Spring wild turkey hunting in Kentucky was once a lonely sport. In 1978, only 1,000 hunters took to the field–and just 44 were successful.
Thanks to an ambitious turkey restoration program started that year, Kentucky’s turkey population has grown from 2,000 birds to an estimated 200,000.
Around 70,000 hunters will be in the woods for this year’s spring opener. About 40 percent of those hunters will harvest a bird. Turkey hunting is the fastest growing type of hunting in the state today.
State turkey biologist Jim Lane says the reasons are simple: “You can drive just about anywhere in the state, look around, and there are turkeys. The traditional deer hunters are picking up the sport. Turkeys are something to hunt in the spring.”
The sport is also drawing more women and youths into hunting, thanks to information and programs offered through the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources and the National Wild Turkey Federation.
What makes turkey hunting so attractive?
“It’s about the only kind of hunting where you’re actually interacting with the animal,” Lane says. “You’re calling to a bird, trying to get it to go where it doesn’t want to go. You’re talking with the turkey in its own language, on its own turf.”
Preseason scouting is a must. Go into the woods before dawn and listen for birds flying down from the trees and gobbling. That’s where you’ll want to be on opening day.
Kentucky has dozens of wildlife management areas open to the public for hunting. Suggested areas include Peabody Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in western Kentucky, Daniel Boone National Forest in eastern Kentucky, and Kleber WMA in central Kentucky.
Kentucky’s spring turkey season runs from April 15 through May 5. Hunters may use a shotgun, bow, or crossbow and take one male turkey a day; the spring season limit is two gobblers. A special youth-only season runs from April 5-6.
Interested in getting started in turkey hunting? Consider taking a Becoming an Outdoors-Woman class offered this month through Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. Call (800) 858-1549 for information. Or visit www.nwtf.org on the Internet, the site of the National Wild Turkey Federation.
Want to go hunting but don’t know where to go? Get your free guide to Kentucky’s wildlife management areas by calling (800) 858-1549. Learn the location of each area, its acreage, and what you’ll find there.