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Turkey populations remain healthy in Oklahoma

Spring turkey season opens April 6, and hunters should see more longbeards this season
by Ed Godfrey Published: March 30, 2014

Oklahoma’s month-long spring turkey season opens in one week in most of the state.

The overall population of Rio Grandes in central and western Oklahoma remains in good shape, although the number of birds is down from its peak a few years ago.

“We had a lot more birds five years ago, but we were at this huge peak at that time,” said Rod Smith of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “We’ve dropped off substantially, but we still have a healthy population of turkeys.”

The population drop can be attributed to the drought and just the natural cycle of turkey populations, but hunters should see more mature gobblers this season.

“I think there should be a few more mature birds this year then we saw last year,” Smith said.

In southeast Oklahoma, home of the Eastern sub-species turkeys, the season opener is not until April 21 as state wildlife officials are still trying to rebuild the population of wild turkeys in the region.

Steve Purviance, an outfitter in Laverne who has 20,000 acres leased in Harper, Woodward, Ellis counties, is excited about the upcoming turkey season in northwest Oklahoma, a prime destination for turkey callers.

“I haven’t seen this many longbeards since 2003,” said Purviance, who operates as Mt. Hide Outfitters. “I haven’t seen as many hens. Gobblers are as good as we’ve seen in years but I bet hens are down 20 to 30 percent. There are going to be a lot of gobblers competing for not quite as many hens this year.”

Oklahoma is a major destination for turkey hunters wanting to bag a Rio Grande wild turkey, one of four sub-species of turkeys that make up the Grand Slam of turkey hunting.

Rio Grande, Merriam’s, Eastern and Osceola (Florida) are the four sub-species that make up the Grand Slam. Oklahoma is home to three in that group, although there are only a few Merriam’s in the very far tip of the Panhandle.

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by Ed Godfrey
Copy Editor, Outdoors Editor, Rodeo, River Sports Reporter
Ed Godfrey was born in Muskogee and raised in Stigler. He has worked at The Oklahoman for 25 years. During that time, he has worked a myriad of beats for The Oklahoman including both the federal and county courthouse in Oklahoma City for more...
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