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Additional chances to hunt the kings of spring

 

Keith Ott on a successful turkey hunt
Photo credit: Keith Ott

The wild turkey is the king of spring. There is no better way to cope with the offseason blues than strapping on boots and taking to the hills in search of wild turkey. Much of the west is rich in turkey hunting. If you find yourself without a tag and in search of an over-the-counter (OTC) turkey hunt adventure, check out the states below for great OTC opportunities. With a little research and some luck, it’s not too late to find some great turkey hunts!



Kansas

Flock of western turkeys

Kansas is home to a healthy population of turkeys in almost every county. There are several subspecies present, including Eastern on the east side of the state, Rios from the south central to northwest portion of the state, and a mixture of hybrids in between.
 

Kansas turkey subspecies distribution map
Kansas turkey management unit map and subspecies distribution.

Nonresidents may purchase a turkey license in Units 1, 2, 3, 5, and 6. To hunt in these units, you must purchase a nonresident hunting license and a nonresident turkey permit. This permit is good for only one bearded turkey. You may purchase an additional nonresident turkey game tag if you wish to take an additional bird.

Unit 4 is open to residents only and tags are available to residents through a draw system. Kansas public land regulations can be found here.
 

Kansas turkey taken by Keith Ott
Photo credit: Keith Ott

Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism (KDWPT) employ wildlife biologists across the state to monitor numbers on state lands. Turkey hunting on these state lands can be excellent and regional biologists can be a terrific resource when it comes to identifying public lands worth trying. The state provides contact information for the regional biologists here.

Season dates

Archery: April 4 to 12, 2016
Regular: April 13 to May 31, 2016

Cost to hunt a turkey in Kansas

Item Resident Nonresident
Hunting license $27.50 $97
Turkey permit $27.50 $62.50
Total $55.00 $159.50


Resident turkey game tag (additional 2nd bird): $17.50*
Nonresident turkey game tag (additional 2nd bird): $32.50*



Montana
 

Tim Ostlie with his Montana archery turkey
Tim Ostlie with his Montana archery turkey. Photo credit: Brady Miller

Montana is home two subspecies of turkeys: Merriams and Easterns. Turkeys have only been in the state since the 1950's when the first Merriams were transplanted. It was also at this time that and illegal introduction of Easterns was released to the Flathead Valley. Montana holds very diverse turkey hunting habitat and also has some great OTC turkey opportunities for the hunter willing to put some time in. Montana offers two types of OTC turkey licenses (General and Regional), plus a special drawing. The regional license is valid in regions 1, 2, 5, 7. A hunter could buy both a general and regional license and take two turkeys in the spring/fall. Montana is home to both Merriam subspecies. Montana turkey hunting regulations can be found here.
 

Season dates

Spring: April 9 to May 15, 2016
Fall: Sept. 1 to Jan. 1, 2017

Cost to hunt a turkey in Montana

Item Resident Nonresident
Conservation $8 $10
Base hunting license $10 $15
Turkey (each) $6.50 $115 or $57.50*
Upland game bird $3.75 youth (12-17)
or senior (62+)
$7.50 (18-61)
$110
Total $32 $250 or $192.50


* $57.50 per turkey to nonresident holders of an upland game bird license.

Continued below.

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Montana potential and occupied turkey habitat

Turkeys can be found throughout many open ponderosa pine forests all across the state, even in more rugged terrain. Check out areas that hold ponderosa pines that are intermixed with grassland and brushy draws. Montana turkeys can be found on lots of private ground, especially grain fields and livestock feeding areas. Eastern Montana is a great destination for hunting OTC turkeys on public land.



Nebraska

Nebraska turkey hunting country

Nebraska is home to some of the best turkey hunting in the country. Last year, 34,140 turkey permits were sold in Nebraska, and out of those permits, 19,994 were filled. With that kind of success rate (58.5%), excellent statewide hunting opportunities, and liberal bag limits, Nebraska is a turkey hunter’s dream.

Nebraska turkeys

Nebraska is home to three subspecies:

  • Merriams can be found in the panhandle and Niobrara River valley in the northwest corner of the state.
  • Rios are present in the southern section of the state.
  • Easterns can be found along the Iowa and Missouri borders.

The central portion of the state is home to a variety of hybrids.

Nebraska Game and Parks (NGP) provides a comprehensive guide on rules, regulations, and hunting areas that can be found here. Public land turkey hunting in Nebraska can be excellent. With a little research and some time on the ground, a last minute Nebraska turkey hunt can yield great results. An interactive map of public hunting areas in Nebraska is available online.

Season dates

Archery: March 25 to May 31, 2016
Shotgun: April 16 to May 31, 2016

Cost to hunt a turkey in Nebraska

Item Resident Nonresident
Spring turkey $25 $97
Habitat Stamp $20 $20

 

Residents and nonresidents may purchase up to three turkey permits per spring season.



Wyoming

Wyoming is home to some beautiful country and some great OTC turkey opportunities. Wyoming offers turkey hunting opportunities that are both limited quota draw (Type 1 and Type 3) and general (OTC). Limited quota tags allow hunting in exclusive areas within Units 2, 3, or 4. Wyoming is home to both Rio and Merriam subspecies.

Keith Ott with a Wyoming turkey

Wyoming longbeard taken by Keith Ott.

The Wyoming turkey population peaked around 2010 and has steadily decreased since then due to series of factors, including poor winter weather and declining poult production. Despite this decrease in population, the outlook for Wyoming turkeys is positive as mild winter conditions and increased poult production have the population statewide on the rebound.

Wyoming turkey hunting areas

A map of public access areas by region is available here.

Season dates:

  • Area 2, 3, 5: April 1 to May 20, 2016
  • Area 1, 4: April 9 to May 20, 2016

Cost to hunt a turkey in Wyoming

Item Resident Nonresident
Hunting license $16 $72
Conservation stamp $12.50 $12.50
Total $18.50 $84.50

 

Nonresidents are restricted to purchasing one nonresident general license per year. Turkey management Area 1 is home to some of the best public land turkey hunting in the state. This area encompasses the Black Hills and is home to number of the Merriams. For more information on turkey hunting in Wyoming refer to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department's hunt planner here.

 

In summary

Don't be afraid to purchase an OTC tag and hunt these states this year. Late season hunts can be the perfect chance to get an old gobbler in range. Plus, these OTC areas are perfect if you'rethe type of person who enjoys filling out the spring with additional hunting opportunities. Best of luck this spring!

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