More Wild Turkey Hunting Permits Available for 2005
Good weather, efforts to transplant wild turkeys to Utah and a better understanding of how the birds adapt once they arrive in the state have led to the biggest increase in wild turkey hunting permits ever approved in Utah.
At its Oct. 7 meeting in Salt Lake City, the Utah Wildlife Board approved a 58 percent increase in the number of public wild turkey permits available for hunts in spring 2005. A total of 1,306 Rio Grande permits will be available next spring, compared to 733 in 2004. A total of 501 Merriam's permits will also be available, compared to 410 this past spring.
Applications for permits will be available by Nov. 30. Applications must be received no later than Dec. 27 to be included in the draw for permits. Draw results will be posted by Feb. 2, 2005. Hunts will be held in April and May.
To ensure hunting seasons won't interfere with spring turkey breeding activities, board members also approved later starting dates for many hunts. For example, most Rio Grande hunts will start at least one week later than past years.
The board also approved standardized season dates across Utah and a change to the definition of a legal turkey. "Standardized season dates will provide more consistency and will be less confusing for hunters," said Dean Mitchell, upland game coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources. "Changing the definition of a legal turkey, from a 'male' turkey to a 'bearded' turkey, will provide hunters with a turkey physical characteristic they can use to determine if a bird can be harvested or not."
Mitchell says the weather, and aggressive efforts by the DWR, the National Wild Turkey Federation and Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife to increase Utah's wild turkey populations, are among the reasons for the permit increase.
"The weather this year has been very favorable for wild turkeys," Mitchell said. "This past winter was closer to normal but fairly mild through most of the state, and very few turkeys were lost. Since then, we've received good rainfall that has provided the food and nesting cover the birds need. Our biologists in the field reported seeing good numbers of young turkeys in the population this summer."
Mitchell says the rain has also provided habitat and cover that the birds will need this winter. "Barring a really severe winter, there should be good numbers of wild turkeys when the hunting seasons open next spring," he said.
Aggressive efforts to bring more wild turkeys into Utah, and move birds already in Utah to new areas of the state, have also helped Utah's turkey populations grow. This past winter, a total of 711 Rio Grande wild turkeys were brought into Utah from Oklahoma, South Dakota and Texas. In addition, 531 Rio Grande's and 139 Merriam's were moved within Utah. Most of these turkeys were moved into new areas.
The second major reason for the proposed permit increase is a better understanding about wild turkeys in Utah. "Less than 10 years ago, we didn't have many wild turkeys in the state. Since then, we've learned a lot about wild turkey biology and how they adapt to Utah's habitats and climatic conditions. As a result, we were comfortable recommending a permit increase to the board," Mitchell said.
For more information, call the nearest Division of Wildlife Resources office or the DWR's Salt Lake City office at (801) 538-4700.