I remember the first time I ever saw a wild turkey in the state of Louisiana.  I was driving east on I-20 and when I got to Exit 44 (Dixie Inn exit), there they were.

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Two of the most beautiful gobblers I had ever seen.  It must have been around 1988 or 1989 and though I had heard of other sightings in the Ruston area, I had never seen witnessed them myself.

While I had actually even hunted them before in Alabama, I couldn't believe I was seeing these magnificent creatures right here in my own home state.  For most of my life, there were just none to see.

According to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the problem began in the late 1800's:

Prior to 1880, the wild turkey population in Louisiana was estimated to be as high as one million birds. However, by the turn of the century, the state's turkey population started a precipitous decline due to exploitation of our virgin forests as well as commercial, subsistence, and unregulated sport hunting. After World War II, Louisiana’s wild turkey population was at its lowest point—only 14 isolated flocks totaling less than 1,500 wild turkeys remained throughout the state. In 1962, LDWF, with support from partners such as the National Wild Turkey Federation and private landowners, began trapping and releasing wild turkeys into suitable habitat to restore the population. Today, wild turkeys are distributed across Louisiana and occupy most available habitat suitable for the species.

Fast forward to today, and the LDWF's restocking program has been so successful that as many as 20,000 Louisiana hunters, including me, routinely see turkeys, even from a deer stand.  See the picture below from my deer stand in Arcadia.

Photo by Gary McCoy
Photo by Gary McCoy

And now that Spring is only a couple of weeks away, these turkey hunters are ready to kick off the season.

Turkey season for the entire state of Louisiana will officially begin on Saturday, April 1 for hunters on private lands.

For those wishing to hunt WMA, National Wildlife Refuge, and Federal Lands, just go to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries website for season dates on those areas.

Though the state shares an "opening day", the end of the season is differentiated by the three different zoning districts. Divided into Areas A, B and C, the closing dates are as follows:
Area A - April 1 through April 30. Here in Northwest Louisiana this includes Bossier, Webster, Bienville and Claiborne parishes.
Area B - April 1 through April 23. This includes Caddo, Desoto and Red River parishes here in our neck of the woods.
Area C - April 1 through April 16.

From Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries
From Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries

If you're planning to hunt, there are a few things to remember:

  • Shooting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset
  • Shotguns, including muzzle loading shotguns, should use shot not larger than #2 lead, #2 non-toxic, or BB steel shot, and no larger than 10 gauge
  • Traditional bow, compound bow, and crossbow, or any bow drawn, held or released by mechanical means are considered legal equipment
  • During the season, a turkey hunter is allowed to take one gobbler in one day. The season limit is two gobblers.

One other thing to remember is that if you are fortunate enough to bag a gobbler or two this season, make sure to tag your game.

For instructions on that just refer to the LDWF website's guidelines on that located HERE

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