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Idaho turkey hunters should be heading to the woods this spring with big grins on their camo-smeared faces.
They will have more days to hunt and at least as many birds as last spring when they killed around 3,000.
The winter in most areas has been so mild that losses should have been nil. Turkeys are not counted by Fish and Game in the same way deer and elk herds are, but the word from everyone I trust to understand what they are seeing indicates the hatch was excellent last year and that summer survival was good.
If flocks had a hard time anywhere, it would be in higher elevations where snows have been way deeper than normal. Turkeys have a strong inclination to pioneer new areas on their own and are being seen in places much higher in elevation than where they were originally planted. (My neighbor, the hunter with his first turkey shown here and on the cover of this issue of Idaho Afield, encountered 30 birds in Lowman in November last fall. He clucked them up to his truck with this elk diaphram call. Fish and Game certainly never hauled any turkeys to Lowman; this outfit just decided to take a long stroll.)
It is nice to see a species do well enough that we can allow more time afield
this year and a second tag to boot. We have never tried fall hunting before in Idaho, so it will be interesting to see how many folks are fired up about that when every other kind of hunting is going on.
Idaho’s turkey program has come
a long way. When a significant number of hunters began to be fired up about turkeys, and I started writing quite a lot about it, we were shooting fewer than 300 birds a year statewide. The jump to a harvest of 3,000 has come quicker than any of us had reason to expect.
Some hunters worry that expanding the seasons will hammer the flocks but I don’t. The fact is that about 10 percent of the hunters have about 90 percent of the success. Certainly, novices do luck out from time to time but the percentages are just not important in the overall scheme of things.
Rio Grandes Reintroduced
Fish and Game is trying once again to establish the Rio Grande subspecies in southern Idaho. Let us hope this works out.
Rio Grande turkeys are adapted to more arid habitat than the Merriams
that have succeeded so well in central and northern Idaho. They come
from Texas and other dry places where they take advantage of scrub
vegetation. We have plenty of that in southern Idaho.
Idaho Fish and Game, along with the Idaho chapter of the National Wild
Turkey Federation, tried hard in the early 1980s to establish Rio
Grandes in the hill country south of the Snake River and in the Snake
River corridor itself. Some flocks expanded for a few years and offered
limited hunting for a while but they dwindled away for reasons still
I think these tough, racy birds need another chance here. Wildlife in
general had a hard time through the drought years of the '80s; better
habitat conditions since then might just be the key.