Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Turkeys Aplenty in Clay for Start of Spring Hunting Season

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Turkeys Aplenty in Clay for Start of Spring Hunting Season

Article excerpt

Byline: Bob Buehn

Spring turkey season starts Saturday and avid gobbler hunters will be taking to the woods clad in camouflage and armed with an array of calls to lure the big birds.

Here in Clay County, we are within the upper range of the Osceola turkey, one of the five subspecies of wild turkey in North America and one that is unique to the Florida peninsula. Compared with the Eastern turkey, found in the Panhandle and north of Florida, the Osceola is slightly smaller and darker.

David Nicholson, of Florida's Wild Turkey Management Program, said Osceola turkeys tend to be smaller, which is often the case for Southern species, with longer legs, which is likely an adaptation to wetter areas. Their darker color is also probably an adaptation to the thick woods and swamps where they live, he said.

Clay hunters could encounter either the Osceola or Eastern turkeys. Turkey populations look promising this spring.

"From what I've seen on the ground, I think we've had a good hatch," said Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission biologist Allan Hallman. "I've seen a couple of hundred birds" along cleared areas in Jennings State Forest, he said.

To hunt in Jennings, you need one of the quotas that were drawn last fall. However, there are other wildlife management areas where a quota is not required. These are listed at myfwc.com/huntingcq under "WMA Regulations." Of course, you can always hunt private land if you have access.

To participate in spring turkey hunting, you'll need a Florida hunting license and a turkey permit. If you plan to pursue a gobbler on one of Florida's many WMAs, you also must purchase a management area permit.

All of these licenses and permits are available at county tax collector offices, most retail outlets that sell hunting and fishing supplies, by calling (888) 486-8356 or online at www2. …

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