Tag Archives: turkey

2017 Idaho Spring Turkey Prospects: ‘Fair-to-good’ Numbers

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME

Spring turkey hunting outlook: fair to good; general season opens April 15

Tuesday, April 11, 2017 – 11:46 AM MDT

 

Winter decreased some flocks in southern Idaho, but Panhandle and Clearwater should have good hunting

General turkey season opens Saturday, April 15, and you can see units that have general hunts in our turkey hunting rules , as well as details about the seasons. Hunters will find most general hunting opportunity in the Panhandle, Clearwater and Southwest Regions, and beyond that most areas are limited to controlled hunts. 

(Idaho Fish and Game)

Higher-than-normal snowfall in much of the state likely decreased turkey populations in some areas, but hunters should still find fair-to-good turkey populations depending on the region. 

“In Southwest and Eastern Idaho we anticipate populations to be down based on field reports, turkey populations remain good in the Clearwater and Panhandle regions,” said Jeff Knetter, upland and migratory bird coordinator. 

Knetter explained turkeys typically cope with winter differently than big game. They typically seek out feed from agriculture operations, such as feed lots and feed lines for livestock. 

In areas where that’s not an option, they can have difficulty surviving winter if they’re unable to get natural food off the ground. Fish and Game in cooperation with the National Wild Turkey Federation fed some birds during winter the Cambridge, Council and Garden Valley areas to help them get through winter. 

Hunters are also warned that many areas have experienced flooding during late winter and early spring, so they should double check access to their favorite hunting spots. They might also encounter lingering snowdrifts that block them from their hunting spot. 

turkeys, spring, Southwest Region

(Photo by Roger Phillips/Idaho Fish and Game)

Fish and Game’s regional wildlife managers give an overview of what’s happening with turkey hunting in their regions. 

Panhandle Region

Turkey season in the Panhandle is looking quite good despite the snow that accumulated in the lower elevations this winter. Wintering turkeys are typically associated with agricultural land, often around livestock feeding operations, so food is usually available.  

Although the region had at near-normal winter snowpack, the winter did not begin in earnest until mid-January and snowfall in December and early January was below normal, so turkeys were not stressed for a long period. Things are now opening up and we’re seeing a very nice spring greenup due to the abundant moisture. 

A challenge for turkey hunters this year might be access due to poor road conditions due to flooding, but there should be abundant turkeys. During the spring season, hunters may purchase and use up to two turkey tags; only toms may be harvested in spring. As always, remember to respect private property, and ask first before you hunt there. 

Wayne Wakkinen, Panhandle Region Wildlife Manager

Clearwater Region

Last fall was warm and wet and early winter and snow pack was below average. This winter has seen what would be historically more normal snowpack, but valley snow levels were above normal. Despite this, turkeys in the Clearwater appear to be doing well. Snow at lower elevations came off relatively early and turkeys have had the advantage of spring green up.

The largest challenge to Clearwater turkey hunters this year will also be access. Warm weather and rain on snow events have caused flooding, road washouts and slides. Additionally, snow is gone at lower elevations, but some hunters will find it difficult accessing some valley hunting spots because of snow drifts on roads at higher elevations.  

Clay Hickey, Clearwater Region Wildlife Manager

Southwest Region

Turkey populations have been increasing steadily the last several years. However, this past winter was hard on turkeys in places experiencing prolonged deep snows. Turkeys along the lower Boise River appear to be doing well. Unit 38 and a portion of Unit 32 are controlled hunts and hunting in low country along waterways often requires landowner permission. The Fort Boise Wildlife Management Area in Unit 38 is open to turkey hunting for controlled-hunt tag holders. 

Units 33 and 39 are general hunts with small turkey populations scattered throughout.

In the northern part of the region, the National Wild Turkey Federation provided feed to private landowners in several areas, which helped turkeys come through the harsh winter pretty well. Access will be limited at higher elevations until sometime in May.  

There are turkey populations at Cecil D. Andrus Wildlife Management Area near Brownlee Reservoir. Motorized travel is restricted on the Andrus WMA until May 1, but walk-in hunting is open.

Hunters can also find Access Yes! properties with turkey hunting opportunities near Indian Valley, and north of New Meadows. 

Rick Ward and Regan Berkely, Southwest Region Wildlife Managers

Magic Valley Region

The region has a limited number of turkeys in Unit 54, with most residing on the west side of the unit. Turkeys are limited to controlled hunts only in the region, and normal survival is anticipated after the winter. 

Daryl Meints, Magic Valley Region Wildlife Manager. 

Upper Snake Region

In general, the Upper Snake has small populations, and the bulk of these turkeys are associated with the South Fork of the Snake River and Snake River riparian areas. Those areas likely had some winter mortality to further depress these limited populations. I would anticipate turkey densities to be slightly below what we have experienced over the last number of years. Hunting is limited to controlled hunts across the region.

Curtis Hendricks, Upper Snake Region Wildlife Manager

Southeast Region

The region has severe winter conditions from late December through March, and anecdotal reports indicate that some winter mortality on turkeys occurred in isolated areas. We anticipate turkey densities to be lower than in previous years. However, turkey numbers were extremely high this past year, and despite some winter mortality, there should still be robust turkey populations for hunters to enjoy. During the early period of the spring season, hunters might find turkey distributions to be slightly different due to lingering snow at higher elevations. 

Zach Lockyer, Southeast Region Wildlife Manager

Salmon Region

The region has low turkey densities, about 400 in Custer County and about 125 in Lemhi County. There are very limited controlled hunts for those birds.  The region likely had some winter mortality to further depress these limited populations and hunt success. Where the turkeys occupy lower elevations in the region, access will not be a problem due to snow.  

