|Appropriately-named young hunter, Hunter Paustian of La Grande, took this turkey in Catherine Creek Canyon during the youth-only hunt last weekend. The general spring turkey season opened April 15.
SALEM, Ore.—Most of Oregon's wild turkey population weathered the tougher winter well, but hunters can take advantage of the long season (through May 31) and wait until the weather improves to go hunting.
Some roads and areas are still inaccessible due to heavy snow. Some nesting areas are also snow-bound, which could concentrate birds at lower elevations. The peak of breeding behavior—when toms are most actively searching for a mate or a fight, and are easiest to call in—may also be delayed.
However, hunting should be good later in the season when weather melts snow and land greens up. Thanks to continual transplants of turkeys from high density areas like Roseburg to eastern and central Oregon, the wild turkey population continues to expand, as does hunting opportunity. Last year, 14,612 hunters took 4,859 turkeys. The White River unit, with its public hunting opportunities including the White River Wildlife Area, had the most hunters (1,827) while the Melrose unit harvest was the highest (708 turkeys).
ODFW “Wild Turkey Hunting in Oregon” brochure provides information on turkey biology, identifying turkeys, hunting tips, and other useful information. Remember that while turkeys are habitat generalists, they prefer rolling hills and oak woodlands interspersed with meadows or pastures. They tend to avoid dense brush.
Turkey tags cost $18 for residents and $64 for non-residents. Hunters are allowed two tags statewide and a bonus tag may be used to take one legal turkey in certain western Oregon counties; see page 15 of the 2007-08 Oregon Game Bird Regulations for details. The daily bag limit is one male turkey or a turkey with a visible beard and season limit is two legal turkeys (three with the bonus tag). Tags can be purchased throughout the season, but you must carry a valid tag when hunting.
Though most turkey hunters are already using smaller shot, remember that for the 2007-08 turkey season, the maximum legal size of shot went from BB to #2 for safety reasons.
See below for a breakdown of hunting opportunities by region and 2007 hunting statistics.
Turkey populations are extremely low and not widely distributed in the Scappoose Unit. Hunters will need to have scouted early to find turkey flocks and obtained permission to hunt on private property to ensure any chance for success. Hunters heading to the Trask Unit will also need to have obtained permission to hunt on private lands since turkey flocks are concentrated on local farms and ranches. If you go, concentrate your efforts in the rolling oak hills and agricultural fringes along valley foothills from Carlton to Sheridan. Turkey flocks in the Santiam Unit are usually concentrated on the eastern side of the forest closer to the Warm Springs Indian Reservation and the White River Wildlife Area. There is also some public land in portions of the Santiam and McKenzie units at the lower elevations of Willamette National Forest. Heavy snow packs at mid to higher elevations on the western side of the national forest will make travel through the forest difficult. Hunters are advised to be prepared for the winter like conditions once they leave the plowed roads.
- 2007 spring turkey hunting statistics
- Scappoose – no harvest
- Wilson – no harvest
- Trask – 14 birds by 36 hunters
- Willamette – 72 birds by 347 hunters
- Santiam – 79 birds by 289 hunters
- Stott Mtn – no harvest
- Alsea – 94 birds by 347 hunters
- McKenzie – 123 birds by 448 hunters
Hunters can expect another good spring gobbler hunt this year. Last fall’s chick/poult counts were above average and the district’s turkeys survived the winter well. While the hens are off nesting the first part of the season, most gobblers are found on private land, usually in oak savannah habitat. While much of the area is private land, there is some public hunting opportunity in the Umpqua National Forest; try the Tiller area. If you are looking for a private lands hunt, asking for permission later in the season, after landowner’s friends and family have hunted, sometimes brings results. A high percentage of lands are tied up by guides who pay landowners for hunting rights in the area so you may have a difficult time gaining access without paying a fee.
Jackson, Josephine, Curry Counties
Many of our flocks survived the winter. Birds can be located in a wide variety of elevations with most in mid to low elevation. Oak savanna habitat provides the best opportunities. Turkeys can be found in about every BLM property in the area—try Williams Creek, Thompson Creek, Kane Creek, Galls Creek in Applegate unit; Lake Creek, Butte Falls, Worthington Road for the Rouge unit; and for Evans Creek unit try Long branch, east Evans Creek, Jumpoff Joe Creek, Pleasant Creek. Private lands hold numerous turkeys, be sure to ask for permission before hunting.
There is limited opportunity to hunt turkeys in Coos County. Birds are distributed in relation to agricultural lands. The densest populations are generally found in eastern Coos County near agricultural lands. Pre-hunt scouting is paramount for hunting birds in the county due to the fact that the populations are spotty in distribution.
- 2007 spring turkey hunting
- Siuslaw – 123 birds by 347 hunters
- Indigo - 94 birds by 166 hunters
- Dixon - 79 birds by 238 hunters
- Melrose - 708 birds by 1,069 hunters
- Tioga - 58 birds by 181 hunters
- Sixes – 36 birds by 65 hunters
- Powers – 22 birds by 58 hunters
- Chetco – 7 birds by 36 hunters
- Applegate – 217 birds by 455 hunters
- Evans Creek – 296 birds by 672 hunters
- Rogue – 354 birds by 1,185 hunters
High Desert Region
The White River Unit encompassing The Dalles and ODFW’s White River Wildlife Area was the third highest harvest last year, with 1,827 hunters taking 318 birds, but this represented one of the lowest hunter success rates (birds harvested per hunter). District Biologist Keith Kohl from ODFW’s The Dalles field office recommends that hunters focus on areas within three miles on either side of the eastern boundary of the Mt. Hood National Forest, on the line running from the Warm Springs Reservation to the Columbia River. The majority of turkeys will be in that band. Snow conditions will concentrate birds in the lower elevations early in the season, as some of the usual nesting areas will be under snow. Hunting pressure is generally high on the White River Wildlife Area, so those who want to find lower hunter densities should delay and not head our right when the season begins.
