This weekend opens up a special two-day hunt for Arkansas’s youths to tag a turkey before the die-hard gobbler getters hit the woods for Arkansas’s regular turkey season opener, April 17.
Initiated in 2004, the annual Arkansas youth turkey hunt offers two days for hunters 6 to 15 years old to get to the woods with a mentor to learn the ropes of the turkey woods. Wild turkeys can be one of the most challenging of an Arkansas turkey hunter’s pursuits, so capturing the success needed to continue a young hunter on their journey to adopting this passion can already be a difficult proposition. Add in birds that have learned to adapt to hunter pressure after the first week of the season, and the youth experience can be ruined. By opening with a special youth-only hunt, the AGFC is hoping to give youth hunters opportunities to hear and learn how to work birds that are gobbling well.
“We know from gobbling chronology surveys that the birds really begin to slow down once hunters have been in the woods for a few days,” Jeremy Wood, AGFC Turkey Program coordinator, said. “Some of that, obviously, is birds that have been removed from the population by successful hunters, but the remaining birds also gobble less frequently during times of high hunter pressure.”
In addition to the head start, Wood offers a few extra tips for mentors introducing a youth to turkey season.
“Even some of the best turkey hunters go home with unfilled tags, so be ready to keep it fun, no matter if the birds cooperate or not,” Wood said. “A good experience is what you’re shooting for first. Also, try to have multiple locations to pick from during the hunt. If someone is parked where you were going to go, give them space for their child to have a good hunt as well and hit your ‘Plan B’ or ‘Plan C’ area.”
The 2023 hunt is April 8-9, statewide. Only hunters 6-15 may hunt during the youth turkey hunt and may take one juvenile or adult gobbler. The bird counts toward the youth’s seasonal bag limit of two turkeys as well as any zone or WMA limits. Youths who have completed hunter education (https://www.agfc.com/en/education/first-steps-outdoors/huntered/) may hunt without supervision. Youths who have not completed hunter education (https://www.agfc.com/en/education/first-steps-outdoors/huntered/) must be under the direct supervision of an adult who is 21 or older.
All turkeys harvested must be checked using the AGFC’s online checking system or telephone checking system. The online system may be accessed through the AGFC’s website at www.agfc.com (http://www.agfc.com/) by clicking the green “Buy Licenses | Check Game” button at the top of the page. Checking by telephone is available at 833-289-2469.
Wood said this year’s early green-up may make the birds a little harder to hear than usual.
“Gobbles won’t carry as far through the timber with the leaves on the trees,” Wood said. “So just because you aren’t hearing birds it doesn’t mean they’re ‘gobbled out.’ If they’re still there, you may just need to get a little closer than where you had been hearing them from previously.”
Check out the recently published 2022 Arkansas Turkey Program Annual Report (https://www.agfc.com/en/hunting/turkey/turkey-harvest-reports/)
to learn more about the status of Arkansas’s turkey population and work being done to promote turkey conservation in The Natural State.