Hunting opportunity looks good for the 2016 spring gobbler season, according to N.H. Fish and Game Turkey Biologist Ted Walski. The spring turkey hunt opens on Tuesday, May 3, and runs through Tuesday, May 31, statewide. Last year (2015), spring turkey hunters in New Hampshire took more than 4,000 birds.
New Hampshire’s Youth Turkey Hunting Weekend will take place April 30-May 1, 2016.
Walski says this spring may bring a record harvest of wild turkeys in New Hampshire. Last year’s hatching success and survival of turkey poults was good because of dry spring weather. Going into the winter months, turkeys found food readily available because of the bare ground.
“I am expecting some early breeding and hatching this spring because of the mildness of the second half of this winter and lack of snow cover,” says Walski. “Turkeys have been displaying, with some gobbling, since the middle of February.”
Walski reports seeing and recording numerous turkey flocks over the winter. He witnessed some unusual sights on his rounds: In five different towns, he saw turkey flocks jumping into crabapple trees to knock off the small fruit. He observed a feisty flock of turkeys in Walpole chasing away a bobcat, and another flock in Surry holding off a fisher.
The fall 2015 turkey harvest was good, with 704 turkeys taken during the short shotgun season and 338 turkeys taken during the three-month archery season.
Pre-season scouting is advised for those planning to take part in the spring gobbler season. “Do some early morning ‘gobbling surveys’ of your own on the back roads,” says Walski. “Start about one-half hour before sunrise. Drive and stop at one-half to one mile intervals, and get out and listen for four minutes at each stop.”
Relatively few sick turkeys with the avian pox virus were recorded in 2015, which is good news. Two pox viruses have shown up in the turkey population in New Hampshire and other Northeastern states in recent years. If you do see any sign of avian pox on turkeys, report your observations to Fish and Game at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Wildlife Division at 603-271-2461. The avian pox virus is not harmful or transferable to humans. It is characterized by wart-like growths on the head and upper neck area of the bird. Learn more at www.wildnh.com/wildlife/turkey-virus.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, 2016) and one turkey of either sex during the fall archery season (September 15 – December 15) OR during the fall shotgun season. 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.
Want to hunt this spring and haven’t gotten your Hunter Education course done yet? New Hampshire’s Apprentice Hunting License allows those 16 and older interested in trying hunting to do so under the guidance of an experienced hunter without first taking Hunter Education. Learn more at www.huntnh.com/hunting/apprentice.html.
All hunters should keep in mind key safety guidelines for turkey hunters:
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, blue and black, as these are the colors of the male turkey.
For more information on turkey hunting in New Hampshire, including a summary of rules, a list of registration stations, and a three-minute video about a successful New Hampshire spring turkey hunt, visit www.huntnh.com/hunting/turkey.html.