For Klamath County, turkeys are restricted to the Keno WMU. Severe winter conditions have likely reduced over winter survival for turkeys this year. Hunting access is good in the Keno Unit as much of the area is private timberland which is open to public access. In addition, some BLM land is available for hunting. However due to snow conditions, some areas will not be accessible for the opener but will open up later in the season. Areas to check for turkey activity are south of Highway 66 and west of the Klamath River Canyon to Copco Road.
- 2007 spring turkey hunting
- Keno – 51 birds by 152 hunters
- Upper Deschutes – 7 birds by 36 hunters
- Paulina – no harvest
- Maury – no harvest
- Ochoco – 79 birds by 303 hunters
- Grizzly – 22 birds by 181 hunters
- Metolius – 29 birds by 347 hunters
- Maupin – 7 birds by 65 hunters
- White River – 318 birds by 1,827 hunters
- Hood – 7 birds by 137 hunters
- Beulah – 43 birds by 72 hunters
- Malheur River – 36 birds by 116 hunters
- Owyhee – 14 birds by 36 hunters
- Whitehorse – no harvest
- Juniper – no harvest
- Silvies – 22 birds by 159 hunters
- Warner – no harvest
- Interstate – 7 birds by 7 hunters
Turkey numbers going into the winter were high in Baker County, particularly in the Sumpter, Keating and Pine Creek units. Although there was some winter loss, turkey numbers remain good. Look for turkeys anywhere in the lower elevations in the transition between agriculture and forestland. There is public land hunting access on BLM, Wallowa-Whitman National Forest; and ODFW Elkhorn Wildlife Area. Remember to ask for permission before hunting on private properties. Heavy snow pack will make access difficult in the early part of the season. Most public land turkey hunting areas still have over a foot of snow.
Turkeys are widely distributed throughout the district. Get a map and understand property boundaries as many of the turkeys are on private property and permission is needed to hunt. The John Day Valley is primarily private land but hunters can access public land along the north and middle fork of the John Day River in the Malheur and Umatilla national forests and at the ODFW-managed Phillip W. Schneider Wildlife Area.
Morrow, Gilliam, Wheeler Counties
Turkey numbers on forest service land and surrounding forested areas are relatively good this year. The over winter survival from the long and snowy winter seems to be good, however access will be difficult as there is still quite a bit of snow covering most of the areas that are traditionally snow-free for the opening of turkey season. Hunters will want to focus on lower elevation and south facing slopes that are free of snow. As the snow recedes the turkeys will continue to move up slope 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 forest land, 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. As a result of record snowfall this winter and early spring, access to the mid elevation interface of public (national forest) and private lands may be difficult during the month of April and possibly into the first week of May.
Turkeys are moving upslope and out of their winter range. Look for good numbers of birds at the north end of the Grande Ronde Valley. Snow will limit access to many areas. Opening day hunters should plan on snowy conditions at mid-elevations. For hunters that need to access public lands, try north of the town of Elgin on the Umatilla National Forest and open Forest Capital Partners lands, which are well-marked. Remember vehicle use is restricted or prohibited on many public and private lands.
Wallowa County’s turkey outlook is good with a fair number of birds carried over from the past winter, continuing a trend of stable numbers. The Wallowa district did lose birds in some areas this past winter due to deep snow, but hunting prospects are still expected to be fair to good. Units where turkey can be found are Wenaha, Sled Springs, Chesnimnus, and Minam. Most birds can be found on public lands or private land open to public hunting such as Forest Capital Partners timberlands. 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. Road access will be difficult the first couple weeks of the season due to deep snow. Hunters are reminded that cooperative travel management areas are in effect in the Wenaha and Sled Springs units.
- 2007 spring turkey hunting
- Biggs – 29 birds by 43 hunters
- Columbia Basin – 14 birds by 72 hunters
- Fossil – 108 birds by 246 hunters
- Northside – 152 birds by 296 hunters
- Heppner – 195 birds by 621 hunters
- Ukiah – 116 birds by 484 hunters
- Desolation – 51 birds by 188 hunters
- Sumpter – 29 birds by 181 hunters
- Starkey – 130 birds by 462 hunters
- Catherine Creek – 116 birds by 376 hunters
- Mt. Emily – 159 birds by 534 hunters
- Walla Walla – 36 birds by 123 hunters
- Wenaha – 144 birds by 318 hunters
- Sled Springs – 152 birds by 318 hunters
- Chesnimus – 43 birds by 137 hunters
- Snake River – 36 birds by 94 hunters
- Minam – 51 birds by 72 hunters
- Inmana – 43 birds by 130 hunters
- Pine Creek – 108 birds by 195 hunters
- Keating – 72 birds by 195 hunters
- Lookout Mtn. – 14 birds by 36 hunters