The general turkey season opened Saturday. Hunters will get the most general-hunting opportunities in the Panhandle, Clearwater and Southwest regions. Beyond that, most areas are limited to controlled hunts.
Higher-than-normal snowfall in much of the state likely decreased turkey populations in some areas, but hunters should find fair to good turkey populations in most regions.
“In Southwest and Eastern Idaho we anticipate populations to be down based on field reports. Turkey populations remain good in the Clearwater and Panhandle regions,” said Jeff Knetter, the upland and migratory bird coordinator for Idaho Fish and Game.
Knetter explained that turkeys typically cope with winter differently than big game. The birds often seek feed from agriculture operations like livestock feedlots.
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In areas where that’s not an option, they can have trouble surviving winter if they’re unable to get natural food off the ground. Fish and Game, in cooperation with the National Wild Turkey Federation, fed some birds this winter in the Cambridge, Council and Garden Valley areas.
Many areas have seen flooding during late winter and early spring, so hunters should double-check the availability of access to their favorite spots.
Populations have been steadily increasing the past several years. However, this winter was hard on turkeys in places that experienced prolonged deep snowfall. Turkeys along the lower Boise River appear to be doing well. Unit 38 and a portion of Unit 32 are controlled hunts and hunting in the low country along waterways often requires landowner permission. The Fort Boise Wildlife Management Area in Unit 38 is open for controlled-hunt tag holders. Units 33 and 39 are general hunts.
In the northern part of the region, the National Wild Turkey Federation provided feed in several areas, which helped turkeys come through the harsh winter. Access will be limited at higher elevations until sometime in May.
There are turkey populations at Cecil D. Andrus Wildlife Management Area near Brownlee Reservoir. Motorized travel is restricted there until May 1, but walk-in hunting is open.
Hunters can find Access Yes! properties with turkey hunting opportunities near Indian Valley and north of New Meadows.
Rick Ward and Regan Berkely, Southwest Region wildlife managers
Magic Valley Region
The region has a limited number of turkeys in Unit 54, with most living on the west side of the unit. Turkeys are limited to controlled hunts in the region.
Daryl Meints, Magic Valley Region wildlife manager
Upper Snake Region
In general, the Upper Snake has small populations and the bulk of the birds are in the South Fork of the Snake River and Snake River riparian areas. Those areas likely had some winter mortality to further depress the populations. I anticipate turkey densities to be slightly below what we have experienced over the past number of years. Hunting is limited to controlled hunts.
Curtis Hendricks, Upper Snake Region wildlife manager
The region had severe winter conditions from late December through March, and anecdotal reports indicate that some winter mortality on turkeys occurred in isolated areas. Bird densities likely will be lower than in previous years. However, turkey numbers were extremely high this past year. Despite some winter mortality, there should be robust populations. During early spring, hunters might find distributions to be slightly different because of snow at higher elevations.
Zach Lockyer, Southeast Region wildlife manager
The region has low densities — about 400 in Custer County and about 125 in Lemhi County. There are limited controlled hunts for those birds. The region likely had some winter mortality to further depress these populations and hunters’ success rates. Where the turkeys occupy lower elevations, access will not be a problem.
Greg Painter, Salmon Region wildlife manager
The Panhandle is looking good despite the snow that accumulated in lower elevations. Wintering turkeys are typically associated with agricultural land, often around livestock feeding operations, so food is usually available.
Although the region had near-normal winter snowpack, the winter did not begin in earnest until mid-January and snowfall in December and early January was below normal, so turkeys were not stressed for a long period.
A challenge for hunters this year might be access because of poor road conditions and flooding. During the spring season, hunters may purchase and use up to two turkey tags; only toms can be harvested in spring.
Wayne Wakkinen, Panhandle Region wildlife manager
The snowpack was normal this winter, but valley snow levels were above normal. Despite this, turkeys in the Clearwater appear to be doing well. Snow at lower elevations came off relatively early, and turkeys have had the advantage of spring green-up.
The greatest challenge to hunters will be access. Warm weather and rain has caused flooding, road washouts and slides. Snow is gone at lower elevations, but some hunters will find it difficult to get to some spots.
Clay Hickey, Clearwater Region wildlife manager