News of the Week

April 1, 2015
Tom Turkeys Seen Strutting Ahead of Season Opener
   Tom turkeys are strutting and gobbling ahead of the spring turkey youth hunting season opener this Saturday. (Submitted by Tom Morey via Facebook)


   Oklahoma's 2015 spring turkey hunting seasons will kick off April 4-5 for youths 17 and younger in all areas except the Southeast Region. The general spring turkey hunting season will run April 6 to May 6 in all areas except the Southeast Region.

   Based on field reports submitted in the past few days by Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservationpersonnel, the key word this year might be "patience." As many parts of Oklahoma continue to recover from years of extreme drought, the number of turkeys is also slowly beginning to grow.

   Most reports indicate that hunters will likely have opportunities to harvest younger birds this year, as the proportion of jakes and 2-year-old toms seems to be higher this year. But hunters looking for older toms probably will have to pass up a few early chances.

   In the eight-county Southeast Region, youth turkey season will be April 18-19, and regular turkey season will be April 20 to May 6.

   Below are some expert insights for turkey hunters this spring, organized by region.

 



Turkey Season Primer
Watch "Turkey Season Primer"
on the "Outdoor Oklahoma" YouTube Channel.

 

NORTHWEST REGION

Reported by Eddie Wilson, senior biologist

  • Current gobbler activity: Birds started breaking into smaller groups and separating out of winter flocks in mid-March. On warm days, toms have been seen strutting and gobbling.
  • Habitat conditions: Conditions are dry throughout the northwest. But last summer, conditions were good, so there should be plenty of nesting cover available in most areas. Native vegetation is just starting to green up; winter wheat is in fair to good condition.
  • Reports from landowners or scouting hunters: Reports indicate birds are breaking out into small groups and are doing quite a bit of strutting and some gobbling. There have been a few reports of toms breeding hens.
  • WMAs in the region: Most every wildlife management area in the northwest region provides some turkey hunting opportunity. Canton, Fort Supply and Cooper will be good bets. Birds can also be found on Beaver River, Cimarron Hills, Major County and Dewey County WMAs. Be sure to use nontoxic shot while hunting the Waterfowl Refuge Portion of Canton WMA. Note that hunters are restricted to a one-bird-per-WMA limit on most Northwest Region wildlife management areas. Before hunting, check the regulations pertaining to the individual WMA you plan to hunt.
  • Best tips:  

1. Scout your hunt area.

2. Get to the hunt area early.

3. Pay attention to bird movements in relation to available food sources.

  • Biggest mistakes:

1. Not pre-scouting the hunt area.

2. Calling too often.

3. Hunting too close to roost sites.

  • Opening day expectations: A good number of the male birds available will be jakes, and there should be some 2-year-old birds available. But anything older than that may be tough to find. Enjoy our public lands and take care of them for future generations to enjoy! Good luck and hunt safe.

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CENTRAL REGION

Reported by Jeff Pennington, regional supervisor

  • Current gobbler activity: With the warmer weather, turkeys have broken into smaller groups the past two weeks. Gobbling, strutting and bird movement has been on the increase during this transition from the larger winter flocks.
  • Habitat conditions: For the second year in a row, summer rainfall was fair to good last year, which has produced good amounts of herbaceous cover. This is especially true when comparing 2014 to the extreme summer droughts of 2011-12. Look for areas that have burned through prescribed fire or wildfire in the past few months. Turkeys love to use the edges of these burned areas to feed on the abundant insects and the lush vegetation.
  • Reports from landowners or scouting hunters: There has been increased strutting and gobbling from toms with the warmer temperatures the past two weeks.
  • WMAs in the region: Turkeys can be found on all Central Region WMAs, but higher densities of birds can be found on Kaw and Deep Fork WMAs in north-central Oklahoma. Hickory Creek WMA in south-central Oklahoma also has good numbers of birds.
  • Best tips:  

1. Scout the area you are hunting to know what locations turkeys are using.

2. Be patient. Many times it will take a turkey a long time to work to your location, especially if the tom is already with hens.

