Waking up with the woods in the spring is an amazing experience, one that is difficult to explain to those who have not witnessed the timber come alive around them. It is a bond shared by spring turkey hunters who can communicate it with a look, a simple shake of the head and twinkle in the eye. It's a kind of "you really have to be there to understand."
On April 16, the Iowa timber will be filled with hunters as the first of Iowa's four turkey hunting seasons begin.
Spring turkey hunting attracts around 55,000 hunters, with about 45 percent finding success. What kind of turkey numbers can hunters expect to find in the woods this season?
Todd Gosselink, Iowa's forest wildlife biologist, said Iowa's mixture of agriculture land and timber supports a good turkey population. Basically, hunters do not have a problem finding turkeys.
"Wherever there are trees, you can find birds. Obviously the larger stands of timber will hold more turkeys. That being said, the best turkey numbers are found in western Iowa, and specifically in the Loess Hills area. Southern Iowa has good numbers as well," he said.
Gosselink said many places in Iowa had seen average to below average reproduction over the past few years, but overall Iowa still has a healthy wild turkey population. "Hunters will probably see fewer Jakes this spring, but there are good numbers of two year old birds," he said.
Hunters may now shoot two turkeys in one day in season four, provided they have tags, which is new. "This means they can stay out in the field if they do harvest a bird, and go after a second one on the same day," Gosselink said.
Turkey hunters are reminded of the harvest reporting requirement new last fall. Hunters who bag a turkey are required to report it by midnight of the day after it is harvested, or before taking it to a locker, or before processing it for consumption or before leaving the state, whichever comes first.
Hunters may report their harvest in one of two ways, either by calling the harvest reporting hotline or by reporting it through the DNR's website. The phone number is printed on the turkey tags. Hunters will be asked a few questions, then respond by touching the telephone keypad. On the Internet, go to www.iowadnr.gov , then click on the harvest reporting button on the right side of the webpage.
Once the harvest is reported, the hunter will receive a confirmation number that they must write in the space provided on their tag for the report to be complete.