It’s Spring Turkey Hunting Season in Colorado

LAMAR, Colo. – Between April 13 and May 26, some 12,000 hunters will take to the fields and woods in Colorado as part of one of the fastest growing hunting sports in the United States – turkey hunting. Last year, Colorado Parks and Wildlife issued over 15,000 licenses for the spring season and hunters bagged 3,300 gobblers.

The challenge of outsmarting a wild turkey is one of the most rewarding experiences a hunter may encounter. Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials estimate that about only 20 percent of the spring hunters will successfully bag a wild turkey.

“Success is often a combination of scouting, persistence, and patience; but that’s what makes it fun and challenging,” said Mike Brown, a District Wildlife Manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife from Baca County.

Colorado is home to two subspecies of wild turkeys. The Merriam’s wild turkey, a Colorado native, inhabits areas of ponderosa pine, oak-brush and piñon/juniper woodlands of the southeastern plains, Front Range and western Colorado. The Rio Grande wild turkey, native to the central plains states, was introduced into eastern Colorado in 1980. In Colorado, the Rio Grande primarily inhabits cottonwood stands and river bottoms adjacent to agricultural lands.

The males are called “toms,” the females are “hens” and immature males are called “jakes.” As a male matures, it grows a cluster of long, hair-like feathers from the center of its chest known as a “beard.” During the spring season, hunters can take two bearded turkeys of which one must be taken with a limited license, and the other taken with an over-the-counter license.

Brown said that scouting for sign left by turkeys is a great way of increasing the odds of a successful hunt. Signs to look for include roost trees, droppings, feathers, scratch and dusting areas; and listening for gobbling. Turkeys will leave behind a lot of sign when they fly to roost trees or when foraging for insects and edible plants.

Consistently successful wild turkey hunting requires a high degree of skill. Wild turkeys are extremely wary and possess great vision and keen hearing ability. Turkeys can see in a radius of 270 degrees. “Hunters should choose clothing that is well camouflaged, comfortable, and quiet,” said Brown.

In the spring, hunters are more likely to hear a turkey before they see it. The familiar “gobble-gobble” can be heard as flocks of adult males begin to break up and each tom attempts to setup his own territory.

As territorial squabbles ensue, the males call and strut to attract females. As a result, the males are easy to hear in the spring.

Although “still-hunting” is sometimes used as a method of hunting turkeys in the spring, “calling” is by far the better method.

The number and styles of different turkey calls available often intimidates new hunters today. The categories include friction, mouth, and slate or port calls. Friction calls include scratch, plunger, or box call designs. Mouth calls include diaphragm and wing bone yelper calls.

Brown suggests hunters master the yelp call, as hens frequently utilize this communication technique both on and off roost sites, when foraging and during competition for toms.

As a strategy, hunters can listen for active turkeys near roost sites as the peak of daily gobbling occurs just before daylight. Before daybreak move quickly, position yourself between the roost and suspected feeding areas or on a ridge top.

Turkey hunters are advised to wear complete camouflage. This includes camouflage boots, shirt, jacket, pants, gloves, facemask or paint. Many hunters also, cover their gun with camo paint or tape.

Shotguns should contain full chokes that group the shot pattern tightly. Hunters are encouraged to pattern their gun before the season to strengthen personal marksmanship skills, build confidence, and reduce the chances of wounding a bird.

Tips to stay safe in the field include knowing your target and what lies beyond, staying alert and choosing good cover. Hunters should call while sitting with their back against a tree. Optimum locations allow 180 degrees of visibility but provide a solid background that is at least as wide as your shoulders and higher than your head.

Never stalk a turkey in the spring as you can easily mistake the calls of a turkey for a hunter, increasing the chances of an accident. If you see a hunter approaching, clearly announce your presence in a loud voice. Lastly, take extra precaution when changing both locations and decoy setups or when carrying a dead bird out of the field. The use of fluorescent orange flagging, caps, and vests can help alert other hunters of your presence.

An adult resident turkey license is $21. A youth license is $11. A non-resident license is $101.


Colorado Parks and Wildlife manages 42 state parks, more than 300 state wildlife areas, all of Colorado’s wildlife, and a variety of outdoor recreation. For more information go to

Michael Seraphin, 719.227.5211


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