(OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDIFE)
More than 15,000 people are expected to turkey hunt this spring in Oregon during the six-week season that runs from April 15-May 31 and the special youth-only hunt April 10-11.
The area surrounding Roseburg in southwest Oregon still leads all other areas in turkeys harvested. The Melrose Wildlife Management Unit once again took top ranking during 2009’s spring turkey season with 855 turkeys harvested by 1,265 hunters, the most turkeys taken of any unit.
In recent years, more hunters have been heading over to eastern Oregon to hunt because there is more public land and success rates are rising. Last year, 55 percent of all spring turkey hunters hunted the eastside. Units with good hunter success in 2009 included Mt. Emily, Wenaha and Sled Springs. Murderers Creek and Heppner units also yielded good harvests in 2009.
Hunters new to the sport can check ODFW‘s turkey hunting brochure (pdf) for hunting tips and other information. Remember that while turkeys are habitat generalists, they prefer rolling hills and oak woodlands interspersed with meadows or pastures. They tend to avoid dense brush.
Here are how prospects break down around the state:
Trask and Willamette Units: Turkey hunting in the eastern portion of the Trask and northern portion of the Willamette Unit remains difficult for hunters who do not have access to private lands since turkey flocks are concentrated on local farms and ranches. Hunting should be good for those hunters lucky enough to have obtained permission to hunt. Those willing to knock on doors may find some willing landowners and hidden flocks of turkeys.
Scappoose Unit: Turkey populations are extremely low and not widely distributed. Hunters will need to have scouted early to find turkey flocks and obtained permission to hunt on private property.
Stott Mt. and Alsea Unit: Turkeys are often found on the private agricultural lands with rolling oak woodlands adjacent to the larger private timber holdings. Remember to get permission to hunt on private land.
Santiam and McKenzie Units: Concentrate your efforts in the rolling oak hills and agricultural fringes along valley foothills from Carlton to Sheridan. Turkey flocks in the Santiam Unit are typically concentrated on the eastern side of the forest closer to the Warm Springs Indian Reservation and the White River Wildlife Area. There is also some public land in portions of the Santiam and McKenzie units at the lower elevations of Willamette National Forest. Be prepared for winter-like conditions once you leave plowed roads.
2009 spring turkey hunting statistics
Scappoose – no harvest
Wilson – no harvest
Trask – 29 birds by 93 hunters
Willamette – 194 birds by 453 hunters
Santiam – 151 birds by 510 hunters
Stott Mt. – 7 birds by 58 hunters
Alsea – 129 birds by 374 hunters
McKenzie – 137 birds by 496 hunters
Jackson, Josephine, Curry Counties
Turkey numbers appear to be above average with most turkeys in low to mid elevations of oak and conifer mixed forests, with their associated meadows and clearings. Turkeys will be feeding on green grasses and insects. Use locator calls before light or after dark to locate roosting trees; then set up in an area of their travel and begin calling as light approaches.
Turkeys can be found in about every BLM property in the area—try Williams Creek, Thompson Creek, Kane Creek, Galls Creek in Applegate Unit; Lake Creek, Butte Falls, Worthington Road for the Rogue Unit; and for Evans Creek Unit try Long Branch, east Evans Creek, Jumpoff Joe Creek and Pleasant Creek. Private lands hold numerous turkeys, be sure to ask for permission before hunting.
Hunters can expect an excellent spring gobbler season this year. Last summer’s chick/poult counts were above the 15-year average with 6.3 poults per hen, and coupled with our mild winter the amount of gobblers available for harvest should be above average. During the first part of the spring season the hens will be off nesting so most gobblers will be receptive to calls from hunters. (Keep in mind that overcalling by hunters in an area can lead to less response from gobblers.)
Most turkeys are found in oak savannah habitat which is mostly on lower elevations in the Umpqua Valley. Hunters should always ask for permission before hunting any private lands. Many private lands are tied up by hunting guides who pay landowners for hunting rights so you may have a difficult time gaining access without paying a fee, even later in the season.
