Turkey season is here; time to head out of town

Turkeys often hang out in relatively accessible lands, and are easy to pack out if you bag one.
Turkeys often hang out in relatively accessible lands, and are easy to pack out if you bag one. Provided by Idaho Department of Fish & Game

Turkey hunting season is a great time to get outdoors in the spring, and turkey hunting is among Idaho’s most fun and user-friendly hunts. Idaho’s general season youth turkey hunt opened April 8, and the general season for all hunters opens April 15.

It’s a great way to introduce youth and other novices to hunting and a good head start for young hunters who are planning to participate in next fall’s big game hunts.

That’s because in many ways, turkey hunting resembles big game hunting more than other types of bird hunting.

You’re typically after one bird, which is similar to hunting a big game animal, and you spend your time scouting, searching and trying to bring one bird into gun or bow range.

What’s more, turkey hunting is inexpensive, so you don’t need a bunch of specialized gear. All you need is a hunting license and turkey tag, a shotgun or bow, some camo clothing, and a few calls.

Part of the excitement of calling a tom turkey is that it is audibly and visually appealing. You often know your quarry is in the vicinity, and the trick is luring it within range of a waiting hunter.

You can quickly learn the basics of turkey calling by watching videos or attending seminars at sporting goods stores, but the basics boil down to hearing a tom turkey gobble, or provoking it to gobble, then imitating a female to lure in the tom.

Turkey hunting is also user friendly because they are often found in fairly accessible places where long hikes into rugged country are not required, and it’s easy to pack one out if you have a successful hunt. You can also buy an extra turkey tag if you want to do it again.

Turkeys are found throughout Idaho, but most general seasons are in the Panhandle, Clearwater, Southwest and Southeast regions. You can see a map of the open units on page 22 of the turkey rules booklet, which is available online at and anywhere licenses and tags are sold.

Turkeys tend to congregate at lower elevations during spring, often near agriculture lands, and follow the snow line up as spring progresses.

Hunters should scout hunting areas before the season if possible, but with a month-long season available for most general hunts, you can also scout while you hunt.

Make sure you know if you’re on public or private land, and always get permission before hunting on private land. When in doubt whether it’s public or private land, check a map or an app.

Turkey hunting has grown in popularity since Fish and Game first introduced the birds into Idaho in the 1960s. An estimated 30,000 wild turkeys — Merriam’s, Rio Grande and Eastern — roam the state. Hunters took about 3,800 turkeys during the 2017 spring hunt.

With general turkey seasons for youths and adults, along with multiple tags available, there are lots of opportunities for people to get outdoors and enjoy hunting in the spring. Add to that the typically mild weather, the chance to see other wildlife, and spring turkey hunting is fun, accessible and value packed.

Roger Phillips is a public information specialist at Idaho Department of Fish & Game and former Idaho Statesman outdoors reporter.