Greg Painter, Salmon Region Wildlife Manager

3 Ways To Grind Out May Gobblers

This story was originally posted in the May 2015 edition of Northwest Sportsman Magazine

The back half of spring season is tougher hunting, but there are ways to notch that tag this month.

By Chris Gregersen

Let’s face it: Chasing late-season turkeys can be a grind. But just because the birds in your area have wised up to hunters or calmed down from the excitement of the breeding season doesn’t mean you can’t be successful as the spring hunt draws to a close this month.

Chasing gobblers in May can be tough for many reasons. Hunting pressure over the first couple weeks of the season not only thins out the most eager birds, but after a few weeks those toms have heard just about every call out there, as well as seen all sorts of decoy ploys. Chances are that by this time turkeys have already been pushed out of their normal routines, putting them even more on edge when it comes to aggressive calling approaches. Also, as the late season rolls around, those gobblers’ interest and aggression towards calling will start to decline as flocks of hens break up and transition to nesting.

But while there’s no doubt it can be a challenge to bag a late season tom, there’s no reason to hang up the decoys just yet. Here are a few clutch tactics that might save your season.
LESS IS MORE
If the birds are acting shy and wary, nothing will put them off even more than the sounds of an overly eager hen. If you want to bring in a wary late-season bird with calls, you’ll need to sound like, well, a wary lateseason bird. Patience is key at this time of the season, so start by setting up and settling in as close as you can to where you expect a tom to be working through.

When using this approach, you’ll want to call far less often than during the early season, while sticking with your set-up for longer as well. I’ll generally stay put for a couple of hours if I know there are toms in the area. Rather than employ the long, drawn-out yelps that you might use often in the early season to evoke frantic gobbles from hundreds of yards away, tone your calling down to soft and short clucks and purrs. Turkeys have excellent hearing, so don’t worry about broadcasting the sound. At this time of season, it’s more important to focus on finesse than worrying about whether or not you’re being heard.

Aside from calling, lightly raking leaves or other ground clutter to mimic feeding in conjunction with soft purrs and clucks is also a good way to mimic a shy turkey. Be persistent and attentive with your set-up. Toms this time of year will usually take their time coming to
your calls, and more often than not they won’t make a sound as they approach.

THE AMBUSH
When calling approaches and decoy set-ups aren’t working, it’s time to get creative. Setting up an ambush takes preparation and tact, but can be very successful if you’ve done your homework. Start by locating and patterning a tom or two; while this may mean foregoing a hunt to simply observe the birds from far away, it will pay off in the end.

Spotting and stalking may be more associated with fall turkey hunting, but that’s how Emily Pawul took her first gobbler. While far fewer hunters will be afield in May, it’s still important to make sure you don’t bust someone else’s set-up on a bird when using this tactic. (CHRIS GREGERSEN)

Spotting and stalking may be more associated with fall turkey hunting, but that’s how Emily Pawul took her first gobbler. While far fewer hunters will be afield in May, it’s still important to make sure you don’t bust someone else’s set-up on a bird when using this tactic. (CHRIS GREGERSEN)

First, you’ll want to know where the birds are roosting. Chances are you’ll already know where this is, but if not, it usually isn’t difficult to find. You can get a general idea of what area they use by observing their morning and evening activity from a good vantage point – turkeys tend to make quite a bit of noise when going up and coming down from a roost. Then hone in on exactly where they’re roosting by looking for fresh droppings near the bases of trees.

Next, see where the birds are going to feed when they come down. Turkeys feed throughout the morning and late afternoon, so knowing what food sources they are keying in on will help you stay one step ahead. As turkeys feed to and from roost, pay attention to their travel routes; they often follow defined features such as field edges, shrub lines and ridges.

Once you have an idea of the travel routes and feeding areas turkeys are likely to be using, set yourself up in a well-concealed area well before daylight and wait. Hold off on the decoys and focus on keeping your set-up as inconspicuous as possible. Be careful not to approach roosting areas too closely, as the birds’ keen eyesight and hearing can blow your cover before you know it. With some preparation and a little bit of luck, an ambush is an excellent way to tag a wary old tom.
SPOT AND STALK
Though many seasoned spring turkey hunters look down on the spot-and-stalk approach (probably because sloppy attempts have ruined many a set-up of those who have done their homework and were otherwise patiently working a bird) there’s no doubt it can be effective when done right. This technique is all about strategy and implementing a well-devised plan to outsmart a wary late-season tom after patterning and calling have failed. I rarely use the spot-andstalk approach as a go-to technique, instead using it as an opportunistic late-season backup plan when the chance presents itself.

To execute a successful spot-and-stalk, you’ll need both appropriate terrain and cover to sneak within range, as well as an idea of the turkey’s behavior. Keep in mind, most turkeys you’ll “spot” aren’t appropriate for this technique. You’re looking for calm birds close to or moving towards some terrain feature that you can use to your advantage. Turkeys can cover miles in a day, so you’re also looking for birds that are slowly feeding or posting up for a mid-day break.

When the right opportunity presents itself, you’ll want to close the distance as fast as possible, while being especially respectful of other hunters in the area. Approach from any way you can to keep the bird from hearing or seeing you. Using terrain like a ridge, creek draw or steep bank is the best, since it will both block your appearance and sound. Turkeys are very good at evading ground predators, so use the same care you would if stalking a deer.

Spring turkey seasons in the Northwest run in excess of six weeks – through May 25 in Idaho and May 31 in Washington and Oregon – so there’s no need to limit yourself to the times when toms are most susceptible to calling. By adding a bit of variety and strategy to your approach, you can find late-season success when most others have all but given up. NS