SALEM, Ore.—More than 14,000 people are expected to turkey hunt in Oregon this spring during the six-week season that runs from April 15-May 31.
The area surrounding Roseburg in southwest Oregon still leads all other areas in turkeys harvested. The Melrose Wildlife Management Unit took top rank during 2008’s spring turkey season with 715 turkeys harvested by 1,328 hunters, the most turkeys taken of any unit.
In recent years, eastern Oregon has grown more popular for turkey hunting. Last year, 57 percent of all spring turkey hunters hunted the eastside, where there is more public land and success rates are rising. A birds-per-hunter success rate of 67 percent in the remote Minam Unit (Wallowa County) was the highest of any unit in Oregon, rewarding the 131 hardy hunters that accessed this area (much of which is wilderness) with 88 turkeys during last year’s spring season.
Jim Cadwell, ODFW assistant district biologist in La Grande, was out checking hunters opening day (April 15, 2009) and warns that access in northeast Oregon is still limited. “Even though the snow is not as deep as last year, it has been persistent,” he said. “The biggest concern for opening day hunters was access. Hunters are not able to get up into mid-elevation public land yet.” All hunters are advised to check access and road conditions before heading out and to be prepared for winter weather.
A spring turkey tag costs $18 for residents and $64 for non-residents and can be purchased online or at a local license agent. 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 2008-2009 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 hunters must carry a valid tag when hunting.
ODFW “Wild Turkey Hunting in Oregon” brochure provides information on turkey biology, identifying turkeys, hunting and safety 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.
Check ODFW’s Hunting Access Map for additional locations to hunt, including private lands open to hunting through ODFW’s Access and Habitat program.
Don’t forget to report
Anyone who purchases a turkey tag must report the results of their hunt online or by phone (1-866-947-6339). Reporting is required even for those hunters that do not harvest 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. Reporting should occur within 15 days of the end of the season or hunt.
Mandatory reporting of hunt results online or by phone was introduced last year. The information hunters provide is critical for ODFW to accurately determine game populations and set hunting seasons.
In 2008, only about 3 percent of spring turkey tag holders reported their results. Currently there are no penalties for not reporting, but penalties and/or incentives may be introduced for future hunting seasons if hunters continue to not report.
Turkey populations are extremely low and not widely distributed in the Scappoose Unit. Hunters will need to have scouted early to find turkey flocks to ensure any chance for success. Hunters heading to the Trask Unit will 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. Hunters are advised to be prepared for winter-like conditions once they leave plowed roads.
2008 spring turkey hunting statistics
Scappoose – no harvest
Wilson – no harvest
Trask – 7 birds by 44 hunters
Willamette – 58 birds by 299 hunters
Santiam – 88 birds by 328 hunters
Stott Mtn – 7 birds by 22 hunters
Alsea – 73 birds by 277 hunters
McKenzie – 182 birds by 474 hunters
Jackson, Josephine, Curry Counties
Turkey numbers appear to be above average with most turkeys in low to mid elevations of oak and conifer mixed forests and associated meadows and clearings. 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. 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 Rogue 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. Hunters are asked to collect crops of harvested wild turkeys and submit them along with their name, address, date and location of harvest and sex of the turkey to district and regional ODFW offices for a new food habitat study OSU is conducting.
Hunters can expect an excellent spring gobbler season this year. Last summer’s chick/poult counts were very good. Due to the mild winter, over-winter survival was also excellent. During the first part of the spring season the hens will be off nesting so most gobblers will be receptive to calls from hunters. Most turkeys can be found in oak savannah habitat, which is usually at lower elevations in the Umpqua Valley on private land. Keep in mind that you may have more luck asking for permission to hunt on private lands later in the season after landowner’s friends and family plus guides have hunted. However, a substantial amount of private lands are tied up by hunting guides who pay landowners for hunting rights so you may have a difficult time gaining access without paying a fee, even later in the season. While much of the oak savannah habitat in the county is private land, there are many acres of public land for turkey hunting on Roseburg BLM and Umpqua National Forest lands. The public areas to try hunting turkeys are N. Bank Habitat area (BLM), NW and SW Melrose unit (BLM), Tiller (USFS) and Oak Flats (USFS).
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 populations are spotty in distribution.
