Prospects look good, according to the National Wild Turkey Federation’s regional turkey biologist. Here are her forecasts for Oregon, Idaho and Washington.
By Mikal Cline
Oregon’s wild turkeys continue to thrive, despite some mortality during the winter of 2016-17. We may notice a missing cohort of 2-year-old toms in the field this year, but in general the populations are quite healthy.
TACOMA CLOWERS OF THE BEND AREA GOT INTO THE DOUBLE BONUS DURING THE 2015 SPRING GOBBLER HUNT IN EASTERN OREGON, A PAIR OF ELK ANTLER SHEDS. HIS UNCLE CARL LEWALLEN SENT THE PIC. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)
Oregon primarily offers Rio Grande wild turkey hunting, though some Merriam’s still persist in the Cascades. Oregon’s core populations exist in the southwest portion of the state, in the vicinity of Roseburg and Medford. The scattered oak savannas and transitional pine forests offer excellent habitat. Mild winters and early springs contribute to high survival and productivity.
OREGON’S “GOOD OLD” DOUGLAS COUNTY PAID OFF FOR JAYCE WILDER DURING THE 2016 SPRING HUNT. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)
Take advantage of the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Access & Habitat Program (dfw.state.or.us/lands/AH) if you are struggling to find good hunting access in this area. The Jackson Travel Management Area near Shady Cove is a personal favorite.
Wild turkeys also thrive on Forest Service land from the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, in the northeast corner of the state, over to the Ochocos. The Malheur National Forest is one of my favorite spots to hunt turkeys in Central Oregon, thanks to healthy populations and excellent public access. Wild turkey density starts to thin out in the Central Cascades, but the White River area continues to be a big producer.
SHHH, DON’T TELL THE TRUANT OFFICER, BUT KEVIN KENYON SKIPPED SCHOOL DURING LAST YEAR’S TURKEY SEASON, BAGGING THIS BIRD WHILE HUNTING WITH HIS UNCLE. “TOOK ALMOST 3 HOURS BUT WHEN YOUR TURKEY HUNTING PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE,” NOTED KEVIN’S DAD, MARK. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)
ODFW made a concerted effort to trap and transplant overstocked birds this past winter. I believe we can expect some emerging opportunities in South-central Oregon (think Klamath to Lakeview), thanks to this effort. The Ochocos and White River Wildlife Management Unit populations will also benefit from ODFW’s efforts.
The south Willamette Valley, particularly Lane County, is another emerging opportunity for wild turkey hunters, should they be able to secure hunting access.
JACOB HALEY NOTCHES HIS YOUTH TURKEY TAG FOLLOWING A SUCCESSFUL MORNING WITH “GUIDE” TROY RODAKOWSKI IN THE WILLAMETTE VALLEY. (TROY RODAKOWSKI)
IDAHO BUMPS BAG
Spring turkey hunters in the Gem State can now take two bearded birds a day, thanks to a rule change from the Fish and Game Commission earlier this year.
It’s yet another sign that gobblers are doing well in much of their range across Idaho.
“They’re overrun,” jokes NWTF’s Mikal Cline. It’s going to be a great turkey season in Idaho.”
Commissioners also increased fall hunting opportunities in the Panhandle, Clearwater and Southwest regions, and added youth spring and fall controlled hunts in the Salmon district.
However, the general spring turkey season was closed in Unit 70, in Southeast Idaho.
The annual limit is still two bearded turkeys per spring.
WASHINGTON’S EASTSIDE TURKEY populations are robust, prompting the Department of Fish and Wildlife to propose more liberal fall seasons in some locations. The core population of Washington’s turkeys occurs in the northeast corner of the state, consisting primarily of the Merriam’s subspecies. Colville is the epicenter of spring turkey hunting in Washington, boasting high hunter success rates and a turkey harvest that is an order of magnitude greater than any other turkey management unit in
HOW JEREMY RACE CORRALLED THREE LITTLE BOYS TO SIT STILL FOR ANY PERIOD OF TIME DURING THIS SPRING TURKEY HUNT IS ANYBODY’S GUESS, BUT HIS NEPHEW CARTER MADE GOOD ON HIS SHOT OPPORTUNITY. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)
We are seeing increased nuisance and damage complaints coming from the suburban fringes of Spokane and Cheney, but hunter access remains a constraint. We are also seeing increasing hybridization between Rio Grande and Merriam’s in this area.
JOHNNY HONE DOWNED HIS FIRST GOBBLER WITH A SINGLE SHOT FROM HIS 20-GAUGE SHOTGUN AT 25 YARDS AFTER HIS DAD JOHN CALLED HIM WITHIN RANGE. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)
The foothills of the Blue Mountains in Southeast Washington are also a world-class destination, with the towns of Dayton, Pomeroy and Walla Walla serving as gateways for excellent Rio Grande turkey hunting.
The Klickitat River watershed offers the best turkey hunting closer to the west side of the state. Check with WDFW for access opportunities on wildlife areas and industrial timberlands in the area.
THE HARSH WINTER OF 2016-17 MAY HAVE LINGERING EFFECTS ON HOW MANY TURKEYS SPRING HUNTERS SEE IN SOME PARTS OF THE NORTHWEST, BUT OVERALL PROSPECTS ARE GOOD. RICH AND MATT OAKLEY OF VANCOUVER BAGGED THEIR FIRST EVER GOBBLERS IN KLICKITAT COUNTY ON THE SECOND DAY OF LAST YEAR’S HUNT. FRIEND GREG ELLYSON SENT THE PIC. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)
Turkey hunting in Southwest Washington for the eastern subspecies continues to be a challenge. These flocks have never thrived, but do persist in certain areas, including Lewis County. Tapping into local knowledge is the best way to complete your Washington turkey slam, but you will have to work for it.
KEITH MOEN, THE SUBJECT OF A BIG ARTICLE IN OUR PAGES LAST FALL, HARVESTED THIS SPRING TURKEY A COUPLE SEASONS BACK IN NORTHEAST WASHINGTON. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)
From Goldendale to the Methow, the east slope of the Cascades continues to hold pockets of wild turkeys, which do seem to be increasing, though there are not rigorous surveys in this area. Again, local knowledge from your district wildlife biologist will help you locate these birds.
MCKENNA RISLEY SHOWS OFF HER FIRST TURKEY, TAKEN IN THE METHOW VALLEY LAST SPRING WHILE HUNTING WITH HER DAD ROB. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)
On an interesting note, we have heard evidence that wild turkeys have crossed Snoqualmie Pass and have been seen around North Bend.
Also, WDFW is in the process of updating its wild turkey management plan, including the trap and transplant operational guidelines. Until the plan is approved, T&T operations are on hold.
Editor’s note: For more on how to hunt Northwest gobblers, check out the April issue of Northwest Sportsman!