Welcome to the 2013
Spring Turkey Hunting Forecast
The Spring Turkey Hunting Forecast is also available in Word or PDF format.
See the "New forecast" section in the left hand menu.
|Boone Harrod of Enterprise was 10 years old when he took this turkey in the Sled Springs Unit, Wallowa County last year.
Go spring turkey hunting April 15-May 31
Good weather early in the season and higher survival rates of turkeys from last year could bode well for turkey hunters as the spring season opens April 15 throughout Oregon. Hunters age 17 and under can take advantage of the youth hunt the weekend of April 13-14.
While last year’s wet and cold spring reduced the number of surviving chicks, it also reduced success rates, leaving more toms for this year’s hunt. (Toms are less likely to respond to calling from hunters during poor weather, which plagued the early part of the season last year, the most popular time to hunt.) And while last year’s weather may have reduced the overall size of a flock, it did not reduce the number of flocks. The mild winter experienced in many parts of Oregon this year also means over-winter survival rates of turkeys were high.
Spring turkey hunting is general season, meaning anyone can purchase a tag any time before going hunting. Turkey tags are $22.50 for residents, $10.50 for youth hunters (age 17 and under). Hunting licenses are $29.50 for residents or $14.50 for hunters age 9-17. The season runs for six weeks, from April 15 through May 31, 2012.
The daily bag limit is one male turkey or a turkey with a visible beard (hens with beards may be lawfully taken). The season limit is two legal turkeys. Hunters can purchase a 2013 bonus turkey tag to take an additional turkey in most of western Oregon.
One change to be aware of is that there is no longer a minimum shot size requirement for turkey (it was No. 6). Some ammunition manufacturers are now producing very dense small shot (e.g. No. 7 ½ shot) that would be effective for turkeys. This temporary emergency rule change is likely to be made permanent in August, when bird game regulations are adopted by the Fish and Wildlife Commission. The maximum shot size for turkey remains No. 2.
Where to go
To find a place to hunt, the best spot to start is ODFW’s oregonhuntingmap.com. Click on the new Game Bird Range Maps/Turkey for a broad look at where turkeys are found in Oregon.
Hunters should check road conditions and access before heading out, especially early in the season. Even without snow, some roads may be too wet and muddy to travel.
ODFW’s turkey hunting page also provides a map showing turkey distribution throughout the state. The Game Bird Harvest Statistics page shows the level of effort and harvest in each wildlife management unit.
The Roseburg area (Melrose Unit) continues to be the top turkey hunting spot in Oregon, with the most turkeys taken in 2012 (391 by 907 hunters). But since the oak woodlands turkeys prefer are generally found on private land in this region, it isn’t always easy to find a place to hunt. Local biologists advise waiting till later in the season to approach private landowners for permission, after guides and their family and friends have already hunted.
Also continuing a trend, the White River Unit is the most popular place to hunt, thanks to an abundance of public land. In that unit, 1,512 hunters took 302 birds there last year. With hunting pressure high, local biologists also advise those hunters that want less company to wait until later in the season to come to White River.
Northeast and central Oregon offer some good turkey hunting opportunities on public land. See the district reports for more information.
ODFW continues to transplant turkeys causing nuisance or damage on private property to areas where they are accessible to hunters. A total of 457 turkeys were captured in Douglas and Grant counties this past winter and translocated to Douglas, Grant, and Klamath counties.
Turkey hunting tips
See ODFW’s turkey hunting brochure (PDF)for additional tips.
- Equipment needs: You need a shotgun no larger than 10 gauge or smaller than 20 gauge, camouflage clothing (because turkeys have excellent eyesight) and a turkey call to get started. Shot size must be no larger than No. 2 but there are no longer minimum shot size restrictions. Sizes 4, 5 and 6 tend to be best for turkey. Bows are also legal weapons for turkey hunting.
- Safety: Never wear red, white, blue or black when turkey hunting. You could be mistaken for a turkey. Use caution when calling turkeys where other hunters may be present—and realize that the calling you hear may be other hunters.
