The redbuds are blooming and the spring peepers can be heard across the Bluegrass, meaning springtime in Kentucky is upon us, and so is another highly anticipated season of wild turkey hunting.
Resident and non-resident turkey hunters in Kentucky will have their sights set on a healthy wild turkey population and abundant hunting opportunities statewide. The general statewide season begins April 17 and continues through May 9, 2021.
Hunters will want to start with scouting for birds before the season opens.
Zak Danks, wild turkey program coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, recommends taking advantage of online tools to virtually scout ahead of time and become familiar with preferred hunting grounds.
“Knowing where you’ll be hunting, such as private or public land, will inform your scouting,” Danks said. “Online topographic and satellite maps of the environment really help to lay out existing trails, open fields, water sources, wooded areas, elevation changes and boundaries such as fences or property lines.”
Virtual scouting comes in handy, though Danks also urges hunters to head afield to scout for bird sightings and droppings, as well as brood behavior.
“With all of our wildlife management areas (WMAs), there’s over a million acres of public land to hunt,” Danks said. “Get to know the woods and fields where you’ll be hunting. Look at the landscape for possible ambush sites. Learn how you should best conceal yourself given the environment and how you can move with the terrain to stay hidden. Knowing what you’re working with will make a huge difference when that big moment comes to take the shot.”
For first-time turkey hunters, Danks always recommends talking to veteran hunters and going afield with a mentor.
“Opening weekend is generally where most of our harvest numbers come from, but many people have a lot of success later in the season, too,” he said. “Watching someone else in action, learning from your time afield and honing the craft is what it’s all about.”
Wild turkey harvest numbers in Kentucky have stayed fairly consistent over the past decade. Last spring, hunters harvested more than 31,700 birds, with Logan County producing the highest harvest of all counties at 655 turkeys.
Kentucky’s spring hunting season is structured to give turkeys enough time to breed before subjecting the birds to hunting pressure. The department monitors turkey reproduction on a statewide scale through annual summer brood surveys.
“We did see a good hatch two years ago, so it’s likely there are more gobblers than usual out there this season,” Danks said. “With all of the public land available to hunt, don’t let the timing detract from going later in the season.”
Both an annual hunting license plus a spring turkey permit are required for hunting turkeys during the spring season. Resident sportsman’s type licenses are a great value and include both, in addition to permits for deer, fall turkey, migratory birds, along with fishing license and trout permit.
All spring turkey permits cover two male or bearded turkeys, the statewide bag limit for the spring season. Youths under age 12, and landowners/legal dependents hunting on their own lands, are license exempt. Licenses and permits are available at fw.ky.gov and at many sporting goods retailers.
All wild turkey harvests must be reported using the department’s “Telecheck” big game check-in system. This can be done online or via telephone at 800-245-4263 (800-CHK-GAME). Telecheck helps ensure lawful harvests and records important biological data for monitoring harvest trends.
Visit the Spring Turkey Hunting page on Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s website for more information about season dates, the Kentucky Spring Hunting Guide, important reminders, available public land and other turkey hunting resources in Kentucky. A new feature on the turkey hunting page is a “Learn to Turkey Hunt” video playlist with how-to’s on pursuing spring gobblers.