Louisiana’s 2018 spring gobbler season will begin on April 7 in all three turkey hunting areas. 

Area A, which includes the majority of the state’s turkey hunting habitat, will remain open for hunting through May 6. 

Area B’s closing date is April 29 and Area C’s is April 22. Youth and physically challenged hunter special weekend dates are March 30 through April 1 in all three areas. But those dates are for private land only — check LDWF turkey hunting schedules for WMAs, national wildlife refuges and federal lands. 

April 7 is a later opener than we have seen in previous years. I suspect it’s due to low hunter harvest and low population estimates, and may not be all that popular in areas where gobblers are heard greeting the day starting in early to mid-March. But the good news is the later opening will allow for undisturbed breeding, resulting in better reproduction. It also means better hunting after hens have begun nesting and mature gobblers aren’t easily finding receptive females.


Tag and validate

All turkey hunters, regardless of age or license status, must obtain turkey tags and have them in their possession while hunting. Tag the gobbler before it is moved from the kill site and comply with all other tagging requirements. Validation is required within 72 hours and is the most important part of the process. Accurate harvest data is crucial to good management. I believe a significant number of harvested turkeys go unreported. This leaves managers with no choice other than to assume low hunter success and low turkey numbers. The results are later seasons (like this year) or shorter seasons. 

For the wildlife enforcement officer the most common violations associated with turkey hunting are license or tag violations and baiting. 

Failure to tag is a very common violation for a couple of reasons. First, it took a while in Louisiana for hunters to become accustomed to tagging. But it has now been around long enough for everyone to be aware of the requirement. The other and more illicit reason for not tagging a gobbler is the one-per-day, two-per-season limit. 

Back in the days before tags, the two (or years ago three) per-season limit was unenforceable and dependent on the hunter’s honesty and willingness to honor the law. Unfortunately, not everyone was honorable, and wildlife agents routinely received reports of violators exceeding the season limits. When tags for deer and turkeys were implemented, it gave agents a leg up on enforcing limits. Yes, there are ways to beat tagging laws. But it’s still better than nothing. 


Bait: who does it and why 

Time and experience in the field taught me a lot about people, and most good wildlife officers I know have learned how to figure out who is likely to do what. 

They do that by understanding how people with similar traits and similar circumstances will do similar things. People who illegally bait turkeys are a prime example. 

If you are wondering who is most likely to hunt over bait, look for the guy who wants everyone to think he is a top- notch turkey hunter. He’ll talk a lot about all the long beards he’s killed, his skill with the call and his vast knowledge of turkeys. If he hunts on private land, he probably doesn’t extend any invitations to other hunters. He may also be someone who does not seem willing to do the hard work required to take a gobbler fairly. Now mind you I am not saying everyone fitting this description is baiting turkeys: But I am saying some people caught hunting over bait do. 

For our purposes, here are a few tips on avoiding bait. On public land, be sure to look closely for bait before setting up in a likely looking spot. When hunting on private land, maintain a distance of 200 yards or more from active feeders or locations where supplemental feed has been placed for deer or other wildlife. If you suspect bait on private land, ask the landowner before hunting, the same as you would for doves or waterfowl. If bait is discovered, leave the area immediately and report it to LDWF Law Enforcement.


Always think safety

We can’t talk about turkey hunting without mentioning safety. Hunting methods including wearing camo, using concealment and making calls imitating turkeys ramp up the potential for hunting accidents. Even more so on public land, where folks may be unaware of the presence and location of other hunters. Precautions must include setting up in spots where no one can approach unseen from behind, keeping an eye out for other hunters and a bag (preferably hunter orange or pink in color) for carrying decoys and harvested turkeys. 

Have a great turkey season — and don’t forget to validate.