DWR Reports That Wild Turkeys are Doing Well in Utah

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Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Press Release

Did you know that Utah has a thriving population of wild turkeys? And that Thanksgiving is one of the best times of the year to see turkeys in the wild?

Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Upland Game Coordinator Jason Robinson explained that more than 20,000 turkeys live in the state. “It’s tough to get a solid estimate,” he stated. “But based on the number of male turkeys hunters took this past spring, we estimate the state’s population at more than 20,000 birds.”

If you’d like to see wild turkeys, Thanksgiving marks the start of the best time of the year to give it a try. “Every year, right around the Thanksgiving holiday, turkeys start congregating at lower elevations,” he indicated.  “Agricultural areas, areas near rivers and streams and slopes that face south are all good areas to look for them.”

Turkeys usually stay at lower elevations until March. Then, as the snow melts and the temperature climbs, the birds travel to higher elevations to breed and nest.

Robinson said April is the most exciting time to watch them. “The males are in their bright, colorful breeding plumage,” he said. “Watching them strut and gobble as they try to draw the attention of the females is one of the most exciting things you’ll see in nature.”

Turkeys are a little more difficult to find in April, though. To find them, travel to higher elevations, and then look for these three things: large cottonwood or Ponderosa pine trees the birds can roost in, thick brush the birds can feed and hide in and water.

“Sometimes, you might even see them while you’re driving along a road,” Robinson advised. “It’s a matter of being in the right place at the right time.”

Despite its thriving population, Utah still has room for more turkeys and DWR biologists are working hard to fill the available space.

In winter 2013-2014, biologists moved 805 turkeys from Cache Valley and other areas where the birds are doing well, to areas in Utah that have room for more birds.

If you would like to hunt wild turkeys next spring, it’s time to start preparing for the hunts. Applications for limited-entry hunting permits will be accepted at www.wildlife.utah.gov starting Dec. 3.

If you apply for a limited-entry permit, but don’t draw one, you can still hunt turkeys next spring. Permits for Utah’s general turkey hunt go on sale Feb. 12.

For the 2014 hunts, Robinson says 8,578 hunters applied for the 2,500 limited-entry permits that were available. In addition, a total of 7,812 hunters bought an over-the-counter permit for the general turkey hunt. The general hunt started just a few days after the limited-entry hunt ended.

Robinson says 45% of those who drew a limited-entry permit took a turkey. The success rate among general season hunters was 26%. “Both of those success rates are really good,” he stated.

If you have questions about hunting or viewing turkeys in Utah, call the nearest DWR office.

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