The arrival of spring is eagerly anticipated by turkey hunters anxious for the beginning of New Jersey's Spring Wild Turkey Hunting Season. This year's regular season kicks off on Monday April 23 and runs for five weeks. Turkey populations are restored statewide, and hunters can enjoy some of the finest turkey hunting on the East Coast right here in the Garden State.
Spring turkey hunting continues to grow in popularity and it's easy to see why. The tranquility of being in the pre-dawn and early morning forest coupled with the adrenaline surge caused by turkeys gobbling from the roost and on the ground provides an incredibly exciting and rewarding experience. If you have never tried spring turkey hunting, or have been away from it for a while, why not get outside this year and give it a try. Be aware though, that once you do you will more than likely get hooked on the experience!
YOUTH DAY SCHEDULED FOR APRIL 21
Youth hunters will get the first chance to harvest a turkey during the Special Youth Turkey Hunting Day  scheduled for Saturday April 21. Youth hunters with a valid Youth License  who have obtained a turkey permit may begin their spring turkey hunting season on this day prior to the opening of the regular season.
The Youth Turkey Hunting Day is considered an extension of the regular season permit held by the youth. If a youth hunter harvests a turkey on this youth hunting day the "Y" period permit is no longer valid for future hunting. All other spring turkey hunting regulations apply.
Direct supervision of the youth hunter by a properly licensed non-hunting adult 21 years of age or older is required. The adult may not shoot on this day.
STATEWIDE SPRING OUTLOOK
The statewide wild turkey population is currently estimated at more than 20,000 birds, and the outlook for this spring's turkey season is good statewide. Poult production in 2011 was fair throughout New Jersey after a summer of heavy rains, and as a result, a lower proportion of juveniles (jakes) are expected in this year's harvest. If New Jersey experiences a year or two of weather conditions conducive to good summer productivity our turkey population should continue to rise.
The winter survival rate of poults has been excellent throughout the state, given the mild winter, and there have been no reports of turkey mortality due to winter weather. Deep snow conditions, which can hamper the winter movement of flocks, were non-existent.
LAST SPRING'S HARVEST
Spring wild turkey hunters harvested 2,995 gobblers during the five-week season that began on April 23 and ended on May 27, 2011. It was the eleventh largest harvest since the spring turkey season was established in 1981, and was below the average harvest of the last five years.
The total spring season quota was 25,850 permits this year. Of those 9,943 were awarded in the lottery with 8,869 being claimed. Over the counter permits are now available and can be purchased at license agents  or on the Internet at www.nj.wildlifelicense.com/ . Permits will be available as long as the permit supply lasts or the season ends. If you decide to use the Internet you cannot print the permits from home. They must be mailed, and can take 7 - 10 business days (additional shipping charges apply.)
An up to date chart of all leftover permits is available at www.nj.wildlifelicense.com/ALS/unit_report.php .
TURKEY HUNTING AREA RECOMMENDATIONS
New Jersey's 121 Wildlife Management Areas  (WMA) offer diverse landscapes and endless opportunities for turkey hunters. More than 329,000 acres statewide currently comprise the WMA system so hunters are sure to find a prime hunting spot to fit their needs. New properties and additions to existing properties are continually being added, so hunters should check the Fish and Wildlife website regularly for updates to the WMA system.
A comprehensive list of public lands available for turkey hunting can be found in the 2012 NJ Wild Turkey Hunting Season Information booklet available at license agents and Division of Fish and Wildlife offices, as well as on the Fish and Wildlife Web site.
A comprehensive list of public land available for turkey hunting  can be found in the 2012 NJ Wild Turkey Hunting Season Information booklet available at license agents  and Division of Fish and Wildlife offices, as well as on the Fish and Wildlife Web site at www.njfishandwildlife.com/pdf/2012/turkey12.pdf  (pdf, 220kb).
MANDATORY GOBBLER CHECK IN
All harvested gobblers must be tagged immediately with a completed transportation tag. The turkey must then be taken by the person who killed it to the nearest turkey check station before 3 p.m. on the day it is killed. Personnel at the check station will issue a legal possession tag. Consult the 2012 NJ Wild Turkey Hunting Season Information booklet  (pdf, 220kb) for a listing of official turkey check stations to locate one near your hunting area.
Weather can affect turkey-hunting success. Hunter success rates are lower in windy and rainy weather for several reasons, one being that many individuals do not like to hunt under these conditions. More importantly, this type of weather also affects turkey behavior and causes the birds to become more wary and less vocal.
Remember to put safety first. The National Wild Turkey Federation  has issued the following turkey hunter safety tips.
Before the Hunt:
During the hunt:
KNOW YOUR BIRD
Before you shoot, be sure the bird is a gobbler. Don’t depend on the beard to determine the turkey’s sex since some hens do have beards. The beard of a wild turkey is a group of hair-like feathers ranging from 2 inches to 12 inches in length located on the center of the breast. Bearded hens are not legal game during the spring season.
During the spring breeding season, toms or gobblers are not difficult to distinguish from hens. Look closely at the head of the bird as it comes to your calling. Gobblers’ heads are naked and very colorful. Their heads are a brilliant red, white and blue. The head of a wild turkey hen is blue-gray in color and may have a line of feathers up the back of the neck. Hens are not as colorful as gobblers.
After checking the head color, look at the color of the breast feathers. Dark black feathers indicate a tom, while the hen appears to be dark brown. If the head of the turkey is naked and colorful, the breast is black and the bird has a beard, you may be confident it is a gobbler. If you have any doubts, simply don’t shoot.
REGULATIONS AND OTHER INFORMATION
Hunters should familiarize themselves with the rules and regulations for spring turkey hunting in the Garden State. New Jersey spring gobbler hunters are limited to the use of shotguns or bows and arrows, which now includes crossbows. Hunting hours are a half-hour before sunrise to noon. One male wild turkey may be taken with each permit, but only one turkey may be taken in a given day.
Helpful turkey hunting information and tips can be accessed through the Wild Turkey in New Jersey page at www.njfishandwildlife.com/turkey_info.htm . Additional turkey hunting regulations and other information can be found in the 2012 NJ Wild Turkey Hunting Season Information booklet  (pdf, 220kb).