Wild turkeys are not native to Oregon but were first successfully introduced in 1961. Since then more than 10,000 turkeys have been transplanted to locations all over Oregon.
Two turkey subspecies have been introduced to Oregon. The Merriam's wild turkey was the first subspecies released in the state. Live-trapped Merriam's turkeys were brought to Oregon from Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Nebraska and Montana. The Merriam's subspecies is native to mountainous woodland habitats from the southwestern United States to Central Colorado. The Merriam's turkey population in Oregon increased rapidly following initial releases and then stabilized at lower population levels after the initial expansion.
The Rio Grande wild turkey was first introduced to southwestern Oregon in 1975. Rio Grande turkeys are native to riparian (streamside) zones and scrub woodlands from the southern Great Plains southward into northeastern Mexico. In Oregon, this subspecies has since been established throughout the state and has proven adaptable to a surprisingly wide range of habitat types. Because of this, management efforts have focused primarily on this subspecies since the early 1980's.
In Oregon, turkey hunting has grown more than ten-fold since a statewide spring season opened in 1987. Oregon's six-week spring turkey season is among the most liberal in the United States. It provides the opportunity to take up to three gobblers during the spring season, and another bird of either sex during a controlled hunt season in the fall.
Natural expansion and a winter-time trap and transplant program are continually expanding the opportunities for turkey hunting throughout Oregon. Turkeys can be found in parts of nearly every county in the state. Turkey numbers and distribution as well as turkey hunting opportunities should continue to expand through the next decade.
The spring hunt is generally considered the premium time for turkey hunting. The essence of the hunt is to attract a big tom within shotgun range through concealment and skillful calling. Oregon’s best turkey habitat is in southwestern Oregon, but populations are increasing on the east side, particularly in the northeast part of the state.