3. Stay late. Many times hunters have the best success in the afternoon when the hens have left the tom.

  • Biggest mistakes:

1. No scouting

2. Picking up and leaving a "set up" too quickly.

3. Some hunters only hunt during the morning.

  • Opening day expectations: After seven years of below-average reproduction, there has been good turkey survival in the region the past two years. Those that hunt a great deal should see an overall increase in bird numbers, with a high percentage of toms seen being 1 and 2 years old. That should equal lots of action, but hunters may have to be patient and pass on young birds if they are pursuing a long beard. As always, the wind plays a huge role in being able to locate birds. Many days when the wind is strong, it is not possible for you to hear birds at a distance and vice versa. Attention to safety is more important with turkey hunting than it is with any other species. Be sure of your target, and do not wear anything red, white or blue while turkey hunting.

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NORTHEAST REGION

Reported by Brent Morgan, biologist

  • Current gobbler activity: The current gobbling activity is really heating up. Birds have already broken up, and toms have started gathering hens. Toms have been spotted in the past few days breeding hens. Gobblers are very vocal on the roost. But once they fly down, they are usually surrounded by their hens and the gobbling action quiets. Toms have been spotted throughout the day strutting with several hens in green fields.
  • Habitat conditions: Habitat conditions across the region are in good shape following the previous summer, when relatively mild conditions and periodic rain resulted in good amounts of standing vegetative cover. Food plots are really starting to green up with the warmer conditions. Native plants are starting to take off, which provides good tender shoots for turkeys to feed on. Insects are also coming out in abundance. Several WMAs used prescribed fire, so those areas will have very important habitat conditions suitable for turkey nourishment.
  • Reports from landowners or scouting hunters: Groups of birds are starting to break up with gobbling activity getting better.
  • WMAs in the region: Birds might be found on Cherokee, Cookson, Fort Gibson, Tenkiller, Spavinaw, Oologah, Hulah, Copan, Eufaula and McClellan-Kerr WMAs, and on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers land around area lakes.
  • Best tips: If you get a bird gobbling, sometimes the most deadly tactic is to just shut up. Sometimes a good idea is to let toms gobble twice before you call. Usually they will come running if you play hard to get. You may risk a bird walking off because you shut up, but if it is halfway interested, it will be heading your way. Decoy placement is crucial. If the gobbler answers your calls to your left, it would be best to set the decoys out to your right about 25 yards. In this case, the bird will come to your call, but when he gets close he will see the decoys and walk right into your shooting lane on the way to the decoys. Remember to remain very still and quiet when the gobbler gets close. He will be looking for the turkey he heard.
  • Biggest mistakes: A hunter will try to get too close to a tom on the roost. Sometimes the gobbler you hear isn't the only bird around; be aware that hens and subordinate birds may be a few trees away. Find a nice open area near his roost that looks like a place he would strut once on the ground. Calling too much to a mature gobbler is another mistake hunters make. The more you call, the more likely you can make a mistake. Turkeys are wary, and once they hear you, they have a good idea where you are. You also risk being seen when calling with a bird in sight. Once a bird is located on the ground, hunters get impatient and try to move closer if the tom doesn't come in to their calling.
  • Opening day expectations: Lots of hunters can be expected afield on opening day, so be courteous of others. Get to your spot early if you are hunting on public land. The turkey numbers appear to be on the increase from last year, so lots of jakes can be expected.

