Winter Wild Turkey Season Proposed

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There is exciting news for hunters eager to see the return of winter turkey hunting in North Carolina. The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission has proposed a six-day winter turkey season to begin in 2004.

For the first time in more than 30 years, hunters would be able to harvest a wild turkey outside the spring season. If the Wildlife Resources Commissioners approve the proposed regulations change, the dates of the first winter season will be Jan. 12 to Jan. 17, 2004. The additional winter season would not affect the traditional spring season. The winter season would apply only to private lands in counties with the highest densities of turkeys, as well as the highest spring harvest levels per square mile of habitat: Alleghany, Ashe, Caswell, Granville, Person, Rockingham, Stokes, Surry, and Watauga. The only public hunting would be on Caswell Game Land (in Caswell County) through a permit draw.

"There has been strong interest among turkey hunters for many years for either a fall or winter turkey season," says Mike Seamster, the Commission's upland game bird biologist. "In a recent survey of wild turkey hunters in the state, the vast majority of the respondents (79 percent) indicated an interest in having some limited fall or winter either-sex turkey hunting opportunity. Now, with an estimated 130,000 birds in the state, we anticipate that the wild turkey populations in some counties can sustain a winter harvest."

In order to keep the wild turkey population growing in North Carolina, the bag limit for the winter season and spring season combined will be two birds, only one of which could be taken during the winter season. Unlike the spring season, however, the winter season would be an either-sex hunt and the regulations would allow the use of dogs.

Although some states have a fall turkey season, the Commission proposed a January dates to prevent overlap with the deer season and eliminate the possibility of unintentional baiting.

The Commission encourages all sportsmen interested in learning more about this proposal, or making a comment on it, to attend one of nine public hearings scheduled across the state in January 2003. The full text of this proposal and all others for the 2003-2004 season are posted here. Alternatively, citizens can call (919) 733-7291 for this information.