Harvesting a turkey is a culmination of planning, strategy, calling and shooting skills and, sometimes, a good understanding on the complexities of state and federal game laws.
When it comes to turkey hunting, some body parts are more important than others. Especially, after killing a bird and transporting it back to camp or home. Some states have rather specific requirements for tagging, registering, field dressing and transporting game animals after harvest. There are physical parts of a turkey that are very important to keep intact, as they will verify that you’ve killed a legal bird.
Traveling turkey hunters have a lot of time, effort and money invested in their trips and are very law-abiding people. The last thing they want to do is get in trouble. That is why it is important for them to be informed when it comes to legally transporting their hard-won trophy.
Here are a few NWTF tips that should help keep you legal after the hunt is over:
Check the Tag: As soon as the tag arrives in the mail or purchased from a licensing vendor, read it. Many tags are tossed in a desk drawer and are never seen again until the day of the hunt. The tag and the accompanying documents will spell out specific regulations, check-in requirements and transportation of harvested game.
Validate the Tag: Some tags require validation before the hunt through a signature to legally activate the permit, while others require validation after the kill. Read the tag or regulations book to see what is needed to validate your permit.
Tag the bird: This is one of the areas where hunters get in trouble. They bag a bird and get so excited they forget to tag the bird immediately or fail to tag it in the right spot. Don’t forget to check your license to see if the tag belongs on a foot or other places.
Retain Evidence of Sex: This is where it can get confusing. Some states require intact legs with spurs, head, or beard, while a few even require feathers. The reason for the specifics is to allow law enforcement a way to confirm that you’ve legally killed a tom or at least a bearded turkey and it is the correct type of turkey in states with multiple sub-species. The specific sex requirements also meet the federal requirements when shipping or transporting birds out of state.
Wanton Waste: It is not legal in some states to field dress and quarter or dispose of turkey parts such as the legs, back and wings at your hunting site before check in. In general, it is a good idea to keep the bird intact (removing entrails is okay) until the bird is checked in, validated and at your residence. If you are worried about spoilage, place ice packs in the body cavity to speed cooling and don’t delay in checking in the bird. Check legal requirements with your local wildlife law enforcement office, regulations book or tag documentation for specifics.
Check in: Read check-in information to see if birds need to be checked in with a specific county, office or nearest check station. It may save you a long day of driving across the county. Calling check stations ahead of time to check whether they are open is also a good idea. Check stations often issue the permanent transportation tag or validate your temporary tag.
Transportation Tags: Ask the local wildlife agency if they require separate transportation permits for out-of-state shipment of game. Keep tags attached to birds at all times until it reaches your residence or place of consumption.
Check with Your State: As an added precaution, check with your home state where you’ll be transporting your bird. Some states require that the hunter also meet the legal requirements for retaining evidence of sex for the destination state.
It may seem complicated, but a few minutes of reading the tag documentation, asking the right questions and understanding the rules; will mean fewer headaches after a successful hunt.
Tagging Your Bird was last modified: January 29th, 2018 by Bill Winke