and Missouri for the most wild turkeys in the nation. But the comeback story could not be told without mentioning the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), federal and state wildlife agencies, such as the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division (WRD) and NWTF corporate partners and volunteers who have done their part to reintroduce the grand gamebird, which now roams across the entire state of Georgia.
From 1973 to 1996, WRD with help from the NWTF, trapped and released more than 4,500 wild turkeys. Today, turkey hunting is open in every county and trapping is no longer necessary to establish turkey populations. Even Fulton County, which surrounds metropolitan Atlanta has a gobbler season.
“The renaissance of the wild turkey, especially in Georgia, is something that should make us all proud,” said Haven Barnhill, WRD Sr. Wildlife Biologist. “In no small measure, our success has come from cooperation with our partners, and in particular, support from the Georgia State NWTF and local chapters. The dedication and support of over 15,000 NWTF members in Georgia to the conservation cause is truly a blessing.”
Each year the 96 local NWTF chapters hold banquets and other fundraisers. Revenues from these events are used within the state to promote wildlife conservation and protect the hunting heritage. Since 1985, the Georgia Chapter NWTF has contributed over $2 million to for land purchases to preserve wildlife habitat, support for hunter safety and education and provide scholarships for graduating seniors.
Recently, $252,000 in projects, the majority of which will pay for habitat improvements on public land, were approved by the Georgia Chapter NWTF. Examples include:
· $12,600 to maintain over 270 acres of wildlife openings on WMA’s in east-central Georgia.
· $10,000 to fund a wildlife manager for Crockford-Pigeon Mountain WMA.
· $12,000 to track turkey harvests and hunter demographics. The survey will help state wildlife officials set seasons and bag limits.
· $35,000 to support law enforcement efforts during turkey season for rangers throughout Georgia.
Support from NWTF volunteers helps ensure wild turkeys continue to flourish throughout Georgia.