South Jersey Hunting: Fall Turkey Season Opens Saturday in NJ
It’s only seven days in duration, but it includes two Saturdays, October 29 and November 5.
Seven days to bag a turkey, be it gobbler, jake, or hen, and, based on the number of permits purchased, it can be one a day for as many permits purchased.
The permit is $21.
To be sure, the fall turkey season has its perks!
We find this Indian Summer endeavor to be one of the best weeks to be afield. Doubling it with squirrel hunting part of the day or maybe some time on the water, be it for trout, bass, or panfish...all amid autumn’s arboreal splendor. It just doesn’t get any better.
Oddly enough, the fall turkey season garners scant attention and effort compared to the late April through May gobbler season. Last year’s week-long fall hunt resulted in a harvest of a mere 68 turkeys. The year prior it was 96 and the year before that, 77. The highest was a harvest of 258 in 2000.
For whatever reason, hunting turkeys in the fall just doesn’t appeal to many, especially those with deer on the mind. Turkeys are to be hunted in the spring as Garden State tradition (since the first spring season back in 1981) seems to dictate.
Fall turkey hunting, which became legal in 1997, is all about walking the woodlands and woodland/field edges looking to encounter a flock. Invariably, the turkeys will opt to run when they see you, and it’s a matter of getting after them (some utilize the services of a dog, which is legal) to take to the air where they’ll peel off in different directions. It’s then a matter of finding a comfortable position with a good view of the surroundings, and then listening for the first tentative “where are you” calls from the gregarious gamebirds as they look to regroup. This can happen as quickly as 10-15 minutes, but usually, it’s about a half-hour before the seeking sounds start. Then, you start answering via the call of your choice. Sooner or later, a bird, or birds, is hopefully going to make its way towards you and get within range.
Don’t discount sounding off with a gobbler call to get a turkey coming in, especially a boss tom. Earlier this week while traversing a roughly paved back road out near Mays Landing, a gobbler, tail half-fanned, was gobbling up a storm, a half-dozen hens scratching close by. I was able to get pretty close in the SUV, but unfortunately, the camera was in the back of the vehicle. True to form, my phone camera took lousy photos. But, there he was, gobbling as if it were the spring mating season.
Permits are available for all of the Garden State’s 18 Turkey Hunting Areas (THAs) for the brief fall season. South Jersey’s THAs 15, 16, 20, 21, and 22 are especially loaded with birds. Permits can be purchased at license-issuing agents (see pages 16-17 in the 2022-23 Hunting & Trapping Digest) or online at njfishandwildlife.com.
Legal hunting hours are half-hour before sunrise to half-hour after sunset. Any bird harvested must be reported by 7 pm the day it was bagged.
Fluorescent orange is not required.
Check out the October 22 podcast of Rack & Fin Radio when DEP Fish & Wildlife gamebird biologist Jimmy Sloan talks about New Jersey turkeys and gives his prospectus for the autumn season, and turkey hunting expert Lou Gambale, the NJ state chapter president of the National Wild Turkey Federation, delivers some tips and tactics for dropping that fall bird.