According to Idaho Fish and Game biologists around the state, turkey hunters in Idaho can expect more of the same in 2021 — which is great news for hunters looking to bag a gobbler during the spring season.
“The turkey outlook for the 2021 spring season is looking pretty positive,” said Jeff Knetter, statewide upland game bird manager. “Turkey populations, in general, were pretty healthy heading into this winter. This winter was relatively mild throughout the state, and we’ve had no major events that give us cause for concern regarding turkey survival. Last year was good for turkey hunters, and there’s no reason to believe it would be different in 2021.”
Knetter noted that harvest was up in 2020, and so were the numbers of turkey hunters in general season hunts, which is something that wildlife managers would continue to monitor going forward.
“I believe that spike in the number of turkey hunters in the spring of 2020 may have been due to the pandemic, but we will keep an eye on this to see if that increased participation continues and has the potential to reduce turkey populations,” Knetter said.
Youth turkey season opens April 8, and the general turkey season and many controlled hunts open April 15. Hunters can see which units have general hunts in Fish and Game’s turkey hunting rules, in addition to details about the seasons.
Hunters will find most general hunting opportunity in the Panhandle, Clearwater, Southwest, and Southeast regions, while most other areas are limited to controlled hunts. In each of the regions with general hunting opportunity, turkey populations are faring well, and the hunting outlook is as good or better than recent years.
Fish and Game’s regional staff gave an overview of what’s happening with turkey hunting in their regions:
Southwest Region — McCall
Regan Berkley, Southwest Region Wildlife Manager
The mild winter resulted in good turkey survival in Hunting Units 22, 31, 32 and 32A. Recent turkey counts along Highway 71 indicate the population is relatively stable following the shift to fall general hunts in 2020. Units 22, 31, 32A and 23 all have general spring turkey hunts, as does a portion of Unit 32. Although turkeys are typically found at low elevations in early spring, field reports suggest turkeys are already moving up in elevation this year, as snow is melting off quickly.
Motorized travel is restricted on Andrus WMA until May 1, but walk-in hunting is welcome. In addition, there is turkey hunting available on Access Yes! properties near Cambridge, Indian Valley, and New Meadows.
Southwest Region — Nampa
Peter Ott, Southwest Region Landowner Sportsman Coordinator
The turkey outlook in the Nampa subregion of the Southwest Region is good. Winter conditions have been mild in the valley and we anticipate good overwinter survival in hunting Units 38 and 39.
In 2020, Unit 38 saw a dramatic increase in overall harvest numbers and success rate with the addition of the general spring youth hunt and increased control hunt tag numbers. We anticipate these harvest trends will continue into 2021. The primary limitation in Unit 38 continues to be access to private property where most turkeys reside. We ask hunters to be respectful of landowners and to always ask permission before hunting on private property.
Unit 39 harvest and success rates were stable in 2020. The general spring season should offer some good opportunities, turkeys follow the spring green up to higher elevations as the weather conditions warm, and should be available on public lands by opener.
Unit 33 harvest and success rates increased in 2020. Early season turkey opportunity is typically limited to private lands along the Middle Fork of the Payette. As the weather improves, birds will move up in elevation onto public ground.