Wild Turkey in New Jersey
The Division's 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 killing for food. Division biologists, in cooperation with the NJ Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, reintroduced wild turkeys in 1977 with the release of 22 birds. In 1979 biologists and technicians began to live-trap and re-locate birds to establish populations throughout the state. By 1981 the population was able to support a spring hunting season, and in December, 1997, a limited fall season was initiated.
There is now an abundance of wild turkeys throughout the state with turkeys found wherever there is suitable habitat. Even in South Jersey, where wild turkeys had been struggling just a few years ago, intensive restoration efforts have improved population numbers significantly. The population is estimated at 20,000 - 23,000 with an annual harvest of more than 3,000.
Youth turkey hunters aged 10 to 16 with a permit can hunt in any hunting period in the zone that they draw a permit for during the spring season. Youth hunters aged 10 to less than 14 must be under the supervision of a licensed adult who is at least 21 years of age. The adult does not have to have a turkey permit, but they do have to have a regular license. This regulation applies until the youth takes a turkey. After taking a turkey, the youth is subject to the same hunting period and zone restrictions as an adult.