There are many acres of federal land for turkey hunting on Roseburg BLM and Umpqua National Forest. The public areas to try hunting turkeys are N. Bank Habitat area (BLM land) just northeast of Roseburg; northwest and southwest (BLM lands) portions of the Melrose unit; the Tiller area (USFS & BLM lands) which is southeast of Roseburg plus Oak Flats and Toketee Air Strip (USFS land) east of Roseburg.
There is limited opportunity to hunt turkeys in Coos County. Pre-hunt scouting is important because populations are spotty in distribution. The densest populations are generally found in eastern Coos County near agricultural lands.
2009 spring turkey hunting statistics
44% of the spring turkeys were harvested in the SW Region
32% of the hunters hunted in the SW Region
SW Region TOTAL – 2035 birds harvested by 4830 hunters (By Wildlife Management Unit)
Siuslaw – 137 birds by 460 hunters
Indigo – 79 birds by 137 hunters
Dixon – 108 birds by 309 hunters
Melrose – 855 birds by 1,265 hunters
Tioga – 72 birds by 165 hunters
Sixes – 22 birds by 108 hunters
Powers – 22 birds by 79 hunters
Chetco – 7 birds by 29 hunters
Applegate – 230 birds by 532 hunters
Evans Creek – 201 birds by 625 hunters
Rogue – 302 birds by 1121 hunters
High Desert Region
The White River Unit (which includes White River Wildlife Area) remains the most popular place to hunt. The unit saw the highest number of hunters last year—1,797 hunters taking 302 birds. With hunting pressure high on the White River Wildlife Area, those that want less company should wait until later in the season to head out.
Hunters should focus on areas within three miles of either side of the eastern boundary of the Mt. Hood National Forest, on the line running from the Warm Springs Reservation to the Columbia River. The majority of turkeys will be in that band. The northern portion of the unit is mainly composed of private lands and hunters must have permission to access these lands.
In Crook County, the better opportunities will be on national forestland in the Ochoco and Grizzly Units. Winter conditions were generally mild and turkey survival appears to have been good. Spring started earlier than normal, and green-up has been early and rapid. Birds have moved from many lower elevation wintering areas to higher elevation public lands. Some north-slope areas still have snow and hunters should contact both the Ochoco National Forest and Prineville BLM offices for road conditions and motorized access restrictions. Motorized restrictions remain in effect year-around in the South Boundary Cooperative Travel Management Area (TMA) along the southern boundary of the Ochoco National Forest. Maps of the TMA are available at entry portal signs and at ODFW and Ochoco National Forest offices in Prineville.
Hunters should have a fair opportunity in Jefferson County in the Metolius Wildlife Management Unit. Birds had good survival this winter and are widely scattered. The best locations are on Green Ridge from Black Butte north to the Warm Springs Reservation. Contact the Sisters Ranger District of the Deschutes National Forest for road conditions and motorized access.
In Harney County, turkeys are restricted to the northern portion of the county on or near national forest land. Mild winter conditions should have resulted in good over-winter survival. However, local turkey populations remain at a very low level. Access into the national forest should be better than usual, but roads at higher elevations or on northern aspects may be blocked by snow until mid-May or later.
For Klamath County, turkeys are restricted to the Keno Unit. Hunting access is good in the southern portions of the Keno Unit, which is predominantly either open to hunt private timberland or BLM land. A mild winter season has resulted in open access to traditional turkey hunting areas, and over-winter survival of turkeys was likely high. Several releases of turkeys were made into the Keno Unit this winter to help supplement the population. Areas to check for turkey activity are south of Highway 66 and west of the Klamath River Canyon to Copco Road. Turkeys can also be found north of Highway 66 around Johnson Prairie.
