In an effort to stabilize turkey populations in our state, hunters should be aware of a change in regulations for the spring 2022 turkey season.
The season now runs from April 16 to May 16 with a limit of one tom turkey statewide. The youth season is open on April 9 and 10.
Avid hunters I’ve spoken with support these changes, myself included.
Wildlife biologist Brent Morgan oversees the Camp Gruber and Cherokee WMA and PHA hunting areas respectively and said overall the numbers are down significantly. Biologist Brett Thompson, who covers the Fort Gibson Waterfowl Refuge Area, said the numbers were also down.
He attributes the decrease in ground cover from the 2019 flood as well as predators such as raccoons, opossums, bobcats, coyotes and even feral cats to the reduced turkey population.
“People don’t trap or hunt raccoons anymore like they used to,” Thompson said.
Cookson refuge biologist Curt Allen said last season’s hunters, many from surrounding states, harvested a total of 12 turkeys from an area of 14,700 acres.
For hunters, the one thing I’ve learned about turkeys is that often there’s no rhyme or reason to some of the things they do. I saw a mature and very wild turkey, seeing its reflection, peck the chrome bumper of a Ford F150 pickup truck, which happened to be mine.
Also, and not funny at the time, a gentleman, with a classic 1956 or 1957 Chevy, was staying at a state park in the area. He asked for a report to be made for his car insurance. You guessed it, one tom had indeed done some serious damage after pecking at the paint almost to the point that it looked like someone had sprinkled it with buckshot.
As with most hunts, there is no substitute for scouting and boots on the ground.
If you don’t have access to private property, there are a number of opportunities and resources available for hunting turkeys on public land.
There are a number of easy to use calls on the market.
If you have the time to practice and you have an understanding family, including your faithful dog, diaphragm mouth calls are among the most convenient simply because they reduce movement and free up both hands.
If you have a set of shooting sticks, take them with you. Speaking from experience, a gun becomes terribly heavy when you have to sit still for a while and good rest is not to be found.
The keys to a successful spring turkey season are locating an area with turkeys and scouting to learn the terrain for turkey tracks and turkey droppings. Find areas along the bottoms or crests of streams where they tend to roost in mature trees.
Having a plan in place and knowledge of the area will help you get things done your way. If you can hear a turkey swallow, it’s closer than you think. Hen and tom decoys work well together or even a hen decoy alone.
A rule of thumb I’ve learned over the years is that the less you call, the better off you are. Overcalling is tempting, but doesn’t always yield results. Let the tom dictate the conversation.
If you have a bird coming towards you and it hasn’t gulped in a while, chances are it’s coming silently.
In the Green Country region of Oklahoma, we have the Eastern, Rio Grande and Eastern/Rio Grande hybrid breed of turkeys. The Rio Grande breed tends to be more vocal than the Oriental breed. A Rio Grande tends to be easier to call, at least in my experience. Throughout central and western Oklahoma you will find the Rio Grande breed. In the far west of the state, there is a mix of Rio Grande and Merriam turkey breeds.
The Osceola breed is only found in certain parts of Florida. If you finish harvesting all four of these turkey breeds, it’s considered a “grand slam”.
For a “world slam”, you add Gould’s wild turkey which is found in Mexico, and small parts of New Mexico and Arizona.
Typically, turkeys often hang up just out of reach.
Another piece of advice: patience, patience and patience.
As with any hunt, firearm safety is paramount. Be sure of your target.
Reach Kilgore at [email protected].