Wild Turkeys Doing Well in Utah

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A fully colored tom turkey struts for some hens.

DWR Press Release

Did you know that Utah is home to a thriving population of wild turkeys? And that Thanksgiving is one of the best times of the year to get out and see them in the wild?

Jason Robinson, upland game coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, says more than 25,000 turkeys live in Utah. “It’s tough to get a solid estimate,” he says, “but based on the number of male turkeys hunters took this past spring, we estimate the state’s population at more than 25,000 birds.”

Winter is a great time to see them

Thanksgiving is not only a great time to gather around the table and enjoy feasting on turkey—it also marks the start of the best time of the year to see these birds in the wild.

“Right around the Thanksgiving holiday,” Robinson says, “turkeys start congregating at lower elevations. Some of the best places to find them are agricultural fields, areas near rivers and streams, and slopes on the south side of hills and mountains.”

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

April is probably the most exciting time to watch turkeys. “During April,” Robinson says, “the males are in their bright, colorful breeding plumage. Watching them strut and gobble, as they try to draw the attention of female turkeys, 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 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,” he says, “you’ll even see them as you’re driving along a road. It’s just a matter of being in the right place at the right time.”

Moving birds

Even though Utah’s turkey population is thriving, the state still has room for more birds. And DWR biologists are working hard to fill the available space.

In winter 2014 – 2015, biologists moved 689 turkeys from Cache Valley, and other areas where the birds are doing well, to areas in Utah that have room for more birds.

Turkey hunting permits

If you’d 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. 2.

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 spring turkey hunt go on sale Feb. 18.

For the 2015 hunts, Robinson says 12,780 hunters applied for the 3,421 limited-entry permits that were available. In addition, a total of 8,576 hunters bought an over-the-counter permit for the spring general turkey hunt. The general hunt started just a few days after the limited-entry hunt ended.

Robinson says 52 percent of those who drew a limited-entry permit took a turkey. The success rate among general season hunters was 28 percent. “Both of those success rates are really good,” he says.

More information

If you have questions about hunting or viewing turkeys in Utah, call the nearest Division of Wildlife Resources office or the DWR’s Salt Lake City office at 801-538-4700.

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