All you need to spring turkey hunt is camo, a call and a shotgun. A hen or jake decoy can also improve your odds. You can hunt for six weeks (April 15 to May 31) anywhere in the state.
Spring turkey hunting is general season, and anyone can purchase a tag anytime before going hunting. Turkey tags are $25.50 for residents and $10.50 for youth hunters (age 17 and under). Hunting licenses are $33.50 for residents.
The daily bag limit is one male turkey or a turkey with a visible beard (so hens with beards may be lawfully taken). The season limit is three legal turkeys; hunters must purchase a tag for each turkey. See page 19 of the Oregon Game Bird Regulations for more information.
Finally, don’t forget to report results for each tag you purchased, no later than Jan. 31, 2019. Report online or by phone (1-866-947-6339), even if you didn’t take a turkey or didn’t go hunting. Hunters need to know their hunter/angler ID number, hunting location (wildlife management unit), and days spent hunting to complete the report.
Spring turkey hunters that report by Jan. 31, 2019 could win a special 2019 big game tag of their choice (deer, elk or pronghorn).
Turkey hunting: Tips, equipment and safety
The sight and sound of a turkey’s mating display is enough to quicken the pulse of even the most experienced hunter — and makes calling in a spring tom as exciting as calling in a bull elk.
While turkeys are notoriously difficult to sneak up on due to their excellent eyesight, the urge to mate makes wary toms (males) a little less cautious when they hear the call of a hen in the spring.
The fairer sex in the turkey world, toms use their iridescent red, green, copper, bronze and gold feathers to their advantage when trying to attract a mate — fanning their tails and strutting out in the open to show off. Adding to the spectacle, their brightly colored heads can alternate between red, white and blue, often changing color in just a few seconds.
In general, turkeys will be moving higher in elevation in the spring, following the snow line. They do not favor areas with a lot of underbrush for mating displays, so look for openings in the forest (meadows, old roads, powerline clearings, etc.). Don’t forget to visit recent burns or clearcuts when doing your preseason scouting. Wild turkeys will vocalize most in the morning and evening, so go early and stay late to figure out where the birds are spending their time.
Toms can become harder to hunt and less vocal later in the hunting season as the mating season falls off its peak. A realistic jake or hen decoy which will draw the bird’s attention away from you and put him right where you want him.
The National Wild Turkey Federation’s website collects their best tips and tactics. Highlights:
Scout the area where you want to hunt first. Look for turkey sign like tracks and droppings.
Once you know where to hunt, set up to call. Stay at least 100 to 150 yards from roosting turkeys; getting closer could spook them away.
Be motionless while calling. Remember, turkeys have a great vision.
Experience will teach you how to call. Sometimes loud, aggressive calling works; other times soft, infrequent calls are best.
Call your bird within 25 yards before taking a shot; aim for the base of the head when shooting. (Turkeys are very large birds and can be tough to bring down, so don’t shoot from too far away.)
Immediately tag your bird and don’t delay in dressing it either.
For safety, place your bird in a sack or cover with hunter orange when leaving the woods.
Don’t set up to call in cover or thick brush — turkeys tend to avoid these.
If possible, set up with a tree or rock wider than your shoulders and taller than your head at your back, to protect yourself from a shot by a careless hunter.
Equipment needs: You need a shotgun no larger than 10 gauge or smaller than 20 gauge, camouflage clothing (because turkeys have excellent eyesight) and a turkey call to get started. Shot size must be no larger than No. 2 but there are no longer minimum shot size restrictions. Sizes 4, 5 and 6 tend to be best for turkey. Bows are also legal weapons for turkey hunting. A hen or jake decoy can help improve your odds.
Safety: Never wear red, white, blue or black when turkey hunting. You could be mistaken for a turkey. Use caution when calling turkeys where other hunters may be present — and realize that the calling you hear may be other hunters.