Spring Turkey Season Offers Good Hunting Opportunities

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Hunters hoping for spring turkey hunting similar to last year’s record harvest may be in luck — the mild winter weather in many areas of the state provided for good over winter survival.

The seven-week general spring turkey season opens Tuesday, April 15, throughout the state.

Oregon has strong turkey populations in the southwest and northeast areas of the state, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Good populations also exist in the Ochoco Mountains east of Prineville, around the The Dalles and along the mid-coast. Scattered populations can be found around John Day.

In 2002, 13,000 hunters spent time hunting turkeys to harvest 3,700 birds. The number of hunters, hunting days and the number of birds harvested broke records for Oregon. The hunting units where hunters took the most birds include: Melrose, Rogue, Applegate, Evans Creek, and Dixon units in southwest Oregon; White River unit around The Dalles; Wenaha, Mt. Emily, and Sled Springs units in northeast Oregon; and Alsea unit along the mid-coast.

The units with the highest success per hunter in 2002 include Melrose, Applegate, Dixon, Tioga and Indigo units in the southwest; Wenaha, Walla Walla, Chesnimnus and Imnaha in the northeast; and Stott Mountain unit around Lincoln City.

2003 Spring Turkey Forecast

ODFW biologists offer the following information to hunters going afield this spring in search of the gobblers:

Southwest Oregon:

There’s a good carryover of gobblers from last year, reported Steve Denney, ODFW’s southwest region manager. However, he said, hunters need to do their homework. Most turkey flocks are found on private land, with the highest densities in the Melrose wildlife management unit around Roseburg and in Jackson County. Hunters will need to gain permission before hunting on private land.

Southwest Oregon had a good hatch two years ago, which has led to the strong population of adult birds. There was an above-average hatch last year and a fair number of jakes for this hunting season. The weather will be a driving factor on hunter success, Denney said.

Northeast Oregon:

In Baker County, snow levels are higher than normal for this time of year, so access should be good. Hunters will find most turkeys on public lands. Turkey densities in the county are generally low and growing slowly. Hunters can expect to do a good bit of scouting to locate birds. The exception is the Halfway area, which has a high density of birds, but also a high density of hunters, said Bruce Eddy, watershed district manager in La Grande.

There are a fair number of birds throughout Union county. The highest densities are usually found north of Elgin, but hunters could find birds in most areas of the county. Hunters should travel to areas to locate birds by call or sign, and then work them. Hunters are reminded to obtain permission before hunting on private lands in Union County.

In Wallowa County, biologists expect fair success this year especially in the Chesnimus, Sled Springs and Wenaha units. However, access may be difficult because of muddy roads and snow. Hunters willing to walk are expected to do well.

In the area around John Day, turkey populations are still building and may be difficult to find, said Ken Rutherford, assistant district biologist in John Day. Places to try include the area between U.S. Highway 395 and U.S. Forest Service Road 36 in the Malheur National Forest, the North Fork John Day River along U.S. Forest Service Road 10, and the public land around Bear Valley. Rutherford also reminded hunters that some opportunities exist around the Phillip Schneider Wildlife Area. However, the Flat Creek Bridge is closed and hunters must park on the highway before the cattle guard and walk in.

Central Oregon:

Mild winter conditions provided good over-winter survival, said Brian Ferry, district wildlife biologist in Prineville. Snowpack was light and ‘greenup’ started earlier than normal. As a result, birds have moved off of wintering areas and are moving to higher elevations. Birds are present in the Maury, Ochoco and Grizzly management units, with the larger populations are in the Ochoco and Grizzly units. Areas in the Grizzly to consider include the Trout and Bear Creek watersheds. Lands along the southern Ochoco National Forest boundary and along the breaks of the South Fork John Day River should offer opportunities in the Ochoco unit. Some of these areas are interspersed with private lands, and hunters should have permission from landowners and be knowledgeable about of ownership boundaries before hunting. Maps of these areas, camping and road access information for public lands are available from the Ochoco National Forest.

Safety First

Successful hunters use camouflage and turkey calls, which can lead to a dangerous situation. Hunters preparing to turkey hunt are reminded of the following safety tips:

  • Number one: Know your target. This is the first rule of safety.

Additional ways to avoid an accident include:

  • Use a hunting blind that doesn’t obstruct your vision.
  • Don’t attempt to stalk a turkey. It usually proves unsuccessful and may result in another hunter mistaking you for a turkey.
  • Unless absolutely necessary, don’t use a gobbler call. A gobbler call may attract another hunter. Never wear any red, white or blue clothes. These are the colors of the gobbler’s head.
  • Never presume what you hear is a turkey. Many turkey hunters are good and convincing callers.

Get information and follow the rules

The turkey season is scheduled April 15 — May 31, 2003, statewide. Hunters may harvest one male turkey or turkey with a visible beard per day. During the season, two turkey tags may be purchased and filled. Hunters also may purchase a ‘bonus tag’ to hunt a third turkey in Douglas, Coos, Curry, Josephine, Jackson, Lane, Linn, Benton, Polk and Marion counties.

Additional information about turkey hunting may be obtained through the National Wild Turkey Federation at www.nwtf.org. ODFW has two publications available for novice turkey hunters: Game Bird Hunting in Oregon published in 1996 and a brochure "Oregon: Wild Turkey Hunting."

Additional information about the 2002 turkey harvest statistics is posted to the ODFW Web page at www.dfw.state.or.us/ODFWhtml/InfoCntrWild/InfoCntrWild.html or can be received by sending an e-mail to Odfw.Info@state.or.us .