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Safety First for Spring Turkey Hunting
AUSTIN — The beginning of the spring wild turkey hunting season is an exciting time that more than 2.7 million turkey hunters nationwide have looked forward to for several months. But hunters need to make sure their excitement does not blind them to the precautions they should take to ensure a safe and successful day in the field.
While the spring season in Texas for Rio Grande turkeys is already in full swing, hunting in 28 counties for Eastern turkeys opens April 15. With much of Texas’ Eastern turkey hunting occurring on public lands, the National Wild Turkey Federation and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department offer 10 tips for hunters to consider this season when they’re in the woods:
- Leave the area if you suspect there’s another hunter already working the same bird.
- Resist the urge to stalk turkey sounds. It is nearly impossible to sneak up on a turkey – they see and hear the slightest movements. Stalking is one of the most common causes of incidents.
- Pick your spot in open timber rather than thick brush. Eliminating movement and excess noise is more critical to success than hiding in heavy cover. Camouflage clothing also helps.
- When calling turkeys, place your back against a large stump, tree trunk, rock, etc., that is wider than your shoulders and higher than your head to avoid potential confusion from other hunters.
- Never wear red, white, blue or black – those are colors of a wild turkey gobbler’s head and body – even on socks or buttons. Do not wear any bright colors. Wear dark undershirts and socks and pants long enough to tuck into boots.
- Remain still and speak in a loud, clear voice to announce yourself to other hunters if necessary. Never move, wave or make turkey sounds to alert another hunter of your presence.
- Keep your hands and head camouflaged when calling.
- Maintain a clear field of view when using a camouflage blind or netting. Set a perimeter of no more than 40 yards.
- Make sure your decoy is not visible when you are transporting it. Stash the decoy in your vest and check that the head is not sticking out. If you harvest a wild turkey during your hunting trip, you should cover the bird’s head and body when carrying it to your vehicle. Use blaze orange to wrap the decoy with when going in to set up, or to wrap your turkey in after you’ve taken it when departing the hunting area.
- Put your gun safety on and approach the downed bird with your firearm pointed in a safe direction after firing. Never run with a firearm.
Hunters are reminded to comply with all hunter education requirements before going into the woods. Hunters also are reminded several regulation changes take effect for the 2012 spring Eastern season. TPWD closed spring turkey hunting in the following 15 East Texas counties in response to low populations and harvest numbers: Cherokee, Delta, Gregg, Hardin, Houston, Hunt, Liberty, Montgomery, Rains, Rusk, San Jacinto, Shelby, Smith, Tyler and Walker.
All harvested Eastern turkeys must be taken to a check station within 24 hours. To find the check station nearest you, contact a TPWD field office or call (800) 792-1112 or go online at http://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/hunt/season/stations/.
Need a place to hunt? TPWD’s public hunting program offers the opportunity to participate in low cost, family oriented, walk-in hunts for turkeys. Access for turkey hunting is provided by the Annual Public Hunting (APH) Permit. The permit costs $48 and may be purchased wherever hunting licenses are sold, and allows an adult access to designated public hunting lands. Having purchased the appropriate Texas hunting licenses and stamps, holders of an APH Permit may take children under age 17 hunting free of charge on these public hunting lands.
Each year, the department publishes maps of nearly 1 million acres of public hunting lands. A new online map feature allows for “virtual scouting” of public hunting areas. By clicking on the locator points, you can follow links to detailed aerial maps with highlighted boundaries and links to information pages from the APH information map booklet. A downloadable Google Earth file (.kml) is also available that contains all the boundary information along with links to the corresponding APH map booklet pages.
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