- Scout the area where you want to hunt first. Look for turkey sign like tracks and droppings.
- Once you know where to hunt, set up to call. Stay at least 100 to 150 yards from roosting turkeys; getting closer could spook them away.
- Don’t set up to call in cover or thick brush—turkeys tend to avoid these. If possible, set up with a tree or rock wider than your shoulders and taller than your head at your back, to protect yourself from a shot by a careless hunter.
- Be motionless while calling. Remember turkeys have a great vision.
- Experience will teach you how to call. Sometimes loud, aggressive calling works; other times soft, infrequent calls are best.
- Call your bird within 25 yards before taking a shot; aim for the base of the head when shooting. (Turkeys are very large birds and can be tough to bring down, so don’t shoot from too far away.)
- Immediately tag your bird and don’t delay in dressing it either.
- For safety, place your bird in a sack or cover with hunter orange when leaving the woods.
Report hunt results
Anyone who purchases a turkey tag must report the results of their hunt for each tag. Report online or by phone (1-866-947-6339) no later than Jan. 31, 2014. Reporting is required even for those hunters that do not take a turkey or go hunting. Hunters need to know their hunter/angler ID number, hunting location (wildlife management unit), and days spent hunting to complete the report.
The information hunters provide is critical for ODFW to accurately determine populations and set hunting seasons.
Spring turkey hunters that do report by Jan. 31, 2014 are entered into a contest to draw a special 2014 big game tag of their choice (deer, elk or pronghorn). Winners of the tags are entitled to hunt during an extended season and in an expanded hunt area, similar to big game auction and raffle tag privileges that people can pay thousands of dollars for.
-Photo by David Budeau-
Trask and Willamette Units: Turkey hunting in the Trask and the Willamette Unit (north of Woodburn) remains difficult for hunters who do not have access to private lands since turkey flocks are concentrated on local farms and ranches. Hunting should be good for those hunters lucky enough to have obtained permission to hunt. Those willing to knock on doors may find some willing landowners and hidden flocks of turkeys.
Scappoose Unit: Turkey populations are extremely low and not widely distributed. Hunters will need to have scouted early to find turkey flocks and obtained permission to hunt on private property.
Stott Mt. and Alsea Unit: Turkeys are found on the private agricultural lands with rolling oak woodlands adjacent to the larger private timber holdings. Most turkey populations are in the eastern third of these units, closer to the Willamette unit. Remember to get permission to hunt on private land.
Santiam and McKenzie Units: Hunting success is dependent on access to private lands with turkeys and early scouting. Turkeys are most often found on private lands in the foothills along the west side of these units. It is uncommon to find turkeys in the Douglas fir forests at higher elevations. Hunting can be very good in the McKenzie and southern portions of the Santiam Units for hunters that have done their homework and obtained access to private lands. Turkey are not abundant in the northern portions (north of Silverton) of the Santiam Unit and hunters will have difficulty finding the few scattered flocks.
-Photo by David Budeau-
Turkey populations generally do not reproduce as quickly on the coast as they do in inland areas; however populations in Coos County are doing fairly well. Birds can be found in almost all lowland areas associated with agriculture. Since these lands are private in most cases, hunters should be prepared to knock on doors to gain access to quality hunting areas. Hunters who are willing to do that have fairly high odds of taking a bird.
Turkey poults are very susceptible to cold wet weather which occurred in spring of 2012; this resulted in less survival of young for this year. Hunting is still expected to be average to slightly below for this spring season. Hunters will need to have scouted early to find turkey flocks and obtained permission to hunt on private property. Look in areas where oaks and grassy prairies are found.
