While COVID-19 has canceled many events, Utah’s spring turkey hunts are about to get underway and provide a great way to social distance while enjoying the outdoors, according to Utah Division of Wildlife Resources spokesperson Faith Jolley.
The spring general-season turkey hunt runs from May 4-31. The three-day youth hunt ended Sunday.
While turkey hunting is allowed in many areas across the state, some counties currently have rules and restrictions in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and those might affect someone’s ability to visit, camp or recreate in the area. Make sure to check with each county for directives or restrictions specific to the area before planning a hunting trip there, said Jolley. Find answers to common questions about hunting in Utah during COVID-19 on the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources website.
What hunters should know about the upcoming hunts:
There are two turkey subspecies that live in Utah: Rio Grande and Merriams. There are currently between 25,000-35,000 wild turkeys throughout the state, and they’re doing really well.
“Due to a favorable winter and early spring, overall, this year’s general-season hunt should be better than in recent years,” DWR Upland Game Coordinator Heather Talley said. “Conditions look really good for both bird numbers and hunter access in most areas across Utah.”
Although statewide turkey populations are looking good, DWR biologists reported a decrease in turkey populations in northeastern Utah due to the deep snow in 2019 that lasted late into the spring, said Jolley.
Hunters should also note that high-elevation areas in southeastern Utah and other parts of the state might still be difficult to access due to recent spring rainstorms and substantial snowpack, she said.
Where to hunt
In southern Utah, hunters should look for birds in river corridor\s and their adjacent habitats.
For northeastern Utah, the corridors along the Duchesne and Green rivers and the Ashley Creek drainage should all be good areas to hunt turkeys this year. Lower agricultural areas should also have good turkey hunting, but many of these areas are on private property, so hunters will need to get written permission from landowners before hunting there. There are also pockets of turkeys throughout much of the Book Cliffs.
In southeastern Utah, hunters can find Merriam’s turkeys in the La Sal and Abajo mountains. Popular areas to find Rio Grande turkeys in this part of the state include along the Colorado and Green rivers, as well as many of their tributaries such as the San Rafael and Price rivers. Additional hot spots could include Range, Gordon, Huntington and Ferron creeks, and drainages along the Book Cliffs, said Jolley.
Rio Grande turkeys are usually found at lower elevations. River bottoms dotted with cottonwood trees and areas containing mostly oak and pinyon-juniper trees are some of their favorite spots. Merriam’s turkeys, on the other hand, are typically found in ponderosa pine forests at higher elevations.
Those planning to hunt should try to get out and scout a few days before the hunt begins. Becoming familiar with the area and locating where the turkeys are is key to a successful hunt. Hunters should spend time observing the turkeys’ daily patterns so that during the hunt, they can set up in an area where the birds will be active.
“Turkeys are often found on private property, so be aware of the land ownership in the area you’re hunting and remember that you must get written permission from the landowner before you can hunt on their property,” Talley said. “Also, calls and decoys can greatly increase the chance of success, so take time to practice with those beforehand. And lastly, turkeys have incredible eyesight so be sure to wear good camouflage and sit very still.”
Buying a permit
Permits can be purchased for the statewide general season anytime between now and when the hunt ends on May 31. General-season permits are available on the DWR website or at a variety of license agent locations and DWR offices. Hunters who decide to buy a permit from a store or DWR office need to make sure to maintain social distancing recommendations, and check to see if the store hours have been altered due to COVID-19.