wild turkey

An estimated 50,000 hunters will try to bag Eastern wild turkeys in South Carolina this spring. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo)

The weather during the past week may not have been a good indicator, but spring will officially arrive at 6:28 a.m. Monday. And with spring comes some notable changes for turkey hunters.

Bag limits and dates have changed in South Carolina for hunting the Eastern wild turkey. The season now opens on private lands Monday and continues until May 5 statewide. For Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) where turkey hunting is allowed, the season opens April 1 and closes May 5.

The statewide bag limit is now three gobblers per hunter with no more than two taken in one day. Possession and use of Turkey Tags is in effect for all hunters. And the S.C. Department of Natural Resources cautions that hunters on WMAs consult the annual Turkey Regulations for seasons and bag limits on specific WMAs as they may be more restricting.

Youth Turkey Hunt Days on private land were March 18-19, while March 25 is Youth Turkey Hunt Day on WMA lands open to turkey hunting. On these days, youths 17 and under who are accompanied by a properly licensed adult (age 21 and older) may hunt turkeys. Although adults may call or guide, only the youth can take or attempt to take turkeys. There is no license requirement for youths; however, tagging requirements and bag limits remain in place for these special youth days.

The turkey forecast for 2017 is fair, according to Charles Ruth, Big Game Program coordinator for the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR).

Ruth said reproduction in turkey has been low for the last decade, but the spring 2016 season showed a rebound of about 10 percent.

Ruth said the state’s turkey population remains about 30 percent below record levels around the turn of the century, a decline shared by most southeastern states, but given the right conditions numbers can improve in a short period of time.

DNR estimates there will be 50,000 turkey hunters this season, generating an estimated $30 million in direct expenditures. Visit dnr.sc.gov for more information.

Lowcountry Open fishing tournament

A new saltwater fishing tournament with something for all saltwater fishing enthusiasts is headed to the Lowcountry. The Lowcountry Open, an event designed to raise funds for Palmetto Warrior Connection, will be fished May 20 with the Charleston City Marina, Bristol Marina and Georgetown Landing serving as headquarters.

The Lowcountry Open (thelowcountryopen.com) will feature offshore, nearshore and inshore divisions.

Target species for the offshore tournament are dolphin, wahoo and tuna with a $500 entry fee per boat. Nearshore anglers ($100 per boat) will fish for king mackerel, Spanish mackerel and amberjack. The inshore division ($100 per boat) will feature redfish and spotted seatrout. Late entry fee pricing will begin April 16. Anglers can fish from Little River to the South Carolina-Georgia line.

No wake zone

Remember the No Wake Zone around the boat landing at Wappoo Cut will be extended during the busiest part of the boating season. Beginning April 15 and continuing through Sept. 15, the No Wake Zone will be extended north to about 200 yards south of the James Island Connector Bridge and south to the entrance of Coburg Creek.

For questions regarding the wake zone extension, contact the SCDNR law enforcement investigations office at 843-953-9378.