Hunters who have been afield during this spring’s general statewide turkey hunt are finding good success — especially in southern Utah.
If you don’t have a permit for the hunt yet, it’s not too late to get one. The hunt runs until May 31. Permits aren’t limited in number, so you’ll have no problem getting one.
You can buy a permit online. Permits are also available from more than 300 hunting license agents across Utah and at Division of Wildlife Resources
Tips and tactics to help you take a turkey are available online. You can also see a map of Walk-In Access hunting areas.
Jason Robinson, upland game coordinator for the DWR, says the general hunt offers advantages hunters won’t find during the limited entry hunt.
One advantage is better road conditions in the backcountry and better access. You’ll also have more time and more areas to hunt.
Robinson says it’s very important to hunt turkeys when the birds are gobbling. “That’s when the male turkeys, called toms, will be most receptive to your call,” he says.
Unfortunately, weather in the spring can put a damper on turkey activity.
“Wet and cold weather can decrease the period of time when turkeys are gobbling,” Robinson says. “The limited entry hunt runs for only two weeks. The general hunt, on the other hand, runs for four weeks. Hunting during the general hunt doubles the amount of time you’ll have to be in the field at the right time — when the turkeys are gobbling.”
Robinson says two peak gobbling periods happen in the spring. The first usually happens in early 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.
While it might be hard to believe, an additional advantage is a feeling fewer hunters are in the field with you. “Hunters consistently tell us they feel less crowded during the general hunt, even though more hunters are in the field,” Robinson says.
He thinks this feeling has a lot to do with perception. “If you draw a limited entry permit,” he says, “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
After a tough winter and spring a couple of years ago, Robinson says turkey numbers appear to be on the rise. In fact, turkey habitat in northern Utah has enough birds in it that DWR biologists moved extra birds to northeastern Utah this past winter, to start new populations.
In central and southwestern Utah, populations in certain parts of the regions were doing well enough last winter that biologists moved birds to other areas within the regions.
“Wild turkeys are doing really well in Utah,” Robinson says. “If you put the birds in the right habitat, they’ll flourish.”
More information about hunting wild turkeys in Utah is available in the free 2013–2014 Utah Upland Game and Turkey Guidebook.