Hunters can expect a good spring gobbler hunt this year. The last few years the chick/poult counts were slightly below average but an excellent carryover of adult gobblers due to a mild winter will contribute to a good hunting season. While the hens are off nesting during the first part of the season, most gobblers can be found on private land, usually in oak savannah habitat. The county has a lot of private land but there is some public hunting opportunity in the Umpqua National Forest like the Tiller and Drew areas of the South Umpqua plus Toketee Air Strip, Copeland and Fish Creeks on the North Umpqua. Also, keep in mind that most of the bearded turkeys and hunting areas are found on the valley floor at lower elevations in the Melrose unit. There are a few Roseburg BLM lands adjacent to private lands, like N. Bank Habitat area, offering excellent opportunities for turkey hunting in low elevation oak savannah habitat (ideal turkey habitat). If you are looking for a private lands hunt, asking for permission later in the season, after landowner’s friends, family and guides have hunted, sometimes brings results. It can be hard for a regular hunter to gain access on some private landowners’ property on the valley floor because some of them work with guides that have clients that hunt exclusively on their property.
Jackson County has a large portion of public land and private timberland that is open for turkey season. Mostly the county experienced a long, wet nesting season in 2012 which resulted in lower than average nesting success for broods. There were some attempts at re-nesting and there might have been some success by the smaller poults observed later in the summer. How many of these made it through the fall and this winter remains to be seen. Overall population for the county is expected to be average to slightly below average. Turkeys will be feeding on green grasses and insects. Use locator calls before light or after dark to locate roosting trees; then set up in an area of their travel and begin calling as light approaches. Most turkeys are found in low-mid elevation of oak and conifer mixed forests with their associated meadows and clearings. Turkeys are found on most BLM lands and lower elevation Forest Service lands.
Turkeys in the Josephine County are down slightly due to long wet nesting season in 2012. Hunting is expected to be average to slightly below average this year. Turkeys can be tough to hunt as most are found on private property. Don’t be afraid to ask landowners to hunt on their property; turkeys can be a problem for them and they may be willing. Most turkeys are found along the Applegate River and Evans Creek drainages, but turkeys can also be found on most BLM lands.
-Photo by David Budeau-
High Desert Region
White River and Hood Units
A relatively mild winter and favorable spring 2012 conditions have helped maintain turkey numbers in this region for the upcoming turkey season. Turkeys in the White River Unit tend to be found primarily within the oak-conifer transition zone. Focusing your efforts on ridgetops in this zone should prove the most effective. The northern portion of the unit can provide good hunting opportunity but it’s mainly private land. Birds within the Hood Unit are at lower densities than in the White River, but tend to favor similar habitats. With the recent high amounts of precipitation, hunters should be cautious on Forest Service and wildlife area roads, many may be in extremely poor shape. With hunting pressure high on the White River Wildlife Area (WRWA), those that want less company should wait until later in the season to head out. Recent changes on the WRWA prohibit the use of ATV/OHVs, a parking permit is also required for all users of the wildlife area (permit comes with your hunting license but don’t forget to put it on your car dash).
Although still at very low densities, turkey numbers are increasing slightly in the northern part of the Upper Deschutes unit. Look for turkeys on USFS and private timber company lands between Bend and Sisters.
In Harney County, turkeys are restricted to the northern portion of the county on or near national forestland. Wild turkeys are expected to have had good overwinter survival despite extremely cold temperatures, as snow depths were moderate for most of the winter. Local turkey populations are expected to be fair to good. An average over-winter snow pack may limit access to the national forest during the early part of the season. Roads at higher elevations or on northern aspects may be blocked by snow until mid-May.
Hunters should have a fair opportunity in Jefferson County in the Metolius Unit. Birds had a relatively mild winter and are widely scattered. The best locations are on Green Ridge from Black Butte north to the Warm Springs Reservation, and east into the juniper zone. Hunting pressure will drop off significantly after opening week. Some lower elevation roads, although bare, may be soft and muddy, or blocked by downed trees. Contact the Sisters Ranger District of the Deschutes National Forest for road conditions and motorized access.