2009 spring turkey hunting statistics
Keno – 7 birds by 151 hunters
Klamath Falls – 0 birds by 7 hunters
Upper Deschutes – 0 birds by 65 hunters
Paulina – 7 birds by 22 hunters
Maury – 7 birds by 22 hunters
Ochoco –50 birds by 424 hunters
Grizzly –0 birds by 165 hunters
Metolius – 36 birds by 352 hunters
Maupin – 0 birds by 7 hunters
White River 252 birds by 1,797 hunters
Hood – 43 birds by 151 hunters
Beulah – 0 birds by 72 hunters
Malheur River – 22 birds by 108 hunters
Owyhee – 29 birds by 43 hunters
Whitehorse – no harvest or effort
Juniper – no harvest or effort
Silvies – 22 birds by 115 hunters
Warner – 0 birds by 7 hunters
Interstate – no harvest or effort
Turkey numbers going into the winter were high in Baker County and over-winter turkey survival should have been high due to the mild winter. The recent warm weather has triggered a spring green-up at lower elevations. Hunters should concentrate their efforts near these areas. There is public land hunting access on BLM and the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. ODFW Elkhorn Wildlife Area opens to the public April 10, 2010. Remember to ask for permission before hunting on private properties.
Turkeys are widely distributed throughout the district. Get a map and understand property boundaries as many of the turkeys are on private property and permission is needed to hunt. The John Day Valley is primarily private land but hunters can access public land along the north and middle fork of the John Day River in the Malheur and Umatilla National Forests and at the ODFW-managed Phillip W. Schneider Wildlife Area.
Morrow, Gilliam, Wheeler Counties
Turkey numbers on Forest Service land and surrounding forested areas have been increasing over the past few years. The over-winter survival appears good again this year due to the mild winter conditions. Hunters will want to focus on mid and lower elevation and south-facing slopes that are free of snow. Hunters should target the north slopes of the Blue Mountains as well as the North Fork John Day drainage. As the snow recedes, the turkeys will continue to move upslope following the receding snow line.
Turkeys inhabit Umatilla County in good numbers all along the front face of the Blue Mountains and they are expanding into new areas. These areas are dominated by private land and access is sometimes difficult. However, turkeys do inhabit some public land areas as follows: central Ukiah Unit on national forest land, southern Ukiah Unit on Pearson Ridge and surrounding drainages, Umatilla National Forest lands in the eastern portion of the Heppner Unit, Umatilla National Forest lands on ridges below Black Mountain in the Mt. Emily Unit. As a result of below-average snowfall this winter and early spring, access to the mid-elevation interface of public (national forest) and private lands could be easier than the last two years in April. Turkeys will inhabit the low and mid elevation areas while the snow is still present in high elevation habitats. Low elevation areas are dominated by private ownership and permission is needed to hunt.
Turkeys are moving upslope and out of their winter range; many are already on their summer range. Look for birds at the north end of the Grande Ronde Valley, Palmer Valley and the south end of the Catherine Creek unit. The highest concentrations of birds will be in the Sled Springs, Wenaha and Mount Emily units. Turkey numbers should be above average this spring due to high winter survival. Hunters can expect less snow than in previous years and more road access for the opener.
Turkeys wintered well and production was good this year so numbers are up over last year. While there are still lots of areas blocked by snow, there is not as much snow as last year and areas should open up much earlier. Initially, birds can be found in timbered areas near the valley fringe. Later in the season birds are expected to be widely scattered throughout forested areas so hunters should put in some time hiking, listening, and looking for signs of turkey activity. Hunters are reminded that cooperative travel management areas are in effect in the Wenaha and Sled Springs units including on Forest Capital Partners property.
2009 spring turkey hunting statistics
Biggs – 0 birds by 43 hunters
Columbia Basin – 14 birds by 50 hunters
Fossil – 65 birds by 280 hunters
Northside – 22 birds by 180 hunters
Heppner – 165 birds by 554 hunters
Ukiah – 93 birds by 374 hunters
Desolation – 58 birds by 223 hunters
Sumpter – 79 birds by 230 hunters
Starkey – 22 birds by 302 hunters
Catherine Creek – 36 birds by 230 hunters
Mt. Emily – 180 birds by 395 hunters
Walla Walla – 50 birds by 173 hunters
Wenaha – 122 birds by 302 hunters
Sled Springs – 151 birds by 280 hunters
Chesnimus – 22 birds by 58 hunters
Snake River – 29 birds by 72 hunters
Minam – 65 birds by 122 hunters
Inmana –22 birds by 43 hunters
Pine Creek – 58 birds by 237 hunters
Keating – 36 birds by 194 hunters
Lookout Mtn. – 7 birds by 7 hunters