Turkey hunters are in for a good time this Saturday as the spring turkey season opens across Montana. This year, the season is being extended a week and will run from April 9 through May 15.
Andrew McKean, information officer for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (MFW&P) and a board member of the Montana Chapter of National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), explained the reason for the season extension to Billing Gazette outdoor editor Mark Henckel in a recent column.
“The regional NWTF biologist is Chad Lehman of Custer, SD and he is the biologist for Montana, Wyoming and the Dakotas. Chad has done a lot of research on turkeys and he has found that there’s a second gobbling peak in May when the hens are all out sitting on their clutches of eggs,” McKean said. “The gobblers are still fired up and looking for love.
“So Chad worked with Montana to get the spring season extended to take full advantage of this,” McKean said. “It was a great decision on the part of the FWP commission to expand hunter opportunity with spring turkeys.”
The population for turkeys in the eastern part of state overall is good, according to McKean, however some areas will be spotty because of the drought.
“Overall, our turkeys are doing well. The drought hasn’t affected them to badly in most places and the mild winters have boosted over-winter survival”, he said.
Eastern Montana might be the home for the best turkey population in the state but through the help of some volunteer’s turkey populations closer to Missoula is increasing.
Through the efforts of MFW&P and NWTF, a total of 140 birds were trapped and relocated in five new areas of western and southwestern Montana this past winter. That brings the 2004-2005 total to 269 birds that were moved to new homes according to the article in last Sundays Billings Gazette.
Some parts of Montana require a special permit, mainly those counties in Western Montana. Most of the central and eastern part of the state holds a general turkey season with just an over-the-counter spring license required.
Residents must have a conservation and upland bird license along with their turkey license. The spring season turkey license is $5 for residents.
“We took an informal survey a couple of years ago by asking residents how many turkeys they had in Ravalli County. The number we came up with was 1,500 turkeys. We thought that was a pretty good number,” said John Firebaugh, FWP wildlife manager at Missoula.
“The planted turkeys’ survival rate, even though it has not been officially documented, seems to be pretty good.”
In Region 2 and Ravalli County, you have to have special permit. Even though the adult permits are spoken for, there may be some youth permits still available. Contact the Region 2 office at 542-5500 to learn more about them.
In Region 1, Flathead County is open to general license hunting.
Both Regions have an access problem, but Firebaugh said, “We have had more calls this year with turkeys becoming a problem for landowners so make sure you knock on doors because you might just get to hunt on a place that last year said no.
According to the MFW&P web site, hunters are reminded that only the eastern portion of Chouteau County is open to turkey hunting, and the area is correctly described in printed regulations. But the map in 2005 spring turkey hunting regulations incorrectly shows the entire county as open to general wild turkey hunting. The portion of Chouteau County open to hunting includes that portion of Region 6 north of the Missouri and east of the Marias rivers. The Region 4 portion of Chouteau County is closed.