2012 Spring Gobbler Season Looks Good for New Hampshire Turkey Hunters

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It should be a good spring season for New Hampshire’s turkey hunters, says New Hampshire Fish and Game Department Turkey Biologist Ted Walski. The spring gobbler season opens Thursday, May 3, and runs through Thursday, May 31, statewide.  New Hampshire's Youth Turkey Hunt Weekend occurs the weekend before the season opens, this year taking place on Saturday, April 28, and Sunday, April 29, 2012.

Both turkeys and deer are “happy campers” in much of the state, after enjoying one of the mildest winters in recent memory.  Except for an unusual October snowstorm, there was little meaningful snowfall. The fall mast crop was good, providing an abundance of acorns, beechnuts, apples, white ash seeds and various other seeds and fruits.  Turkeys were displaying and gobbling to some degree almost all winter, Walski says. With good mobility and easy access to natural foods, turkeys tended to stay in smaller family groups during the winter months, rather than congregating in large flocks at farms and birdfeeders.

Walski predicts a reasonably good turkey harvest this spring, in the range of 4,000 gobblers.  He reports that numerous groups of turkeys have been observed throughout their range in the state. During the 2011 spring gobbler season, New Hampshire hunters harvested a total of 3,672 turkeys.

Hunters should be sure to get out and do some scouting this spring, says Walski. The hot weather we experienced in March inspired turkeys to early thoughts of romance.  Walski reports seeing quite a bit of displaying and gobbling.  "I would expect earlier than normal nesting and hatching out of turkeys, grouse, woodcock and even rabbits this year," said Walski. "This may benefit turkey hunters because more hens will be incubating and out of circulation when the regular season starts on May 3.  With fewer live hens to capture the toms’ attention, they may be more interested in answering hunters’ calls."

Walski also recommends driving some early morning "gobbling routes" before the season begins. Start about a half-hour before daybreak. Stop at one-half to one-mile intervals along a 5- to 10-mile route in the region you intend to hunt; get out of the vehicle and listen for gobbling turkeys and drumming grouse for four minutes at each stop.

New for 2012, the allowable shot size for taking wild turkey has changed from #2, #4, #5 and #6 to a shot size of #2 or smaller. This legalizes the use of modern, heavier-than lead loads that utilize a blend of shot sizes.

An opportunity that's new this year is New Hampshire's apprentice hunting license. This allows people who are interested in trying hunting or bowhunting to do so under the guidance of an experienced hunter without first taking the required Hunter Education course. These new hunters can buy an apprentice hunting license, which costs the same as a regular hunting license and is good for the rest of the calendar year. You can buy an apprentice hunting license only once during your lifetime. Find out more about the apprentice hunting license, including FAQs for apprentice hunters and those accompanying, at www.huntnh.com/Hunting/apprentice.html.

A New Hampshire turkey license is required for hunters of all ages ($16 for state residents and $31 for nonresidents).  This license allows the taking of one gobbler during the spring season (May 3-31, 2012) and one turkey of either sex during the fall archery season (September 15 – December 15, 2012) OR during the fall shotgun season (October 15-19, 2012).  Hunters age 16 and older must hold either a current New Hampshire hunting or archery license AND a turkey permit. Licenses are available online at www.huntnh.com or from any license agent.

Watch a short video about turkey hunting in New Hampshire at www.huntnh.com/Hunting/Hunt_species/hunt_turkey.htm

All hunters should keep in mind key safety guidelines for turkey hunting:

* Always positively identify your target.
* Never assume that calls and movement indicate the presence of a turkey -- hunters commonly imitate turkey calls and use decoys in order to locate and/or attract turkeys.
* Never stalk a turkey; you could be mistaken for game -- rather than stalking, scout out a good spot, call and wait for the turkeys to come to you.
* Be seen! Turkey hunters should always wear a blaze orange hat or vest as they enter and leave the area they are hunting. Tie blaze-orange survey tape around a decoy/calling location to alert other hunters to your presence; it won’t scare the birds.
* Avoid clothes with the colors red, white and blue and black, as these are the colors of the male turkey. 

For more information on turkey hunting in New Hampshire, including a list of registration stations, visit www.huntnh.com/Hunting/Hunt_species/hunt_turkey.htm.