Turkey hunt starts in May; turkey numbers growing

ST. GEORGE — A chance to get into Utah’s backcountry and experience the thrill of hunting a strutting, gobbling tom turkey is almost here, starting in May.

Getting a permit for the hunt is easy.

Utah’s general statewide turkey hunt starts May 1 for those who will be 17 years of age or younger on July 31.  On May 4, the hunt opens to hunters of all ages.

You can buy a permit for the hunt online.  Permits are also available from more than 300 hunting license agents across Utah and at offices of the Division of Wildlife Resources, also referred to as DWR.

There’s no limit on the number of permits that can be sold for the hunt.

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Video courtesy of Utah Wildlife Resources, St. George News

Turkey hunting tips

Tips and tactics to help you take a turkey are available online. Scroll down to “Resources for turkey hunters.”  A list of walk-in access hunting areas is available on the page.

Advantages

A tom turkey in Southern Utah, location unspecified, April 12, 2012 | Photo courtesy of Utah Wildlife Resources, St. George News
A tom turkey in Southern Utah, location unspecified, April 12, 2012 | Photo courtesy of Utah Wildlife Resources, St. George News

Jason Robinson, upland game coordinator for the DWR, said the general hunt offers advantages you won’t find during the limited entry hunt that happens in April.

One advantage is better road conditions and better access to the birds.  You’ll also have more time and more areas to hunt.

It’s very important to hunt turkeys when the birds are gobbling, Robinson said.

“That’s when the male turkeys, called toms, will be most receptive to your call.”

Unfortunately, wet and cold weather in the spring can decrease the amount of time the birds gobble.

“The limited entry hunt runs for about three weeks,” Robinson said.  “The general hunt, on the other hand, runs for four weeks.  Hunting during the general hunt increases the amount of time you’ll have to be in the field at the right time—when the turkeys are gobbling.”

Two hunters holding their tom turkeys, location unspecified, April 11, 2015 | Photo courtesy of Utah Wildlife Resources, St. George News
Two hunters holding their tom turkeys, location unspecified, April 11, 2015 | Photo courtesy of Utah Wildlife Resources, St. George News

Two peak gobbling periods happen in the spring.

The first usually happens in mid-April, when tom turkeys call aggressively at the start of the breeding season.

The second peak happens during the general hunt in May.  That’s when toms are actively seeking hens that haven’t bred yet or that need to breed again because their nests failed.

“Hunters consistently tell us they feel less crowded during the general hunt, even though more hunters are in the field,” Robinson said. “If you draw a limited entry permit, you might feel crowded, even if there’s just one other hunter in the area you’re hunting.  Hunters expect to see other hunters in the field during the general hunt, and they don’t seem to mind as much.”

Turkey numbers are growing

Hunter holding their tom turkeys, location unspecified, November 19, 2013 | Photo courtesy of Utah Wildlife Resources, St. George News
Hunter holding his tom turkeys, location unspecified, November 19, 2013 | Photo courtesy of Utah Wildlife Resources, St. George News

Robinson said turkeys are doing well in Utah.  In fact, turkeys are doing so well in northern Utah that DWR biologists have started moving some of the birds to northeastern Utah, to start new populations there.

In central and southwestern Utah, birds are being moved within the regions to start new populations in new places.

Wild turkeys are doing really well in Utah,” Robinson said. “If you put the birds in the right habitat, they’ll flourish.”

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