Tuesday, April 3, 2012

2012 Utah Spring Turkey Hunt Overview

So, many of us have been talking about it for weeks now, and the spring turkey hunts in Utah are right around the corner!  For those that were lucky, the action will start next Saturday, April 14th for those that drew the coveted limited entry tags for the early season.  This will be followed up by the youth hunt that begins on April 27th, and the rest of us that went for the easy to get tags will be hunting the general season hunt, starting on April 30th.  Don't have a turkey tag yet?  Well, no problem my friend!  Turkey tags for the general season hunt are still available at license agents, or on the web at:


Click on the link on the right side of the page, "Buy hunting permits".

2012 promises to be a great year for turkey hunting in Utah.  Most low elevation locations experienced a very mild winter this year, resulting in excellent survival rates for the birds this year.  Several of the flocks we have been seeing have been larger than in years past.  In fact, the turkeys have had two decent winters in a row now, so numbers are looking very good.  I can't believe how many toms I've seen this year.  Success rates should be fairly high.

Here's a little overview of what to expect as you hit the field this turkey season:

Access:  We have been experiencing very warm weather conditions the past few weeks, so the snow lines have retreated up the slopes very rapidly.  There has been some concern that the recent storms have added to the winter snowpack, making travel very tough in the mountains.  The warm temperatures, coupled with the very gusty, dry winds lately have really dried several roads out quite fast.  If you stick to south and east facing slopes you should have little trouble getting around.  In fact, on Saturday we made it to 9500 feet in elevation on dirt roads with no trouble.  However, other roads that skirt around longer distances on north slopes are going to be tricky.  Here you will still find drifts around 3' deep!  Use caution, but I think you will be surprised where you can get to this year.  Please be considerate of conditions.  There's really no need to tear up a muddy road to get where you want to go.  This is a main reasons the feds keep closing our public lands to motorized access.

Where are we going to find the birds?  Good question...these animals are scattered right now like crazy!  Low elevation hunting (around fields, in valleys, etc.) may not pay off like they have in years past.  I am still seeing fairly good sized flocks in a couple of private land honey holes I like, but not like a month ago.  It is clear to see a lot of birds have moved out.  You may want to consider following a river/stream drainage for Rio Grande turkeys, and for the Merriam turkeys, hunt around the snow line where the freshest green is showing.  It may surprise you this year.  Saturday which was 2 weeks from the opener of the early hunt, we found turkey sign at nearly 9,000 feet!  The tracks were days old, and the birds were heading up.  For those with the general season tag, you might be hunting the birds where you would traditionally find them in early summer, like June/July!  With warm conditions in the forecast I'm betting you will see more birds continue to leave the valleys for higher elevations.
Two nice toms from a few years back.  Mine (right) sported a 9 1/2" beard, my brother Sam's (left) a 11" double beard!
The gobblers are already strutting, I wish I could have snapped some pictures of a couple of big toms in the act a couple of days ago.  Calling should be good for the early hunt, but will probably be very difficult come the general season in May.  Don't get discouraged if it's not working.  Hunt smarter.  Figure out where the toms are roosting and get in near the roost before daylight.  Odds are you can call one right off of the roost, where you may have trouble later in the day.  A lot of people think turkey hunting is easy stuff, but you're going to have very few chances (if any) of walking up on a big tom, or shooting one from an ATV or vehicle.  Be prepared to hike, find a place to hole up, and either call the bird in or wait for him. 

Spring hunting can be crazy!  Be sure to pack appropriate clothing as temperatures can rise and fall dramatically.  Keep an eye on forecasts, for your safety and hunt success as well.  One of the worst seasons I had consisted of 4 days of a rain/snow mix and fog.  The toms refused to leave the roost or let you know where they were.  During a 2 hour break between storms the next thing you know every bird on the mountain is gobbling! 

One last note, a lot of people eye those birds that hang out in fields, or other areas of private property.  Remember to obey local and state laws.  In Utah, if the property is not posted or marked, you still have to obtain permission for access and permission to hunt it from the owner.  Private land requires written permission, no way around it.  Don't chance it, respect a property owner's rights and do the right thing.  Ethics is one of the foremost ideas we should be passing down to our kids when it comes to hunting, next to safety and hunting conservation. 

Good luck to all who take part in this year's turkey hunts...and remember to submit those photos and stories right here to Southern Utah Hunt and Fish for display on our bragging board!  We hope to hear from you soon!