There was a strutting tom and a hen turkey in our driveway today, conclusive indications that the mating season has begun. I’m pretty sure it was the first day, at least here. In talking with the turkey hunters, no one has said it’s happening yet … and … we’ve seen other indications that lead me to believe we’re on day one.
It’s a great time to be in the woods, as the spring ephemerals – wildflowers – are starting to bloom, and it’s definitely not too hot to hike (about 40 this morning, freeze warning tonight).
Sensible precautions: Wear a blaze orange hat, obtainable at about any local gas station, hardware store, or outdoor store. If you’re on the way up from Atlanta, you can’t miss the Bargain Barn on the left when you begin to come onto the strip in Jasper. Do not wear purple. The male turkeys head is purple. Most importantly, if you hear turkey calls – gobbles, yelps – or if you hear owl calls or crow calls, stop and ask yourself, do they sound real bogus? If they do, that’s a turkey hunter. Leave him alone. Even if you’re sure they are authentic, stop and consider that we have some really expert callers up here. And that even if they are for real, there may be a turkey hunter putting the sneak on them, trying to get into position. They will be wearing camo and face paint, and they can be hard to spot. If they are already in position, they will be sitting with their back against a tree, and might be hard to spot.
I’m not talking about the state parks, because you can’t hunt in there. But the rest of the forest service lands are open to hunting, subject to the stated hunting seasons. The management areas – WMA – follow different seasons than the statewide seasons, but I doubt there’s one that isn’t having turkey season now. You can check on the DNR website, here http://www.eregulations.com/georgia/hunting/public-hunting-opportunities-specific-wma-pfa-state-park-hunting-regulations/
You can usually tell the hunter’s cars from the hiker’s cars. If you’re at a signed trail head, you’re probably fine, as the hunters usually don’t want to take any more grief from the hikers than they’ve already experienced. Try to be charitable and remember that whether you understand it or not, they’re following their bliss, and failing that, that turkey hunting in our area is a religion that rivals Christianity. Please don’t succumb to the temptation to tell them off. Interfering with a hunter is a crime in Georgia.
Easy rule to follow, if you see a pickup truck, look for another spot. They usually don’t walk more than a half mile.
Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to scare you, and there’s probably no real likelihood of getting shot. What I’m talking about is having a good time. I go into the woods to relax, regenerate, and experience the healing powers of wilderness. I’m sure not looking to create any stress for me or anyone else who’s trying to do the same.
Hikers and turkey hunters alike, let’s all try to get along. We all love wilderness. Good luck to the hunters and good hiking to the hikers!
Get on out there, now. It’s prime spring time!