Department of Fish and Wildlife
Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Spring turkey season opens Saturday
FRANKFORT, Ky. – The wait is almost
over for turkey hunters in Kentucky.
A calendar shift
pushed the state’s 23-day general spring wild turkey season back this year to
the third weekend in April. It opens Saturday, April 18 and runs through May
hunters in Kentucky reported taking 29,943 turkeys.
“The current five-year
average of 32,759 birds harvested in the spring is the highest five-year
average that we’ve recorded to date,” said Steven Dobey, wild turkey program
coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “While
we see some year-to-year fluctuation, looking at it at an increment of five
years, our harvest success is the highest it’s ever been, which is something
hunters should be excited about.”
hunters may harvest a male turkey or a turkey with a visible beard, but not
more than one in a day, and no more than two birds total during the season.
They now have the option of using a .410 shotgun in their pursuits.
The state’s turkey
flock has grown to an estimated 220,000 birds since restoration efforts ended
in 1997. Each year, Kentucky ranks first or second among surrounding states in
the number of turkeys harvested per square mile.
“The state of our
turkey flock is exceptional when we look at it on a regional scale,” Dobey
said. “Kentucky has something really special going on as far as its turkeys go,
and the hunters are reaping the rewards of that.”
Top Public Lands by Region: The Daniel Boone National
Forest sprawls across 21 counties in eastern Kentucky. Unsurprisingly, it
produces big numbers when it comes to the spring turkey harvest.
The 497 turkeys harvested last
spring by hunters on the Daniel Boone National Forest – not including the
Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) contained within it - led all public hunting
areas in the state’s Southeast Wildlife Region and Kentucky overall.
“I think the Boone is a
sleeper area,” said Jason Lupardus, the Midwest Conservation Field Supervisor
with the National Wild Turkey Federation who has regional biologist duties in
Kentucky. “There are lots of birds out there. There’s an area that I’ve been to
the past two years and taken birds on and heard eight to 10 birds gobbling.
It’s just a matter of going out and scouting. It’s so expansive that you have a
lot of areas that just don’t get the pressure. I think anyone can go out during
the year and have some success.”
Peabody WMA in the Green
River Region and Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area in the
Purchase Region are among his top three favorite public lands to hunt turkey in
Kentucky. Both areas posted spring turkey harvest totals in 2014 that led other
public lands in their respective regions. Clay WMA in the Northeast Region and
Taylorsville Lake WMA in the Bluegrass Region led their respective regions in
the 2014 spring turkey harvest totals.
Public Land Strategies: A general rule
of thumb when it comes to hunting turkey on public lands during the spring
season is the sooner you can hunt them the better.
Scouting ahead of
time is the most effective way to learn how turkeys are using the landscape. It
also helps a hunter identify potential set-up locations.
outwits you that morning, then you might have to go to your second or third
spot on public land,” Lupardus said. “What’s most important is spending some
time out in that area and understanding what the hens are doing. If you can
mimic what the hens are doing, you’ll have success.”
Can’t make it out
opening weekend? A weekday or late afternoon hunt can be just as productive.
“Late afternoon is
really a key spot,” Lupardus said. “I’ve harvested turkeys in multiple states
all in the 5- to 6-o’clock hour.”
Did you know: Hunters in Logan County
have made it the top county by spring turkey harvest total for three
consecutive years. It’s entrenched in the Green River Region which stretches
from Hardin and Union counties along the Ohio River down to Todd and Monroe
counties along the Tennessee border. The region led the state last spring with
9,274 birds telechecked.
“That area is just
special,” Dobey said. “When you look at the big picture of what turkeys need to
survive, it’s much more intricate than just, do they have food or do they have
trees to roost in? There, you have this perfect assemblage of habitat types.
Add the agriculture component into that and it’s just a shot to the population
because they have this additional available food source that a lot of other
portions of the state don’t have. That can compensate for a lack of a natural
food source in some years.”
Looking Ahead: The emergence of a cicada
brood later this spring in the Green River and Purchase Regions west of
Interstate 65 could result in a spike in the spring turkey harvest in the near
Hunters achieved a record
turkey harvest two years after a significant cicada emergence throughout much
of the state in 2008.
“That is a huge food source
for turkeys and poults in particular,” Dobey said. “They feast on insects.
Something like a cicada would be a goldmine. We could really see a huge
increase in poult production in the western part of the state this summer which
would be fantastic.”
encouraged to consult the 2015 Kentucky Spring Hunting Guide beforehand.
Available online at fw.ky.gov
and wherever licenses are sold, it provides information about current
regulations, licenses and permits, legal equipment, safety tips and more.