SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — Turkey hunting season is once again upon us. Utah’s youth turkey hunt runs from April 28 to April 30 while the spring general-season turkey hunt goes from May 1 to May 31.

According to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, there are two turkey subspecies that live in Utah — Rio Grande and Merriam’s. Officials say there are currently 25,000 to 30,000 wild turkeys throughout the state. Though there isn’t data on how the record-breaking winter season has impacted turkeys, DWR says their populations have been declining for the past two years.

“Our populations have been trending slightly upward for several years, but they declined last year and this year, likely due to drought conditions for multiple years, coupled with the severe winter conditions this year,” said DWR Upland Game Coordinator Heather Talley. “However, the heavy moisture this year may provide the ideal conditions for brood rearing this summer, which could result in high production and poult survival, producing a boom in the population this coming year.”

DWR officials say Rio Grande turkeys can usually be found in lower areas, such as river bottoms with cottonwood trees as well as oak and pinyon-juniper woodlands. On the other hand, Merriam’s turkeys’ favorite spots are the ponderosa pine forests.

“Turkeys are often found on private property, so be aware of the land ownership in the area you’re hunting and remember that you must get written permission from the landowner before you can hunt on their property,” Tally said. “Also, calls and decoys can greatly increase your success, so take time to practice with those beforehand. And lastly, turkeys have incredible eyesight, so be sure to wear good camo and sit very still.”

Here’s a list of the most ideal spots to hunt for turkeys in Utah:

Central Utah

According to DWR, turkey populations in central Utah have been hit hard with heavy snowfall, especially in areas like Provo Canyon and Heber City. Instead, officials suggest turkey hunters target areas such as Payson Canyon, Spanish Fork Canyon, the Grindstone Ridge area and benches around Utah Valley.

In Sanpete County, turkeys can reportedly be found in Maple Canyon or along the foothills. In Tooele County, Martin’s Fork area and Cherry Creek Road are the best spots to find turkeys, DWR officials said.

Southern Utah

Like central Utah, turkey populations have been in decline for several years. Officials say hunting in Panguitch Lake, Mt. Dutton and Paunsaguant areas will be “average” this year due to low production over the past four years.

Similarly, turkey populations in Pahvant and Oak Creek areas are lower than four years ago, but they are still healthy. Additionally, Monroe and Fish Lake areas are “expected to be fair” this spring for turkey hunting.

On another note, officials report that Washington and Iron Counties have better chances this year due to good chick production last year.

“Turkey numbers have been low on the Boulder/Thousand Lake hunting unit this year,” a press release stated. “There is some concern that survival may have been poor due to the severe winter conditions. Areas once containing many turkeys have had few to none this year. The hunt may be more difficult this year, due to limited accessibility with lingering snow and low turkey numbers. Turkeys can be found along creeks at lower elevations when spring plants begin to emerge.”

Northeastern Utah

DWR officials say turkey numbers have declined in northeastern Utah because of severe drought conditions, and the unprecedented snowfall this winter season has forced most turkeys to move onto private properties on the south side of the Uinta Mountains.

Hunters are recommended to target the Duchesne River, Green River, Ashley Creek drainage, Book Cliffs area and in the middle and lower areas of several major drainages across the northern and southern slopes of the Uinta Mountains. 

Northern Utah

Turkeys can be found on private properties in Morgan, Croydon, Huntsville, Eden and Mountain Green. Hunters can find turkeys on public lands in Cache Valley (including Blacksmith Fork Canyon), the Richmond Wildlife Management Area (along Cherry Creek), the Wellsville Range above Wellsville and Mendon, and Walk-in Access areas around Clarkston.

In Box Elder County, where experts say numbers are better than anywhere in northern Utah, hunters are encouraged to target areas such as the Raft River Mountains near Clear Creek, One Mile Creek, Johnson Creek and Wildcat Creek.

Southeastern Utah

Data suggests that there are around 500 to 1,000 turkeys in southeastern Utah, according to DWR. Merriam’s turkeys can be found in the La Sal and Abajo mountains in ponderosa pine tree forests, but snow and mud may prevent hunters from accessing these areas.

On the other hand, some of the best spots to find Rio Grande turkeys include the Colorado River, Fremont River, and Green River, as well as their tributaries such as San Rafael River, Price River, Range Creek, Gordon Creek, Huntington Creek, Ferron Creek, Muddy Creek, and many drainages along the southern portion of the Book Cliffs.

As a reminder, hunters will always need to get written permission from landowners before they can hunt on private properties.

Individuals can buy a permit for the statewide general season on the DWR website, at the license agent locations and DWR offices.

For more information on hunting seasons and permits, check the 2022-23 Utah Upland Game & Turkey Guidebook.