Washington's increasingly popular spring turkey hunting season opens statewide April 15 and runs through May 15.
The season's popularity is partly due to increasing harvest, says Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) upland game manager Mick Cope.
"Last spring hunters reported harvesting about 35 percent more turkeys than during the 2000 season," Cope explained. "The spring turkey harvest today is more than 350 percent higher than it was in 1995 when the season really came into its own in Washington state."
Cope also notes that Washington is one of the only states in the country where hunters can harvest three different sub-species of turkey, all which have been successfully introduced to the state since 1984. The Merriam's subspecies are in Stevens, Pend Oreille, Ferry, Klickitat, Yakima, Kittitas, Chelan, and Okanogan counties; Rio Grande turkeys are in Lincoln County and southeastern Washington; and the eastern subspecies is in southwest Washington.
The majority of the turkeys and the harvest (76 percent) occur in northeast Washington, but other productive areas are southeast Washington and Klickitat County. Smaller but huntable turkey populations can be found in Yakima, Kittitas, Chelan, and Okanogan counties, and southwest Washington. Turkey hunting rules include the following:
- A small game license is required, which includes one turkey tag ($32.85 for residents, $164.25 for non-residents); Up to two additional tags may be purchased at any time during the season ($18 each for residents, $60 for non-residents).
- The season bag limit is three tom turkeys, or turkeys with visible beards. Two birds per year may be harvested in eastern Washington and only one of those may be taken in Chelan, Kittitas, and Yakima counties (combined). Two turkeys per year may be harvested in Klickitat County.
- Only shotguns or bows can be used, and it is illegal to bait or use dogs.
All other rules, plus tips for new hunters on safe, ethical and successful turkey hunting, are available in WDFW's Wild Turkey Spring Season Pamphlet or at local license dealers.
Cope reminds turkey hunters to report their hunting activity by telephone (toll free at 1-877-945-3492) or on the Internet at http://www.fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/. The reports, now required by law, help WDFW to better manage turkey hunting by monitoring hunter effort, distribution, harvest and trends.
Those hunters unsuccessful in harvesting two eastern Washington turkeys can apply for a fall permit. The application deadline is June 23. Hunt choices will be published in the 2002 big game pamphlet as well as posted on the WDFW web page next month.