Turkey Numbers on the Rise

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Turkey hunters have every reason to be optimistic when the spring season opens statewide April 6.

“We certainly have the birds now. All we need is for the weather to hold out,” said Jack Waymire, southeast region senior wildlife biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “It seems like we get a big rain every year on opening day of turkey season, but maybe it will stay dry this year.”

Following several good production years, turkey numbers are way up across the eastern half of the state.

“I think we’ve got more turkeys right now than we have had in a long, long time in this state,” Waymire said.

According to Waymire, good numbers of turkeys can be found on several public hunting areas in southeast Oklahoma, particularly the walk-in turkey hunting areas on Pushmataha, Honobia and Three Rivers wildlife management areas.

“We are really seeing the positive effects of the work we have been doing with the help of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF). The NWTF has funded many projects over the years including brush control and several prescribed burn projects this year,” Waymire said.

According to Waymire, the good news does not end there.

“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. “I would really encourage veteran hunters to be patient and wait for a mature tom. I know it can be hard to wait when a jake comes storming in, but it will be worth it when you set your sights on a really big tom.”

Turkey populations in the western half of the state are also doing well according to Rod Smith, southwest region wildlife supervisor for the Wildlife Department.

“Turkey numbers are in good shape across northwest and southwest Oklahoma. We generally saw a modest increase in most counties and any increase is always good,” Smith said.

According to Smith, winter flocks are beginning to break up into smaller groups and turkey hunters who spend time scouting will increase their odds of success on opening morning.

To hunt turkeys in Oklahoma, hunters must possess a resident or non-resident Oklahoma hunting license or combination license and the $5 fishing and hunting legacy permit, as well as a spring turkey permit. Lifetime license holders are exempt from having to purchase the spring turkey permit and the annual fishing and hunting legacy 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. For more information on regulations and bag limits, consult the “2004-05 Oklahoma Hunting Guide,” which are available at hunting and fishing license vendors across the state or on line at www.wildlifedepartment.com.