On April 13, 2016

Vermont’s spring turkey hunting starts soon

By Rick Hedding, courtesy of VTF&W

Brianna Hedding, right, sits with her turkey shot during the 2010 youth turkey weekend, with Don Isabelle.

It’s almost time for spring turkey hunting in Vermont. Youth spring turkey hunting weekend is April 23-24 this year, and the regular spring turkey season is May 1-31.

What makes Vermont’s spring gobbler season special? Vermont’s turkey hunting is statewide during the spring season. Vermont’s turkey population is one of the highest in New England. You can buy a turkey hunting license without having to go through a lottery. The turkey license comes with two spring tags for two bearded birds and one tag for a turkey of either sex in the fall season. Plus, hunting is allowed on Sundays.

In 2015, hunters took 4,970 turkeys in both the youth weekend and spring season, and 886 turkeys in the fall.

Youth weekend

Landowner permission is required to hunt on private land during youth turkey hunting weekend. To be eligible, a young hunter must be age 15 or under. He or she must have successfully completed a hunter education course and possess a hunting license, a turkey hunting license and a free youth turkey hunting tag.

A shotgun or bow and arrow may be used in either the youth turkey or regular spring turkey hunting seasons. Shot size must be no larger than #2 and no smaller than #8.

The young hunter also must be accompanied by an unarmed adult who holds a hunting license and is over 18 years of age. Shooting hours are one half hour before sunrise to 12:00 noon. The youth may take one bearded turkey during youth weekend and two bearded turkeys in the regular May hunting season. Last year, young hunters took 510 turkeys during Vermont’s two-day youth hunt.

“As the program has developed, the youth turkey hunt in April has become a landmark weekend for young hunters to get outside after a long winter and enjoy the skill and excitement of calling in a turkey,” said Amy Alfieri, Vermont’s wild turkey project leader. “About one out of every four youth hunters harvests a bird on this special weekend just for them, and I expect this year will be no different.”

Regular season

The regular spring turkey hunting season is May 1-31. Shooting hours are one half hour before sunrise to12:00 noon. Two bearded turkeys may be taken, and all of Vermont is open to turkey hunting during the youth weekend and regular spring season.

A shotgun or bow and arrow may be used in either the youth turkey or regular spring turkey hunting seasons. Shot size must be no larger than #2 and no smaller than #8.

“Although we are monitoring the slight decline in harvest we have seen since 2008, our population is still healthy and robust enough to support a statewide hunting program. This past mild winter could make for a decent harvest this spring,” Alfieri continued.

One in every four hunters harvested a bird in 2015, and of those successful hunters, 26 percent harvested a second bird under the two-bird limit.

Vermont was the first New England state to reestablish wild turkeys when it released 31 wild birds from New York in 1969 and 1970. Today, the Green Mountain State has an estimated 45,000-60,000 turkeys. All Vermonters enjoy watching the big birds as they roam hillsides they had been absent from for almost a century.

Vermont’s wild turkey restoration program is a tremendous wildlife management success story funded entirely by hunters through the sale of hunting licenses and a federal tax on hunting equipment. Now, hunters are reaping the benefits by seeing excellent turkey hunting in Vermont.

To find out more about wild turkey hunting in Vermont, contact the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department at 802-828-1000 or visit www.vtfishandwildlife.com. The 2015 Turkey Harvest Report, available on the website, has details to help you plan your hunt, including the number of turkeys taken in each town.

Licenses are available on their website and from agents statewide.

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