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2015 Turkey Season Forecast

Wednesday, July 8, 2015 

Turkey hunting opportunities are provided statewide; however, turkeys are most numerous in the Panhandle and Clearwater regions in north Idaho. Hunting opportunities are found on both public and private property. Fish and Game’s Hunt Planner and Access Yes! are good tools for exploring hunting in Idaho and access to private lands for turkey hunting.

 

Panhandle Region
Turkeys are found throughout much of the Panhandle Region. The Panhandle is experiencing its third mild winter in a row. Turkey hunting was good in 2014, the spring was mild, and mild snow conditions this winter will likely allow for high over-winter survival. As a result, we expect excellent turkey hunting in 2015. It’s too early to know what spring hunting conditions will be, but turkeys should be plentiful.

The entire region is open to general spring turkey hunting April 8-14 (youth only) and April 15-May 25. Good hunting opportunities can be found on public land adjacent to private land in lower elevations, especially in Units 1, 2, 3 and 5. Obtaining permission from private landowners is another option for finding a place to hunt turkeys.

 

Clearwater Region
Turkeys are present throughout all forested portions of the region with the highest densities found in and adjacent to the Clearwater River drainage, Snake River drainage,  lower Salmon River drainage and the Dworshak (Reservoir) area.  Good opportunities for turkey hunting are found on Craig Mountain Wildlife Management Area, state and federal property, private property, as well as corporate timber land.

Production the past two years have been normal and many broods were observed by regional personnel. Consequently, numbers should be comparable to recent years. Mild conditions during the past two winters should result in good survival into spring and access to higher elevation areas should be better than on many season openers.

The entire region is open to general turkey hunting April 8-14 (youth only) and April 15 - May 25, Sept. 15 – Oct. 9, and certain units on private property (excluding corporate timber lands) Nov. 21 – Dec. 31.

The Hunt Planner is a good tool for showing different federal land ownership. For information on corporate timberland, visit websites for the Potlatch Timber Corporation and the Bennett Lumber Company.

 

Southwest Region
Hunting opportunities have remained consistent for the last several years.  The Unit 38 controlled youth-only spring turkey hunt was split into two hunts last year to provide additional youth hunting opportunities.  The first hunt is during April 8-April 24 (60 tags) and the second hunt is during April 25-May 25 (40 tags).

Overall, turkey populations in the Southwest Region have experienced mild winters the last couple of years, which likely resulted in good winter survival.  Weather conditions during last spring and summer were better than the previous two years, but not exceptional.  Poult production in the Brownlee area was above average, and that combined with mild weather should result in good numbers of jakes this spring. Turkey numbers in the New Meadows area seem to have declined over the past few years, and the better hunting is further south towards Council and Cambridge.

Turkey hunting opportunities in the Southwest Region by opportunity type:
  • Unit 38 provides quality turkey hunting opportunities by Controlled Hunt, but access to turkeys is largely on private property. Prospective hunters should gain permission to hunt before applying for tags.
  • Units 22, 23, and 31 are consist of private ranch and farm ground along with public land in the higher elevations.
  • Units 32 and 32A provide additional opportunity with private and public hunting areas.
  • Units 33 and 39 provide some hunting opportunities, particularly in the lower elevation private land and adjacent public forest; however, turkey populations have declined in the last decade.
Access to higher elevation hunting areas should be widespread this year due to the low snowpack so far this winter, but road conditions will depend on the spring conditions.

 

Magic Valley Region
Due to recent fires, the Magic Valley Region has very limited turkey habitat and consequently limited turkey hunting opportunity.  Presently all spring turkey hunting opportunity is in Unit 54 with 52 controlled hunt tags available in three hunts (32 regular and 20 youth).  The primary distribution of turkeys in Unit 54 is centered on Big Cottonwood Wildlife Management Area and nearby drainages.  A major wildfire in 2012 burned much of the occupied spring turkey habitat and the population in traditional areas has been greatly reduced.  As a result, controlled hunt permits were reduced in 2014.  This loss of habitat has also resulted in some smaller sub-populations of birds taking up residence in residential areas.  Fish and Game is currently attempting to trap and translocate approximately 35 of these birds and relocate them to other areas in Unit 54 that have more suitable turkey habitat.

 

Southeast Region
Turkey production in the region was excellent in 2014 and the past three to four mild winters have resulted in limited winter mortality.  Hunters should experience excellent turkey hunting this spring, with plenty of jakes available for harvest.  However, if the current moderate winter weather conditions persist, turkeys may be more dispersed and at higher elevations than usual during the spring hunt.

Most hunting opportunity in the Southeast Region is on private property. Where turkeys are present on public lands, access may be limited by either private property or spring road conditions. However, road conditions this spring should be relatively good due to the lighter than average snowfall in most of Southeast Idaho.

The Southeast Region’s spring turkey hunting opportunities include:
  • A general spring hunt (April 15 – May 25, 2015) in Units 73, 74, 75, 77, and 78.
  • Two spring controlled hunts (Apr. 15 – 30 and May 1 – 25) each in Units 68A and 71, as well as youth hunts from April 8 – May 25.
Fall hunting opportunities are by controlled hunt only, with hunts in Units 73, 74, 75, 77, and 78 from Sept. 15 – Oct. 31, and in Unit 71 from Sept. 15 – Nov. 30, as well as a youth hunt in Unit 71 from Sept 15 – Dec. 31.

 

Upper Snake Region
Wild turkey hunting opportunities in the Upper Snake Region exist within the Henry’s Fork drainage, Teton River drainage, and the South Fork of the Snake River drainage. Small populations of turkeys are found in the Big Lost River drainage. While most of the land ownership throughout these drainages is private, there is state and federal land that can provide good habitat for turkeys, but most large turkey concentrations are found on or near the private lands.  Responsible hunters should be aware of private and public land boundaries.

Poor hunter success over the last three years indicates the population has not recovered from severe winter conditions in 2011 (the latest harvest information we have indicates the overall success for the 300 Controlled Hunt tags = 19% and the Youth Hunt success = 28%).  With few resources available to assess what is limiting the recovery of turkey populations in this area, it is suspected that quality winter habitat is a limiting factor.  Access to private lands and low bird densities across much of the hunt area could make hunting difficult.

Although the entire region is on a controlled hunt system, a successfully drawn tag will allow for hunting throughout the entire region. Of the 300 tags available, there are 50 youth-only tags from April 8-May 25, an early hunt of 125 tags from April 15-30, a hunt with 125 tags from May 1-25, and a late youth-only hunt with 25 tags from September 15-November 30.

 

Salmon Region
The Salmon Region has very limited turkey hunting opportunity with only 20 controlled hunt tags available (15 regular, 5 youth).  Turkeys in the region are restricted almost exclusively to private lands along the Salmon River and major tributaries from Challis to Ellis.  Therefore, access is challenging.  Prospective hunters should gain permission to hunt before applying for tags.

The turkey population is fairly low because of the small amount of suitable habitat in the region.  Being part of the high, mountainous part of the state, spring weather can be extremely variable with snow possible throughout the season.  Average lows in late April are mid to upper 20s, with average highs near 60.

All field observations point to a good production year and robust turkey flock in the Challis area. Consequently, numbers should be comparable to recent years. Mild conditions during the past two winters should result in good survival into spring.
Young girl with turkey
Successful turkey hunt
Young boy has a successful turkey hunt
Young girl has a successful turkey hunt
Last Updated: March 18, 2015 
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