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More hunters ‘falling’ for autumn turkeys
Oct 18, 2012 12:00 am
Tennessee’s fall turkey season opened Oct. 13 and runs through Oct. 26, and last year’s harvest figures reflect the growing popularity of the bonus autumn season.
“It seems to be catching on especially with the switch from mid-December to mid-October,” says Chris Hunter, the TWRA’s state wild turkey coordinator. “More and more hunters are participating.”
The first fall turkey season was in 1998 and until last year was held in mid-December. After several years of inclement weather resulted in low hunter participation, the TWRA last year moved the season up to mid-October.
The harvest numbers reflected the success of the switch. During the 2010 December season 1,456 turkeys were taken. During the 2011 October season 2,550 birds were harvested.
“It’s just so much more enjoyable to be outdoors in mid-October,” says Lebanon’s Clarence Dies, one of the hunters who campaigned for the change. “I thought it was great that the TWRA listened to us.”
There are some major differences in the fall season and the traditional spring season:
In the spring only bearded birds can be taken. In the fall turkeys of either sex are legal.
In the spring only one turkey per day can be bagged, with a season limit of four. In the fall as many as six birds can be bagged during the season and all can be taken on the same day. (Season bag limits vary from county to county, depending on specific turkey populations. Consult the TWRA Hunting Guide for specifics.)
Three decades ago spotting a wild turkey was rare in most areas of the state but thanks to a TWRA restoration program stated in the early 1970’s, the birds are now abundant in almost every county. During the traditional spring season, in recent years over 30,000 turkeys are harvested annually.
Because of that abundance, the TWRA decided to implement a fall hunt and allow hunters to take some extra birds.
“The fall season is not intended to replace the spring hunt,” Hunter explains. “It’s just an extra bonus season for hunters who choose to take advantage of it.”
The only complaint about the fall turkey season has come from some bow hunters who claim it interferes with their October deer hunting. But with deer archery season opening Sept. 22, bow hunters have the woods to themselves for three weeks before the 14-day turkey season. They then have another exclusive bow season from Oct. 29 through Nov. 2.
The move of the fall turkey season from mid-December means that deer gun season is no longer interrupted in prime-time by a turkey season, as had been the case in the past. Deer hunters can now hunt every day in December. Also, as a bonus, this deer season has been extended to Jan. 6.
“I think the TWRA has done a good job with the hunting seasons,” Dies says.
“I really enjoyed last fall’s October turkey season and I’m looking forward to this year’s. The weather is perfect for being outdoors and there are lots of birds. There’s nothing like the spring turkey season, when those big long-beards start gobbling, but fall hunting is exciting too. The great thing is that we can have both.”