Reports from game management agencies across the U.S. show a troubling fact. The number of people purchasing hunting licenses is declining. The declining number of people buying hunting and fishing licenses has agencies tightening their budgetary belts and some are being forced to leave open job vacancies unfilled, curtail habitat improvement projects, and let some maintenance of infrastructure at parks and wildlife areas go by the wayside.
The revenue from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses accounts for nearly 2/3 of the budget of most state game agencies. If you are interested in the health of our parks and wildlife, perhaps the best thing you can do is to introduce a new hunter to the sport and turkey hunting is a great way to start. Here's why.
1. Opportunity - Wild turkeys were extirpated from Iowa in the early 1900s. Through several reintroduction efforts, including the final successful effort beginning in 1965, turkeys are thriving in Iowa. And best of all, they can be found on public hunting areas managed by the Department of Natural Resources or your County Conservation Board. These areas are easy to find using the internet, and once you have located a piece of public hunting land, it's open to everyone. For more information on public hunting land in Iowa, visit the Iowa public lands atlas detailing all of the public land in Iowa open to hunting
2. Minimal Equipment – If you visit the local sporting goods store or look at pictures of turkey hunters on Instagram and Facebook, they're filled with lots of equipment that you absolutely need to be a successful turkey hunter ...or do you? For a beginning turkey hunter, the equipment can be very basic. Camouflage clothing from head to toe and a shotgun with #5 turkey shot is all you really need. If you are wanting to call turkeys into range a mouth diaphragm call or box call are easy to use and a simple hen decoy will help to close the distance with the wary tom turkey.
3. Long Seasons – With work, hobbies, family, and school activities, most of us are already booked to the max. Iowa offers four spring seasons totaling nearly 2 months in length and a fall season is offered as well. The four spring seasons are season 1 from April 16 through April 19. The second season begins on April 20 and ends on April 24 with the third season beginning the next day April 25 and ending May 1. The fourth turkey season and the most popular spring option includes three weekends starting on May 2 and ending on May 20. A hunter does need a separate license to participate in each of the seasons with a limit of two turkey licenses per person for the spring.
4. Exciting – Spending time in nature and listening to the spring sounds is exciting enough for most people, but when you include the chance to see a thundering tom turkey at less than ten yards with its iridescent feathers shimmering in the morning sun, turkey hunting can get the heart thumping and is guaranteed to hook a beginning hunter. During the fourth turkey season in Northeast Iowa, there's the opportunity to find morel mushrooms or even catch a trout as many of the public hunting lands have a stocked trout stream running through them or close by.
5. Fine table fare – A large portion of people who are interested in hunting for the first time in their twenties, thirties, or even forties are concerned about their food supply. People are looking for a source of protein that is not only good to eat but is a good source of nutrition, ethically grown and ethically harvested. And there is no better way than knowing where your food came from than harvesting and butchering it yourself.
Anyone who is interested in learning how to hunt or is interested in mentoring a new hunter should also consider a few things before heading the woods to chase wild turkeys. A hunting license and a turkey tag are needed by anyone who is over 16 years of age to harvest a turkey in Iowa.
To obtain a hunting license a person must have passed an approved hunters education course. A complete list of the hunting regulations may be found at your local sporting goods store or on the Iowa DNR website.
If you have considered hunting, but still do not know where to start the National Wild Turkey Federation and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources have partnered together to provide mentors to outdoorsmen and women to help them get started safely and successfully hunting.
Photo: Ross Geerdes,