Liberal fall hunting seasons try to keep turkeys in check
The cold wet spring that raised havoc with the Inland Northwest pheasant hatch hasn’t dampened the outlook for hunting the region’s largest game birds.
“I’m not sure what you could do to put a damper on wild turkeys,” said Dana Base, Washington Fish and Wildlife Department biologist in Colville.
“The rain and cold weather hurt their hatch in early June, but they pulled off more birds in a second wave of nesting.”
He said the flocks are still recovering from two bad winters starting in 2007 and 2008, but the numbers are looking very good.
Similar reports are coming from Idaho in all the way south to the Blue Mountains, where biologist Pat Fowler said brood sizes are down slightly (numbering about four) but overall turkey numbers are good.
Hunters are allowed to fill multiple turkey tags during fall seasons in Idaho and Eastern Washington to help thin the turkey flocks before winter when they often congregate on farms and feedlots and become a nuisance.
In some instance, hunters are allowed to shoot only unbearded turkeys, which usually are hens, to help keep reproductivity in check.
Idaho’s fall general season opened Wednesday.
The best southeast Washington turkey hunting is on the private land and foothills of the Blue Mountains in Walla Walla, Columbia, Garfield and Asotin counties, although small groups of turkeys were parading along national forest roads at 6,000 feet out of Dayton last year in October.
Turkey numbers appear to be excellent south of Spokane in Game Management Units 124-133, said biologist Mike Atamian.
Even hunters who bagged their two Eastern Washington turkeys during the spring season are eligible for tags during fall seasons.
The early fall general season runs Sept. 25-Oct. 8, which overlaps with muzzleloader elk season.
The early fall seasons is only for beardless turkeys in units 105-124.
Turkeys of either sex can be taken in units 101, 127-133, 145-154, 162-186.
The late fall season, which debuted last year, runs Nov. 20-Dec. 15 for either-sex turkey.