Jimmy Jacobs’ outdoors column

The wild-turkey hunting season opens in Georgia on March 23. The vast majority of the state’s turkey hunters will be in the woods or fields on the opening weekend.

Many hunters already are preparing for the action. They are prepping gear, at the range patterning shotguns or afield for preseason scouting.

The purpose of all the activity is to be ready to match wits with a gobbler that has a brain the size of a walnut. Yet, the turkeys’ senses allow them to win more of these bouts than do the hunters.

A 2- to 3-year-old tom turkey is one of the wariest creatures in the Georgia woods. He is suspicious of anything that seems different in his home range.

Calling the pursuit of wild turkeys hunting is a bit of a misnomer. Hunters don’t stalk the birds, but instead try to fool them.

Hunters use turkey calls to imitate an amorous hen and entice a gobbler into hunting for her location. The trick is to lure the tom within 40 yards or closer for the shot.

A gobbler’s eyesight is excellent at such short distances. Full camouflage clothing, including a facemask, is necessary gear for this sport. A hunter moving even slightly sends the bird scurrying away.

A hunter that doesn’t remain motionless and unseen rarely takes a turkey home for dinner.

Targeting turkeys is one of the faster growing segments in hunting. Nationwide participation in the sport grew by 19.2 percent from 2006-11, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. That is almost twice as fast as the growth for all types of hunting.

Wild turkeys now are found in every county in Georgia. All of the state’s wildlife-management areas provide some turkey-hunting opportunities as well. For a list of those WMAs, visit georgiawildlife.com and click the Hunting link.

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