With increasing harvests fueling their enthusiasm, turkey hunters will take to the field April 15 for the opening of Washington's month-long spring turkey hunt.
Last spring, hunters reported harvesting 3,593 turkeys-a 65 percent increase over the previous year's reported harvest, said Mick Cope upland game manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
Much of the harvest (87 percent) occurred in northeast Washington, Cope noted. Southeast Washington and Klickitat County are also productive, and huntable turkey populations exist in Yakima, Kittitas, Chelan and Okanogan counties, and southwest Washington.
"Besides increasing hunter success, Washington is one of the only states in the country where hunters can harvest three different turkey sub-species," said Cope. Merriam turkeys are present in Stevens, Pend Oreille, Ferry, Klickitat, Yakima, Kittitas, Chelan and Okanogan counties; Rio Grande turkeys are in Lincoln County and southeast Washington; and eastern turkeys are present in southwest Washington.
Hunters may harvest up to three tom turkeys or turkeys with visible beards per season. Two birds may be harvested in eastern Washington per year but only one of those may be taken in Chelan, Kittitas and Yakima counties combined. Two turkeys may be harvested per year in Klickitat County.
Those new to turkey hunting will find the sport differs from other upland bird hunting, says Cope, who offers the following reminders:
- Always ask for permission to hunt before entering private land.
- Do not attempt to stalk a turkey; what appears to be a gobbler could turn out to be another hunter.
- If another hunter is working a bird, don't spoil it by calling or spooking the bird.
- Make sure the gobbler is within sure range before taking a shot.
- Remember that turkeys can only be hunted with shotguns or archery equipment. Using dogs or bait is illegal.
A small game license is required for turkey hunting. The first turkey tag is included with a small game license, which costs $32.85 for residents and $164.25 for non-residents. Up to two additional tags may be purchased at any time during the season, at a cost of $18 each for residents and $60 apiece for non-residents.
Wild turkey spring season pamphlets are available online, at hunting license dealers and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) offices.
Hunters are reminded they must report their hunting activity in accordance with the state's Hunting Activity Reporting Program (HARP). Hunters may make their reports either by telephone (toll free at 1-877-945-3492) or at http://www.fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/ on the Internet. The report information is used by WDFW to better monitor hunter effort, distribution, harvest and trends.
Hunters who are unsuccessful at harvesting two eastern Washington turkeys may apply for a fall permit. The application deadline is June 22. Hunt choices will be published in the WDFW Big Game Seasons and Rules pamphlet and will be posted on the WDFW web page.
In other spring turkey season news, Frank Irvine of Washougal and Jeff Carlsen of Spokane were the winners of a turkey tag raffle held earlier this year. They received three additional tags for hunting, good for an extended period from April 1 through May 31.