Chance to hunt, call turkeys coming up

With deer hunting season now at an end and most small game hunting seasons ending in Georgia Feb. 28, hunters at Fort Benning will soon be in need of a new animal to hunt.

Fortunately for hunting aficionados, turkey-hunting season will begin in Georgia March 23.

“We’re looking forward to a good season,” Bill Brickner, a hunting enthusiast who oversees a hunting program for wounded and disabled veterans, said. “It’s been a good breeding season, and I can tell you there are lots and lots of turkeys out there. We really encourage anyone who’s interested to get out there and hunt.”

Before the actual start of the season, however, turkey-hunting enthusiasts can come together and show off their turkey calling skills at the upcoming Peach State Classic.

The event, sponsored by the Columbus Firefighters Association, will be Feb. 28 at the Columbus Firefighters Association building, 6655 Lynch Road in Columbus.

The event is open to all interested persons, and carries a $5 entry fee.

The contest will consist of five divisions – open, friction, hunters, junior and poults.

The open and friction divisions will be for more experienced callers, as both division contests will be sanctioned by the National Wild Turkey Federation.

The hunters division will be open to all turkey callers, while the junior division will be open to youths ages 16 and younger and the poults division to those 7 and younger.

Joe Drake, one of the organizers of the Peach State Classic, said the poults division is often the highlight of the night.

“These are the little T-ball guys who might hit the ball and run to third base, so when they get up on the stage, there’s no telling what they might do in a turkey calling contest,” Drake said.

There will also be door prize giveaways, and Drake said most that attend will end up with some sort of prize.

Proceeds from the event will go to the family of Jeremy Williams, a former local football coach who suffers from ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. A portion of the proceeds will also support cancer research.

Drake also said that the event provides a good opportunity for novice turkey hunters to prepare for the upcoming hunting season.

“We’ll have some of the top callers in the South, so people who come will get to hear all the sounds that a turkey makes and familiarize themselves a little bit before they get ready to go hunting,” Drake said.

If Soldiers at Fort Benning are interested in participating in the upcoming hunting season, there is no need to leave Fort Benning for prime turkey hunting areas, Brickner said.

“Just about any area that is open is going to have turkeys on it,” he said. “Fort Benning is about 180,000 acres, and I can’t name a place that doesn’t have turkeys on it.”

In order to hunt turkeys, hunters must first complete the Georgia Hunter Education Course and obtain a big game license.

Hunters are allowed to bag three male turkeys per year, and must use the appropriate shotgun shot.

Brickner said he hopes those who have not yet tried turkey hunting will give it a shot this season.

“We’ve been losing so many hunters over the last few years,” Brickner said. “We’re down something like 10 or 15 percent, and we really don’t want to lose the sport. We want people to come out and enjoy the sport whenever they can find time to hunt. This time of year, turkey hunting is pretty much the only thing going, so if people like to hunt, they really should learn how to hunt turkeys.”

For more information on turkey hunting, call Brickner at 706-681-4549. For more information on the Peach State Classic, call Drake at 706-573-6788.