Spring is finally here – officially on the calendar – and that brings turkeys to mind. Actually, having lived in Oklahoma most of my life, the first word association that comes to mind if the word Spring is mentioned is tornado. But, for now, let’s talk turkey!
The youth spring turkey hunt days are April 3 and 4 across Oklahoma, except for in the southeast region, which is later in the month. After the youth days, a month-long turkey season is open from April 6 through May 6. Again, the southeast region is held at a later time.
Winter flock surveys conducted by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation show Comanche County’s wild turkey population to range from 750 to 2,000. Neighboring counties of Caddo, Tillman and Cotton show a population of over 2,000 each, according to a graph posted on the ODWC website. The dominant turkey subspecies in Oklahoma is the Rio Grande.
Anyone interested in participating in the Spring turkey hunting season should keep a few things in mind. All of the regulations can easily be accessed at www.eregulations.com/oklahoma/hunting.
First, a license is required and, especially for the younger hunters, a free Hunter Safety Education is offered online through ODWC. The Oklahoma online course is available to residents 10 years old and older. The course covers a range of topics including firearm safety, wildlife identification, wildlife conservation and management, survival, archery, muzzle loading and hunter responsibility. Again, the course is free of charge to everyone.
The Spring season limit is three Tom turkeys – no hens – so it’s important that a hunter can distinguish the difference between the two. Basically, Toms are larger and can weigh in the 18- to 20-lb range; hens are smaller and can weigh in the 5- to 12-lb range. Toms, also called gobblers, have a colorful plumage (layer of feathers); large, fanning tails; prominent snoods and wattles. A snood is the long, red, fleshy area from the forehead over the bill and the fleshy growth under the throat is the wattle.
According to Oklahoma regulations, resident youths under 16 years old are exempt from a hunting license but must have a turkey license or proof of exemption. Resident youths aged 16 and 17 must have both the hunting license and a turkey license or proof of exemption. Any youth hunter aged 17 and younger, must have an adult with them. The adult is not permitted to hunt or have any archery equipment or firearms in their possession.
I’ve never been on a turkey hunt, although several years ago when I shot a compound bow, I was interested in hunting turkey. The right opportunity never came along but conversation and research said it was challenging due to a turkey’s keen eyesight and hearing. It was also recommended that I learn to call turkeys, especially in the Spring breeding season when Toms are responding to hen’s calls. There are so many different types of calls available and most require practice to sound authentic. I tried my hand at a box call. Even without the actual bow hunt, I enjoyed trying to mimic the sound and get good at it. The other advice I received was to be patient and learn how to sit very still. Turkeys can pick up on even the slightest movement or sound.
Here’s a few fun facts from The Old Farmer’s Almanac I came across while reading about turkeys. Only male turkeys gobble and it’s a mating call. This is why Toms are also called Gobblers. Hens purr. Wild turkeys can fly and sleep in trees. They can see better than humans. A wild turkey can make at least 30 different calls.
According to the Almanac, even with two turkey hunting seasons a year, only one in six hunters will get a wild turkey. Here’s hoping you’re the one in six! Have fun!
OUTDOOR TRAILS & TALES