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Judging by past success, go turkey hunting early
Spaulding Outdoors
By Jack Spaulding

Indiana DNR wildlife research biologist Steve Backs expects between 50,000 to 55,000 hunters will take to Hoosier woods and fields for the Indiana spring turkey hunting season.

The season runs from April 26 to May 14. Backs also expects about one-in-four hunters will bring a bearded bird home, resulting in a spring harvest of 12,000 to 13,000 turkeys.

Data collected by Backs also points to a probable increase in the number of older birds in this spring’s harvest.

“Expect 2-year-old birds to make up more than 50 percent of the harvest this spring because of record production in 2004,” said Backs. “The proportion of jakes (juvenile males) should drop due to poor poult production during summer 2005.”

Hunters are limited to a single bearded or male turkey for the spring season.

Taking a look at last year’s record harvest, Indiana wild turkey hunters were blessed with a high percentage of success and some excellent hunting opportunities.

Indiana wildlife biologist Steve Backs tabulated check station reports from last spring’s wild turkey hunting season and found hunters harvested 11,159 wild turkeys in 82 of the 88 counties open to hunting compared to 10,765 birds harvested in 2004. The 4 percent increase over 2004 was a new high for turkey harvests.

Counties with the highest wild turkey harvests were: Switzerland, 478; Perry, 445; Jefferson, 415; Harrison, 406; Parke, 376; Orange, 373; Dearborn, 368; Warrick, 356; Greene, 352; Franklin, 347; and Crawford, 329.

The early bird gets the worm and apparently the phrase applies to turkey hunting success as well. According to check station records, the majority of the birds were harvested in the earlier part of the season and during the morning hours. About 70 percent of birds were taken by 10 a.m. and 79 percent were taken by noon.

Approximately 57 percent of the wild turkeys were taken during the first five days of the season and 37 percent of turkeys were harvested on weekends. Juvenile male gobblers, commonly called jakes, made up 33 percent of the harvest, while 44 percent of birds were 2-years-old and 23 percent were 3-years-old or older.

The proportion of jakes in the harvest was higher than the mean average of the previous 10 turkey season harvests.

Backs speculated the 4 percent increase in turkey harvests reflects high turkey poult production during the 2004 summer brood season, and the continued increases in both the turkey population and turkey hunter numbers.

Backs estimated 49,684 turkey hunters took to the Indiana woods in spring 1995, and he estimates 22 percent of the turkey hunters bagged a Hoosier turkey.

Safety rules for turkey hunting
With camouflage coming into play and hunters using calls mimicking their prey, wild turkey hunting sets the stage for extra caution and some special tactics for staying safe.

The following is a list of excellent safety tips from the DNR:

•Select a calling position where you can see for at least 50 yards in all directions and where you are protected from the backside.
•Whistle or shout to alert approaching hunters of your position. Never wave or stand up.
•Never sneak in on a turkey or use a gobbler call near other hunters. Never crowd another hunter working a bird.
•Never shoot at sound or movement.
•Use a flashlight when walking in the dark.
•Be aware of turkey “fever” and its prevention. Disregard peer pressure to bag a bird.
•Be extremely careful using turkey decoys.
•Do not wear red, white, or blue outerwear or exposed inner clothing.
•Make sure your headnet doesn’t obscure your vision.
•Don’t assume you are the only hunter in the area. Be certain of a companion’s location.
•Know and identify your target and what is beyond.
•Discuss safety techniques with companions.
•Never assume that other hunters are responsible.
•Always keep your gun pointed in a safe direction.
•Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
•Always keep your gun unloaded until ready to use.
•Never use alcohol or drugs before or while hunting.
•Respect property rights and secure permission before hunting.
•Hunters should unload their guns when crossing fences, climbing into stands, jumping ditches or traversing steep ravines.

Protected wild turkey hunt areas
The DNR is continuing restrictions on Indiana’s turkey-hunting range in east-central Indiana. It is keeping closed sections of east-central Indiana to spring turkey hunters in order to protect the area’s growing wild turkey flocks.

The following areas of Indiana cannot be hunted during the 2006 spring wild turkey season: Adams County south of state Route 124; Blackford County; Delaware County; Grant County east of Interstate 69; Hancock County east of state Route 9; Henry County; Huntington County south of state Route 124 and east of Interstate 69; Jasper County south of state Route 114 and west of Interstate 65; Jay County; Newton County south of state Route 114; Randolph County north of state Route 32; Rush County north of state Route 44; Shelby County east of state Route 9 and north of state Route 44; Wells County south of state Route 124; and Whitley County south of U.S. 30.

Turkey tag requirements
Because new DNR Web-generated turkey licenses do not include a turkey tag, The DNR has adopted a rule allowing turkey hunters to tag wild turkeys with a piece of paper indicating the month and day of the kill and the name and address of the hunter taking the turkey.

A sample turkey leg tag is available at:

Turkey licenses may be purchased online at:

DNR property information can be found at

A list of wild turkey hunting regulations can be found online at

Readers with questions or comments can contact Jack Spaulding by e-mail at or by writing to him in care of this publication.

This farm news was published in the April 26, 2006 issue of Farm World.