Turkey Numbers Across the State Are Up - Way Up

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For turkey hunters, this is the best time of the year. Hints of green are beginning to appear across the state promising that the harsh winter season is just about over and that the spring turkey season will soon begin.

Oklahoma is home to two separate subspecies of wild turkeys, the Eastern and the Rio Grande subspecies. While the two may have slight differences in appearance and habitat preferences, they have at least one thing in common - their population numbers are doing great. In fact, they are doing better than ever.

“We don’t quite have all the winter flock numbers in, but I anticipate we’re going to see an all-time high for Rio Grande turkeys,” said Rod Smith, southwest region wildlife supervisor for the Department. “We have had four good production years in a row and the population is in really good shape.”

The western half of the state has seen dry conditions for the past several years. But that is not a completely bad thing, at least not for turkeys.

“About the only thing droughts are good for is turkey production. In years when April and May are relatively dry hens hatch more poults and the poults have a better chance of survival and the growing population reflects that,” Smith said.

If you are a glass-half-empty type of person there is just one thing to take solace in.

“Along with this growing population, means that there will also be more hens. This could make it challenging to convince toms to leave hens to come to a call,” Smith said.

Not to be outdone, the Eastern subspecies found in southeast Oklahoma is also reaching all time high numbers according to Jack Waymire, southeast region senior biologist for the Wildlife Department.

“From all indications it looks like it should be another great season as long as the weather holds out,” Waymire said.

According to Waymire, the dynamics of turkey population are more than just counting numbers of birds.

“The other encouraging news is that the sex and age class distribution is in good shape, meaning that there are balanced numbers of hens and toms representing all ages of birds,” Waymire said. “It would be a good idea for veteran hunters to concentrate on mature toms. There are quite a few trophy birds out there if hunters are willing to be patient.”

To hunt turkeys in Oklahoma, hunters must possess a resident or non-resident Oklahoma hunting license or combination license, as well as a turkey permit. Lifetime license holders are exempt from having to purchase the turkey permit.

Hunters do not check turkeys taken west of I-35, but all turkeys harvested east of I-35 must be checked at the nearest hunter check station.