If you want to hunt wild turkeys in Utah this spring, but you didn't draw a limited-entry permit, no problem.
Utah's general statewide turkey hunt is about to begin.
There's no limit on the number of permits available for the hunt, so you won't have a problem getting one.
You can buy a permit online. Permits are also available at DWR offices and from more than 300 hunting license agents across Utah.
Those who were 15 years of age or younger on Jan. 24 (the day results of the 2013 limited-entry turkey drawing were posted) can hunt starting April 26.
Adult hunters can join the youngsters starting April 29.
Turkeys doing well
Jason Robinson, upland game coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, says turkeys are doing well, especially in southwestern and south-central Utah. "Southern Utah has a lot of turkey habitat, including lots of oak brush," he says. "Turkeys do really well in that type of habitat."
Robinson says the number of turkeys across Utah should be similar to — or a little higher — than it was in 2012. He credits the optimistic outlook to a warm, wet spring in 2012 and the ability turkeys have to escape inversions.
"Wet, warm weather in the spring gives hens more nesting cover," he says. "It also provides more forbs and insects for newly hatched poults (chicks) to eat. Plenty of poults that were born last spring made it to winter."
Snowfall in higher elevations was lighter than normal this past winter. When inversions set in along the Wasatch Front, many turkey poults and their parents escaped the snow and cold by moving to open, south-facing slopes at higher elevations.
Robinson says biologists also moved turkeys from areas in Utah where the turkeys were overabundant to areas that have good habitat for the birds. That's increased the number of turkeys in those areas. "We also brought turkeys in from South Dakota and released them in eastern Utah this past winter," he says.
It's time to get outdoors
Robinson encourages you to buy a permit and take a youngster hunting with you. He says the spring turkey hunt is the perfect time to get your family and friends together and enjoy camping in Utah's outdoors.
"It's time to beat cabin fever and get outside," Robinson says. "Having a big tom turkey strut into the area where you're hiding is the icing on the cake."
Advice and reminders
- To be successful, Robinson says you need to locate the birds before the hunt begins.
"Scout the areas you want to hunt before the hunt starts," he says. "Look for birds and sign that turkeys have been in the area. Listen for gobbles. Look for areas where turkeys have been roosting in trees."
- Obtain written permission before hunting on private land. "River bottoms are great places to hunt turkeys," he says, "but many river bottoms are on private land. You must have written permission to hunt on private property."
- Be courteous to other hunters.
- Make sure of your target and what's beyond it. "Successful turkey hunters are very well camouflaged," he says. "Many of them use calls and decoys to attract turkeys to them."
If you're moving through the woods, and you spot something that looks like a turkey, it might actually be someone's decoy. "Make sure it's a turkey before you pull the trigger," he says.
Also, only turkeys with beards may be taken. All tom turkeys have beards. About 10 percent of hen turkeys have beards too. "You may only take a bearded turkey," Robinson says, "so, before you pull the trigger, make sure the turkey you're shooting at has a beard."
- If you're hunting with decoys, sit with your back against a tree. "Sitting against a tree is a good way to hide from turkeys," he says. "It breaks up your outline."
A more important reason, though, is your own safety. "If someone approaches from behind you and thinks your decoys are turkeys," he says, "having a tree behind you will give you some protection."
The following are some additional details about the statewide hunt:
- Permits are available now. You can buy a permit anytime between now and when the season ends on May 31.
Please remember that if you buy a permit online, it will take about five to 10 days for your permit to arrive in the mail. You must receive your permit before you can hunt.
- If you buy a general turkey permit, you can hunt anywhere in Utah that's open to turkey hunting.
- Two general hunts will be held:
The first hunt is a special youth hunt. Hunters who were 15 years of age or younger on Jan. 24 can participate in the hunt. The youth hunt runs April 26–28.
To participate in the youth hunt, young hunters must buy a general statewide hunting permit. Young hunters who drew a limited-entry permit can't participate in the youth hunt.
Youngsters who buy a permit for the youth hunt can also use the permit to hunt during Utah's general statewide hunt. That hunt opens April 29.
The second hunt — the general statewide hunt — is open to anyone who buys a general turkey permit.
The general hunt runs April 29–May 31.
- You can buy a general turkey permit and still keep all of your limited-entry turkey bonus points. You won't lose any of your bonus points if you buy a general turkey permit.
- If you obtained a limited-entry turkey permit, you can't obtain a general turkey permit. (You can have only one turkey permit each year.)