Chronicle of Mt. Juliet

Early-season turkey season fears were unfounded

Spring season runs through May 28

Randall Haley guided Lebanon’s Emery Dowdy on a successful turkey hunt. Brandon Dowdy

When it was announced that this spring’s turkey season would start two weeks later than usual, a lot of hunters’ feathers were ruffled.

One veteran hunter was so upset he said he might not even hunt.

But he did – and he killed two big gobblers (the season limit) the first two mornings of the new, delayed season.

He and most others who had criticized the delayed opener admitted they were wrong.

The late start had no adverse impact on the harvest, which appears to be on course for one of the best in years.

During the two-day Young Sportsman hunt, 2,193 birds were bagged, almost twice as many last year (1,184).

The season runs through May 28, after which the final tally will be announced.

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency delayed the season to hopefully enhance the breeding cycle and produce more turkeys for the future. It is part of a number of changes the Agency has implemented to try to check the decline of turkeys in many areas.

Along with the later season opener, this year’s bag limit was reduced from three bearded birds to two, only one of which can be a jake (juvenile).

“The TWRA did a great job,” says outdoor personality Randall Haley, among the hunters who limited early. “The later start was perfect, with good weather and plenty of gobbling.”

In addition to bagging his two birds, Haley guided on the Young Sportsman hunt and helped 11-year-old Emery Dowdy bag a gobbler.

Emery is the daughter of Southern Woods & Waters TV show host Brandon Dowdy and already a veteran – she went on her first hunt at seven.

“We got a big gobbler to come into our decoys shortly after daylight, and Emery nailed it at 35 yards,” Haley said. “She was calm as could be.”

Emery’s seven-year-old brother Neyland also bagged a bird hunting with his dad.

In addition to the youth hunt, Haley also guided a Fort Campbell soldier on a successful hunt.

The Tennessee Fish & Wildlife Commission voted to keep the turkey regulations in place for next season.