For Klamath County, turkeys are primarily restricted to the Keno Unit although a few birds have been taken over the last few years in the Klamath Falls Unit. Hunting access is good in the southern portions of the Keno Unit as a result of low snow pack levels over winter. This area is predominantly either open-to-hunt private timberland or BLM land. Areas to check for turkey activity are south of Hwy 66 and west of the Klamath River Canyon to Copco Road. Turkeys can also be found north of Hwy 66 around Johnson Prairie. In addition to natural reproduction which is expected to be at or slightly below normal this year, turkeys removed from populated areas in southwest Oregon due to agricultural damage and nuisance animal complaints were released in the Keno Unit since last year. Four separate releases were conducted in two locations in the southern portion of the Keno Unit. Hunters are asked to please contact the local ODFW district office in Klamath Falls (541-883-5732) if they take a banded turkey.
- Photo by Rick Swart-
Turkey numbers going into the winter were average in Baker County. The recent warm weather has triggered a spring green-up at lower elevations and hunters should concentrate their efforts near these areas. Hunters can improve their early season success by walking into areas that are not accessible by vehicles due to snow. Hunter access to forestlands may be limited in April, due to snow levels. As the season progresses and snow lines retreat, turkeys will follow. There is public land hunting access on BLM and the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest as well as the ODFW-managed Elkhorn Wildlife Area. The Pine Creek, Sumpter and Keating units all hold good numbers of birds on public land. Remember to ask for permission before hunting on private properties.
Turkeys are widely distributed and continue to increase throughout the county. Over-winter survival was good this year and conditions last spring were favorable for young birds. The turkeys should start moving onto Forest Service lands as snow recedes, but earlier in the season, many turkeys are on private property and permission is needed to hunt. Hunters have been successful in finding birds in the Middle Fork John Day River, Murderers Creek, and North Fork John Day River. There are also a good number of birds in the John Day Valley but they are on private lands.
Morrow, Gilliam, Wheeler Counties
Turkey numbers on Forest Service land and surrounding forested areas have been stable over the past couple of years but there are still good numbers of birds for hunters to pursue. Over-winter survival appears good again this year. Snow pack will limit access to many traditional areas during the first part of the season so during this time, hunters will want to focus on lower elevation and south-facing slopes that are free of snow. Target the north slopes of the Blue Mountains as well as the North Fork John Day drainage. As the snow recedes, the turkeys will continue to move upslope following the receding snow line.
Turkeys inhabit Umatilla County in good numbers all along the front face of the Blue Mountains and they are expanding into new areas. These areas are dominated by private land and access is sometimes difficult. ;However, turkeys do inhabit some public land areas as follows: central Ukiah Unit on national forestland, southern Ukiah Unit on Pearson Ridge and surrounding drainages, Umatilla National Forest lands in the eastern portion of the Heppner Unit, Umatilla National Forest lands on ridges below Black Mountain in the Mt. Emily Unit. Turkeys will inhabit the low and mid-elevation areas while the snow is still present in high elevation habitats. Low elevation areas are dominated by private ownership and permission is needed to hunt.
Access to lower or mid elevation hunting locations should be good this year due to milder winter conditions. Birds are widely distributed. Over-winter survival should be very good. Birds may use areas with residual snow cover, so these spots should be considered when scouting for new hunting locations. Look for birds at the north end of the Grande Ronde Valley, Palmer Valley and the south end of the Catherine Creek Unit. The highest concentrations of birds will be in the west Sled Springs, Wenaha and east slopes of the Mount Emily units within Union County. Periodic snow drifts could be encountered so tire chains are advised.
Turkeys wintered well and production was fair to good this year so numbers will be similar to last year. Access to most units will be difficult the first week or two of the season because of deep snow. Initially, birds can be found in timbered areas near the valley fringe. Later in the season, birds are expected to be widely scattered throughout forested areas so hunters should put in some time hiking, listening, and looking for signs of turkey activity. Hunters are reminded that cooperative travel management areas are in effect in the Wenaha and Sled Springs Units including on Hancock Timber property.
Contact: Michelle Dennehy (503) 947-6022 / (503) 931-2748 / Michelle.N.Dennehy@state.or.us
Fax: (503) 947-6009