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2006 Spring Turkey Season Opens April 17

April 10, 2006

The Department of Environmental Protection's Division of Fish and Wildlife reminds hunters that the 2006 Spring Gobbler Season will begin Monday, April 17, and will continue for six weeks.

Hunters are reminded that the Special Youth Turkey Hunting Day is scheduled for Saturday, April 15.


The outlook for this season is fair, and biologists do not predict a record harvest. Poult production in 2005 was not optimal, however two-year-old gobblers that hatched in 2004 should be common (two-year-old gobblers are the age class most susceptible to spring harvest).

Biologists expect that this year's harvest will have a higher proportion of two-year old birds than in 2003 and 2004. Since production in 2005 was poor, there will be fewer juvenile birds (jakes) available for harvest.

This year's wild turkey population is estimated at more than 22,000 birds, and the winter survival rate has been good throughout the state. Winter snowfalls did not have an impact on turkey survival.


Spring wild turkey hunters harvested 3,264 gobblers during the six-week season that ended on May 27, 2005. It was the third largest harvest since the spring turkey season was established in 1981, and was slightly below the average harvest of the last five years. Approximately 20,637 spring turkey hunting permits were issued for the 2005 season with hunters achieving a success rate of 16 percent. The 2005 spring harvest was bolstered by good turkey production in 2004. In fact, juvenile birds from the 2004 hatch made up 41 percent of the 2005 harvest.


This year, the upcoming spring season quota is 29,250 permits. Hunters who applied for permits through the lottery can check to see if they were successful in obtaining a permit through the online license and permit Web site,

Leftover permits were made available on Saturday, April 1. As long as permit supplies last or the season ends, they will continue to be sold Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at three Division field offices (Pequest, Central and Southern Region) and over the Internet 24 hours a day. Hunters can call the Permit Hotline at 609-292-9192 for information on leftover permit sales. Available permit numbers are linked from the Fish and Wildlife Web site at


The Wild Turkey Restoration Project represents one of the greatest wildlife management success stories in the history of the state. In the mid-1800s, turkeys had disappeared in New Jersey due to habitat changes and over-exploitation. However, in 1977 biologists and technicians began to live-trap and re-locate birds to establish populations in 20 New Jersey counties.

To date, nearly 1,700 birds have been trapped and re-located, resulting in an abundance of wild turkeys throughout the state. Even in South Jersey (parts of Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland and Gloucester counties) where wild turkeys had been struggling just a few years ago, intensive restoration efforts have improved population numbers significantly.


New Jersey's Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) offer excellent hunting opportunities. Hunters may want to try the Hamburg Mountain, Wanaque and Sparta Mountain WMAs in the north; Assunpink in the center of the state; and Peaslee and Bevans down south. Other good areas include: the Newark Watershed, Stokes State Forest and Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.

For a statewide list of public land open for turkey hunting, check the 2006 NJ Wild Turkey Hunting Season Information and Permit Application booklet available at license agents and Division of Fish and Wildlife offices or download it from the Fish and Wildlife Web site at (pdf, 420kb).


All harvested gobblers must be tagged immediately with a completed transportation tag. The turkey must then be taken by the person who killed it to the nearest turkey check station before 3 p.m. on the day it is killed. Staff at the check station will issue a legal possession tag. Consult the 2006 NJ Wild Turkey Hunting Season Information and Permit Application (pdf, 420kb) booklet for a listing of official turkey check stations to locate one nearest your hunting area.


The New Jersey Chapter of the Wild Turkey Federation administers the Outstanding Garden State Gobbler Records Program. The turkey must weigh no less than 20 pounds. The minimum score for a typical entry is 60; non-typical (multiple beards or spurs) is 80.

To calculate the score, add the weight plus two times the beard length plus 10 times the combined spur lengths. For example, a 19-pound gobbler with a 9-inch beard and one-inch spurs would score 57 points. A wild turkey that scores more than 50 points is considered an outstanding bird. For more information, contact a Chapter representative at 856-785-0455.


Often hunters are curious about how the weather can affect turkey hunting success. Windy and rainy weather diminishes hunter success rates for the simple fact that many individuals do not like to hunt under these conditions. In addition, this type of weather affects turkey behavior and causes the birds to become more wary and less vocal.


A research project designed to provide information on wild turkey gobbler survival in the northwestern part of the state was initiated during the winter of 2000 and ended in March 2005. The study uses radio tracking to determine what factors are affecting the survival of gobblers in the study area.

51 gobblers were radio-tagged in the first winter and tracked throughout the year. Every winter thereafter, the Division of Fish and Wildlife has tagged enough birds to maintain a sample size of approximately 50 gobblers.

Preliminary results indicate that predation and hunting are the most common forms of mortality for gobblers. Although hunting accounts for about a quarter of the mortality experienced by gobblers, this rate of mortality does not appear to be a detriment to the stability of the population. The data from this five-year project is scheduled to be analyzed shortly.


Remember to put safety first. The National Wild Turkey Federation has issued the following turkey hunter safety tips.

Before the hunt:

*Check with your doctor if you have any medical concerns.
*Hunt within your physical limitations.
*Let your hunting partners know if you have physical limitations.
*Let someone know where you are hunting and when you expect to return.
*Work to have a basic understanding of first aid.
During the hunt:
*Set up against a tree that is greater in diameter than the width of your shoulders and taller than your head whenever possible for maximum safety.
*Should you see other hunters (especially close to your line of sight) call out to them in a loud, clear voice. Their presence has already compromised your location and a soft call may only confuse them instead of alerting them to your presence.

Before you shoot, be sure the bird is a gobbler. Don’t depend on the beard to determine the turkey’s sex since some hens do have beards. The beard of a wild turkey is a group of hair-like feathers ranging from 2 inches to 12 inches in length located on the center of the breast. Bearded hens are not legal game during the spring season.

During the spring breeding season, toms or gobblers are not difficult to distinguish from hens. Look closely at the head of the bird as it comes to your calling. Gobblers’ heads are naked and very colorful. Their heads are a brilliant red, white and blue. The head of a wild turkey hen is blue-gray in color and may have a line of feathers up the back of the neck. Hens are not as colorful as gobblers.

After checking the head color, look at the color of the breast feathers. Dark black feathers indicate a tom, while the hen appears to be dark brown. If the head of the turkey is naked and colorful, the breast is black and the bird has a beard, you may be confident it is a gobbler. If you have any doubts, simply do not shoot.


Hunters should familiarize themselves with the rules and regulations for spring turkey hunting in the Garden State. New Jersey spring gobbler hunters are limited to the use of shotguns or bows and arrows. Hunting hours are a half hour before sunrise to noon. One male wild turkey may be taken with each permit, but only one turkey may be taken in a given day.

Helpful turkey hunting information and tips can be accessed through the Wild Turkey in New Jersey page at Additional hunting regulations and other information can be found hunting page and in the 2006 NJ Wild Turkey Hunting Season Information and Permit Application (pdf, 420kb) booklet.

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Copyright © State of New Jersey, 1996-2006
Department of Environmental Protection
P. O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Updated: April 10, 2006