In hopes of keeping Bartow County residents and guests safe, Georgia Department of Natural Resource officers are urging anyone taking part in springtime activities to obey the law and practice all safety measures.
“March and April is a good time to be outside,” said DNR Corporal Byron Young. “Spring is the best time of the year to fish so we have a lot of fishermen on the water and turkey season starts Saturday.”
Boating activity already has begun to pick up as fishermen take to the lake. As traffic increases, DNR officers remind boaters to be aware of boating safety and always have enough life jackets on board — a perennially common offense — and while air temperatures are high, low water temperatures can quickly turn a small mistake into a dangerous situation.
“This is always the time of year things pick up,” Young said. “And on Allatoona, it seems like it gets busier every year. We’re already seeing jet skis and pleasure boats getting on the water, which is kind of early. Memorial Day is kind of the kickoff, but the weather is getting nice.
“But this time of year, even though we have 75 and 80 degree days, it’s still cold at night. Today, I think the water temperature is 48 degrees on Allatoona. It’s going to be a while before water temps are in the 70s, probably the end of April, so when you’re talking about 50-degree water, that’s a cold water situation.”
Especially during cold water situations, DNR suggests boaters take extra precautions, such as wearing life jackets while moving. Even though, for adults, the law does not require a life jacket be worn while the boat is in motion, Young warns that accidents typically happen too quickly for floatation devices to be retrieved and put on.
“You don’t have to wear one while you’re moving unless you’re a kid,” Young said. “But it’s never a bad idea. We refer to it as being like a seat belt — you never need it until you need it, so it’s not a bad idea to have it on.”
Also starting up this spring is turkey season — officially kicking off Saturday, March 23.
Turkey season lasts through May 15, but the first couple weeks regularly prove to be the busiest.
“Usually the first several weeks we see a lot of people out,” Young said. “By the end of the season, the temperatures have gotten up. The last couple years it’s gotten up into the 90s by the end of the season and I’m the same way, I don’t enjoy hunting when it’s 90 degrees.”
The Georgia DNR collects population data annually and has predicted a strong year for turkey in 2013. With an estimated 335,000 turkey in the state, Georgia has one of the longest turkey seasons nationwide and hunters are allowed three gobblers per season.
“Hunters will hear some vocal 2-year-old birds in the piedmont, ridge and valley, and blue ridge regions of the state thanks to good production in 2011. Coastal plains hunters may need to work a little harder to call in some seasoned gobblers as birds were not as productive in this area in previous years,” stated Kevin Lowrey, Wildlife Resources Division wild turkey project coordinator in a prepared statement. “Overall, statewide reproduction declined by 30 percent last year and while hunters won’t feel the effects this year, it may be noticed in 2014.”
Most hunters will hunt on private land, but the DNR reminds hunters there are turkey hunting opportunities on wildlife management areas across the state, including Allatoona WMA and Pine Log WMA in Bartow. The highest 2012 turkey hunting season success rates for WMAs in northwest Georgia, however, were taken at Berry College WMA and Paulding Forrest WMA.
Any hunter 16 or older without an honorary, sportsman or lifetime license must possess a WMA license while hunting wild turkey on a WMA. In addition, a valid hunting license and a big game license are required to legally hunt wild turkey. Legal equipment for hunting wild turkey are shotguns loaded with No. 2 or smaller shot, any muzzle-loading firearm, longbow, crossbow or compound bow.
Those that do hunt on private property are reminded to always get permission from the property owner. Obtaining proper permission and hunting over bait are the two most common offenses Young sees occurring in the field for turkey hunters.
The Georgia DNR prepared the following list of safety tips for turkey hunters to review before turkey season begins Saturday:
• Never wear red, white, blue or black clothing while turkey hunting. Red is the color most hunters look for when distinguishing a gobbler’s head from a hen’s blue-colored head, but at times it may appear white or blue. Male turkey feathers covering most of the body are black in appearance. Camouflage should be used to cover everything, including the hunter’s face, hands and firearm.
• Select a calling position that provides at least a shoulder-width background, such as the base of a tree. Be sure that at least a 180-degree range is visible.
• Do not stalk a gobbling turkey. Due to their keen eyesight and hearing, the chances of getting close are slim to none.When using a turkey call, the sound and motion may attract the interest of other hunters.
• Do not move, wave or make turkey-like sounds to alert another hunter to your presence. Instead, identify yourself in a loud voice.Be careful when carrying a harvested turkey from the woods. Do not allow the wings to hang loosely or the head to be displayed in such a way that another hunter may think it is a live bird. If possible, conceal the turkey in a blaze orange garment or other material.
• Although it’s not required, it is suggested that hunters wear blaze orange when moving between a vehicle and a hunting site. When moving between hunting sites, hunters should wear blaze orange on their upper bodies to facilitate their identification by other hunters.