Turkeys are considered by many to be the big game of bird hunting.
“In Oregon, you’re going for the biggest game bird that we have, and it’s pretty wary with excellent eyesight,” says Brian Ferry, a wildlife biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in Prineville. “You need patience, skills, and have the bird come to you.”
Oregon’s general spring turkey season starts Wednesday, April 15, and runs through the end of May.
While the best turkey hunting in the state is typically found in southwest Oregon, Central Oregon has its fair share of turkey opportunities, according to Ferry.
Turkeys in the Ochoco District are scattered throughout the area, with some located in the Crooked River Basin and the south boundary of the Ochoco Unit, southeast of Prineville, according to Ferry.
“They’re certainly spread out over a pretty sizable portion of our district,” Ferry says.
“We don’t have a high-density population anywhere.
This time of year, they’re following the green-up (of vegetation) up to the Ochoco National Forest.”
Ferry adds that turkeys in Central Oregon should have weathered the winter fairly well because the region did not experience especially deep snow or extreme cold.
Turkeys thrive in deciduous habitat, especially oak trees, Ferry says, which are sparse in Central Oregon. But meadows with aspens and willows are often good locations to find turkeys in the Ochocos.
“What seems to be the better habitat is where water stays on meadow areas,” Ferry says.
In the Deschutes District, Green Ridge just north of Black Butte offers the only real opportunity for turkeys, according to Steve George, a wildlife biologist for the ODFW in Bend. George says that there was likely a good carry-over of birds through the winter season, and that turkeys should be present at all elevations along Green Ridge.
The downside to hunting Green Ridge is the high number of hunters, which can make an already wary bird even more cagey.
“It can be crowded, especially early in the season,” George says. “It tapers off. The birds up there get call-shy real quickly. They go quiet quickly.”
Many hunters use decoys or a female turkey (hen) call to entice male turkeys (toms) to come to them. Turkeys are known for their keen eyesight.
“They pick up on movement from a pretty good distance,” George says. “They’re real skittish birds.
“You can see flocks of them. Males tend to fend off their territories around females. You’ll see flocks of females together, or young males (jakes) together.”
Many hunters wear full-body camouflage when hunting turkeys to better conceal themselves from their prey.
For Central Oregon hunters who are serious about bagging a turkey, George suggests traveling farther afield.
“A lot of people do go to Roseburg or Josephine County, and White River (near Mount Hood) does have a lot of birds and is not that far away,” George says. “If you really want a bird, I would look at other areas that have higher (turkey population) densities. You’ll increase your odds.”
The Roseburg area is looking at a good turkey season, based on complaints of turkeys causing a nuisance in the city limits, according to Tod Lum, a wildlife biologist for the ODFW in Roseburg.
“People are complaining left and right, so that’s a good sign,” Lum says. “There’s plenty of birds around. There should be a lot of turkeys out to hunt.”
Lands on the Umpqua National Forest and Bureau of Land Management land east of Roseburg offer good turkey habitat, Lum notes. There is also considerable turkey hunting on private land, but hunters must receive permission from landowners.
“This area gets nailed with lots of people (turkey hunters),” Lum says. “This is the go-to place.”
Season dates: April 15-May 31.
Open area: Statewide.
Daily bag limit: One male turkey or a turkey with a visible beard.
Season limit: Two legal turkeys, except that an additional legal turkey may be taken by hunters with a bonus turkey tag.
Tag-sale deadline: Hunters may purchase tags through the end of the season.
• For more information, consult the 2008-2009 Oregon Game Bird Regulations.