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SOUTHWEST REGION

Reported by Ron Smith, senior biologist

  • Current gobbler activity: The Southwest Region is on track to see typical spring behavior. Winter flocks have split up into smaller groups. Fair weather has allowed timing to progress on schedule, unlike 2014, when late cold periods delayed turkey activity. Most of the region is reporting mature toms already in strut mode.
  • Habitat conditions: Slow, steady improvement over the previous four drought years. Historic hunting areas will provide a better mix of light to heavy cover. Nesting habitat will be in much better condition. With good weather conditions, cover should provide solid opportunity for success. Notable changes will be the loss of some older roost trees to the effects of drought, fire and ice storm damage. Turkeys have shifted around to make use of alternate roost sites but still seem to be breaking up into their old breeding grounds.
  • Reports from landowners or scouting hunters: They seem to have a better outlook for the upcoming season. Birds have moved back in to some of their historic favorite hunting spots. While scouting, hunters have reported gobblers steadily progressing to what looks like an active opening weekend. Older, mature gobblers may be fewer and more dispersed, but patience may still produce the long beard.
  • WMAs in the region: Spring turkey hunting opportunities can be found at Ellis County, Packsaddle, Black Kettle, Sandy Sanders, Altus-Lugert, Mountain Park, Fort Cobb and Waurika WMAs.
  • Best tips:         

1. Put as much time in scouting as possible. With the lower number of long beards resulting from drought, more time may pay off.

2. Be patient. Jakes should be plentiful this year. If you are looking for a mature bird, a little more time may prove rewarding.

3. Return to likely areas. As turkeys transition through their spring activity, new birds will move into some of the previously scouted areas.

  • Biggest mistakes:

1. Being impatient. Hunters may give up on an area way too soon. If you know there are turkeys in an area, especially on public land, you are likely where you need to be.

2. Not getting current information on the area. Populations and habitat shift over time, and current habitat management practices may shift turkey use of a particular area.

3. Observation and practice. Pay attention to the social behavior of the birds. Don't just show up and hammer down on a turkey call. There are many methods and call variations specific to different situations. What may sound to us like a call worthy of competition may in fact be of little use. Don't let your ego get in the way. Be willing to learn and adapt.

  • Opening day expectations: Weather permitting, the season opener should produce exciting gobbler activity. This region is a little lower in numbers, so activity may be below expectations from five years ago. Take what this year provides and enjoy each minute in the field.

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SOUTHEAST REGION

Reported by Jack Waymire, senior biologist

  • Current gobbler activity: The gobblers are just now beginning to gobble and strut with a group of five to 10 hens. We are still observing some flocks of hens with no gobblers with them, and some observations of gobblers without any hens. It appears that things are just getting started and spring breakup will be soon with increased gobbling and breeding activity to follow.
  • Habitat conditions: Habitat is beginning to green up. With projected warmer temperatures, there should be increased numbers of insects. With the ample rainfall last year, there are plenty of seeds available. There is good nesting structure, food availability, and additional insects will become available. The weather will determine how the breeding and nesting activity proceeds.
  • Reports from landowners or scouting hunters: Reports indicate one to two gobblers with five to 10 hens. Gobblers are beginning to strut.
  • WMAs in the region: All WMAs in the Southeast Region are open to spring turkey hunting.
  • Best tips:         

1. Start scouting areas where you found turkeys last year.

2. Be patient.

3. Be prepared for variable weather conditions.

  • Biggest mistakes:        

1. Moving too much.

2. Not setting up properly.

3. Lack of patience.

  • Opening day expecations: The Southeast Region spring turkey season opens later than the rest of the State (April 18-19 is Youth Spring Turkey Weekend, and April 20 to May 6 is regular season). The region is still recovering from the crash in its turkey population. There has been some fair reproduction the past two springs, and hunters should encounter more 2-year-old gobblers in the current population than in the previous eight years. The timing for the opener for the Southeast Region coincides with the peak incubation period, so the toms should be more receptive to hunters' calls. But be reserved with your calling in the beginning, and the tom will let you know if he will tolerate more aggressive calling. Be safe and use your hunting ethics so everyone has a good season. Good luck and have a great spring turkey season.

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   The season bag limit is three tom turkeys per hunter, but daily and season limits for individual counties and WMAs vary. To find out the bag limits for the area to be hunted along with field tagging, E-Check and other turkey hunting requirements,

consult the 2014-15 "Oklahoma Hunting" regulations guide, available online atwildlifedepartment.com or in print where fishing or hunting licenses are sold.
 
 Season dates and bag limits for each county are depicted on this map from the "Oklahoma  Hunting" regulations guide.