Wild turkeys take to the woods

G. Sam Piatt

The Kentucky roadside flocks of turkeys I had been keeping tabs on in early April, where the big gobbler strutted to impress the hens and posed for my camera with no alarm from my presence, were all gone Saturday morning.

Kentucky’s wild turkey season opened at 30 minutes before sunrise Saturday. Did the gobbler look at the calendar? Probably some hunter fired a shotgun at or near them, and that was the signal to head to the woods, reverting to their wild status, their survival instinct kicking in.

Kentucky’s wild turkey population is estimated at about 250,000. About 90,000 hunters go for them now and the success rate is about 40 percent, according to the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.

Kentucky has had a couple of record kills. As far back as 2009 hunters took 29,007 gobblers during the season. The harvest jumped to 36,097 two years later. Only 18,007 were killed in 2000.

Kentucky’s season will run through May 5. The limit is two male turkeys per season, but only one can be taken on any given day. Hunting hours are 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sundown. Hunters may be in the field before and after shooting hours.

Ohio’s season

Ohio’s season opens April 22 here in the Southern Zone and runs through May 19. The limits are the same as those in Kentucky, but hunting hours differ. From April 22 through 28 they are 30 minutes before sunrise to noon. From April 29 through the end of the season shooting hours are 30 minutes before sunrise to sunset.

Kentucky restoration

Wild turkey restoration in Kentucky began in 1978. At that time, the statewide flock was estimated at roughly 2,380 birds. Biologists started live-trapping turkeys in 1981 and gradually increased the number of birds caught in-state for Kentucky’s stocking program.

From 1978 through 1997, 6,760 birds were relocated on 430 sites across Kentucky. Restoration was completed in 1997 when Kentucky’s wild turkey population had increased to around 130,000 birds.

Any wild turkey with a visible beard may be taken, including bearded hens, which typically make up less than one percent of the harvest statewide. In some wild turkey populations, a higher percentage of hens may grow beards. Hens’ beards are shorter and thinner than gobblers’ beards.

Hunters are reminded that hunting over bait, such as grain, seed or manufactured animal feed, is illegal. Feeding wildlife outside the curtilage of the home (the area immediately surrounding a home or group of homes) is prohibited March 1 through May 31.

It is a hunter’s responsibility to know if an area has been baited. By law an area is considered baited for 30 days after all bait has been removed.

For complete regulations regarding Kentucky’s spring wild turkey season, visit the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources website at: fw.ky.gov.

Or, where licenses are sold, pick up a copy of the Kentucky Spring Hunting Guide (March through June 2019.


G. Sam Piatt

Reach G. Sam Piatt at gsamwriter@twc.com or 606-932-3619.

Reach G. Sam Piatt at gsamwriter@twc.com or 606-932-3619.