2008 spring turkey hunting
Siuslaw – 153 birds by 387 hunters
Indigo - 29 birds by 88 hunters
Dixon - 80 birds by 285 hunters
Melrose - 715 birds by 1,328 hunters
Tioga - 95 birds by 241 hunters
Sixes – 29 birds by 88 hunters
Powers – 36 birds by 88 hunters
Chetco – 44 birds by 88 hunters
Applegate – 263 birds by 511 hunters
Evans Creek – 219 birds by 460 hunters
Rogue – 365 birds by 1,240 hunters
High Desert Region
The White River Unit encompassing The Dalles and ODFW’s White River Wildlife Area remains the most popular place to hunt. The unit saw the highest number of hunters last year—1,838 hunters taking 255 birds. With hunting pressure high on the White River Wildlife Area, those that want less company should wait until later in the season to head out. Hunters should 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. The northern portion of the unit is mainly composed of private lands and hunters must have permission to access these lands.
In Crook County, the better opportunities will be on national forestland in the Ochoco and Grizzly units. Winter conditions were generally mild and turkey survival appears to have been good. There were some late snow accumulations and green-up was delayed until late March. Birds have been moving from lower elevation wintering areas on private land to higher elevation public lands. Some north-slope areas still have snow and hunters should contact both the Ochoco National Forest and Prineville BLM offices for road conditions and motorized access restrictions.
For Klamath County, turkeys are restricted to the Keno Unit. Hunting access is good in the southern portions of the Keno Unit, which is predominantly either public access private timberland or BLM public property. A mild winter season has resulted in open access to traditional turkey hunting areas, and it is anticipated that over-winter survival of turkeys was high. Areas to check for turkey activity are south of Highway 66 and west of the Klamath River Canyon to Copco Road.
2008 spring turkey hunting
Keno – 15 birds by 95 hunters
Klamath Falls – 7 birds by 44 hunters
Upper Deschutes – 7 birds by 44 hunters
Paulina – no harvest
Maury – no harvest
Ochoco –51 birds by 409 hunters
Grizzly – 44 birds by 212 hunters
Metolius – 51 birds by 452 hunters
Maupin – 7 birds by 15 hunters
White River 255 birds by 1,838 hunters
Hood – 22 birds by 131 hunters
Beulah – 51 birds by 124 hunters
Malheur River – 7 birds by 51 hunters
Owyhee – 7 birds by 22 hunters
Whitehorse – no harvest
Juniper – no harvest
Silvies – 7 birds by 51 hunters
Warner – no harvest
Interstate – no harvest
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. The recent warm weather has triggered a spring green up at lower elevations. Hunters should concentrate their efforts near these areas. There is public land hunting access on BLM, Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. ODFW Elkhorn Wildlife Area opens to the public April 11, 2009. Remember to ask for permission before hunting on private properties.
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 above average snowfall this winter and early spring, access to the mid elevation interface of public (national forest) and private lands may be difficult during the first three weeks of April. Turkeys will inhabit the low elevation areas while the snow is still present in mid elevation habitats. These low elevation areas are dominated by private ownership.
Turkeys are moving upslope and out of their winter range. Look for birds at the north end of the Grande Ronde Valley, Palmer Valley and the south end of the Catherine Creek unit. Early season hunters should plan on snowy conditions at mid-elevations and snow will limit access. The main USFS 31 Road through the Mt Emily unit is still snowed in as well as many other mid elevation roads. Bring tire chains and a shovel as well as overnight gear. New this year, turkey hunters can use Access and Habitat project the Owsley Canyon Access Area about four miles from La Grande. Contact ODFW’s La Grande office at (541) 962-1838 for more information.
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. 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.
2008 spring turkey hunting
Biggs – no harvest
Columbia Basin – 36 birds by 73 hunters
Fossil – 80 birds by 263 hunters
Northside – 66 birds by 241 hunters
Heppner – 160 birds by 620 hunters
Ukiah – 131 birds by 430 hunters
Desolation – 88 birds by 212 hunters
Sumpter – 44 birds by 175 hunters
Starkey – 51 birds by 255 hunters
Catherine Creek – 58 birds by 248 hunters
Mt. Emily – 139 birds by 416 hunters
Walla Walla – 66 birds by 139 hunters
Wenaha – 88 birds by 255 hunters
Sled Springs – 58 birds by 306 hunters
Chesnimus – 7 birds by 58 hunters
Snake River – 22 birds by 58 hunters
Minam – 88 birds by 131 hunters
Inmana – 44 birds by 88 hunters
Pine Creek – 58 birds by 197 hunters
Keating – 36 birds by 168 hunters
Lookout Mtn. – no harvest