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Early turkey season to benefit youth, hunters with disabilities

POSTED: July 14, 2013 11:39 p.m.

State residents will have the opportunity to speak this week on new legislation allowing the season to begin early for certain groups.

House Bill 207 went into effect July 1, directing the Department of Natural Resources to establish a separate turkey season for youth and mobility-impaired hunters.

DNR is proposing to open the weekend before the season officially begins.

“Traditional turkey season is the first Saturday after March 19,” said John Bowers, DNR’s assistant chief of game management. The season runs through May 15.

That early weekend would be only for the two groups noted.

“I think that would be fine,” said Paul Kesmodel, president of Cherokee Gun Club, off Candler Road in Gainesville. “I think most hunters would probably encourage that, because we are trying to encourage more folks to get involved in the shooting sports.”

Rep. Emory Dunahoo, R-Gainesville, is on the Game, Fish, & Parks Committee. An avid hunter, he helped support HB 207, and thinks it’s a good move for hunting in the state.

“One of the things with hunting is a lot of times there will be a lot of people in the woods,” he said. “And when we have handicapped hunters or youth hunters, it’s a little bit ... less liability.”

He said having fewer people in the woods would allow for proper education for youth hunters, and better safety for individuals with disabilities. He specifically mentioned that hunters using wheelchairs would find an earlier season easier for getting around.

He said the rules are clear that people assisting hunters during the special season would not be allowed to hunt.

For the proposed change, DNR is hosting three public hearings, with the first being held in Gainesville on Tuesday at the Wildlife Resources Division office, 2150 Dawsonville Highway.

The other two forums will be held in Macon and Douglas. All hearings begin at 7 p.m.

Residents who can’t make the hearings can provide their comments via mail or the DNR website.

“We’ll provide a summary of the comments that we receive regarding the rule, along with the proposed rule to the board of Natural Resources, for their consideration,” Bowers said.

The change would be in place for the 2014 turkey hunting season.

Kesmodel said he sees the proposed change as positive, particularly in encouraging youth to engage in outdoor sportsmanship.

“I have turkey hunted, and it’s a very beautiful time of year,” he said. “You see the woods waking up from their winter’s nap, so to speak.”

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