Poor hatch won't hurt turkey season

April 12, 2004

FRANKFORT - The 2004 spring turkey season should continue the trend of good harvests, despite a poor hatch last spring.

"It should be another excellent season and harvest," said Jim Lane, wild turkey biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.

"We've had good hatches in previous years and there should be plenty of older birds in the flock."

Lane said the turkey hatch last year fell below the 10 year average statewide, but the mild winter and last year's excellent mast crop provided good conditions for those turkeys to survive winter.

"The turkey flock is still strong across the state and I don't anticipate any appreciable decrease in the quality of the hunt. But, I do expect a decrease in the number of jakes harvested," Lane said.


Good listening skills help a turkey hunter bag that elusive tom.

"Try and figure out where the turkeys are by listening to where they are gobbling in the morning," Lane said. "When going out to hunt, you want to be in that spot pre-dawn before the turkeys get there."

Strut zones where tom turkeys show off for the ladies and intimidate other toms are important places to locate in spring.

"A lot of times you can see the toms strutting when they are very visible," Lane explained.

"They can often be seen strutting from a fairly long distance away."

In wooded areas, strut zones are found on logging roads, open ridge tops and benches. In agricultural areas, strut zones are often located along the edges or in corners of fields.

Food sources are also important for locating wild turkeys in spring.

"Locating food sources is important," Lane said.

"New green fields in clover or in wheat are good because they can pick bugs and eat the new green growth. Cattle pastures surrounded by woods are excellent for turkey in spring. Turkeys flip cow patties looking for bugs."

Weapon choice is important consideration

Weapon choice is an important consideration for turkey hunting.

Archery hunting for turkey is difficult in spring. Out of the 27,550 turkeys harvested during the 2003 spring season, only 101 birds succumbed to a bow shot.

The all-around choice for spring turkey hunting is a 12-gauge semi-auto or pump action shotgun capable of firing 3-inch magnum shells.

Some hunters prefer 12-gauges that can chamber a 3 1/2-inch shell, but these loads possess hefty recoil.

A 20-gauge that chambers a 3-inch magnum shell is acceptable, but the hunter loses some effective killing range. The most popular and effective shot sizes for turkeys are 4, 5 and 6.

Turkey hunters must remain patient until the bird is in range. With adrenaline pumping and a tom turkey moving toward you, it requires great patience not to fire too soon.

Try and get the bird to within 40 yards before firing with a 12-gauge loaded with 3 or 3 1/2-inch magnum shells, 30 yards with a 20-gauge with 3-inch magnum shells.

Shots longer than this greatly increase the chances of simply wounding, and not killing, a turkey.

The spring turkey season is off to a good start. Youth turkey hunters bagged 1,359 wild turkeys during the youth turkey hunting weekend last weekend.

The regular turkey season opens April Thursday and runs until May 5.

For more information about turkey hunting, consult the 2004 Kentucky Spring Hunting Guide for Turkey and Squirrel or log on to

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