By Everett Brazil, III
The Newkirk Herald Journal
NEWKIRK — Spring turkey season has arrived, and outdoorsmen are heading out into the wilderness to bag a turkey of their own across the state. Oklahoma has seen a decline in turkey numbers, but for those who know where to look there are still plenty of opportunities to find one, including in Kay County.
Kay County has historically had a vibrant turkey population, but that population has fallen greatly in recent years, partly due to flooding of their nesting grounds, which are typically found in trees along creeks, lakes and river bottoms.
“There is probably less than 450 birds now, and our population has dropped considerably. We used to have around 1,200 birds in the county, but it’s been on a steady decline,” said Kay County Game Warden Spencer Grace, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC). “There are other parts of the state where bird numbers are better, but all of Oklahoma has experienced a decline in numbers, due to heavy rains during their peak nesting months.”
Wild turkeys roost in large trees and thickets along lakes, creeks and river bottoms, and will typically come out into open fields during early morning and late evening hours. The toms, can be seen ‘strutting’ for female turkeys.
“They are on display for females. They do it all day, but (mornings and evenings) are the times they are observed in open fields,” Grace said.
Spring turkey season began April 4 with youth hunting for hunters aged younger than 18. The regular season runs April 6 – May 6 throughout the state.
In addition to private lands there are plenty of hunting opportunities in the area, including the Kaw Wildlife Management Area (WMA), situated along Kaw Lake in Kay and Osage counties. Other public hunting areas can be found in neighboring counties, including Osage, Garfield and Pawnee counties.
ODWC regulations only allow for one tom to be harvested in Kay County although counties further west allow for two toms. Regulations for all hunting seasons, including spring turkey, can be found by consulting the ODWC 2019-2020 hunting guide, located at many places across the state, including Grit & Grace Outdoors in Newkirk.
“Hunters have to have a hunting license and a turkey tag, and you’re going to have to check your birds in online after you harvest them,” Grace said.
Due to the lower turkey population it is not expected to be a prosperous hunting season, however, those hunting near Kaw WMA may still be able to find a bird. If the 2020 spring season sees less rain than 2019, turkey numbers may start increasing again.
“Compared to normal years, it’ll be tough” Grace said. “Without the heavy rain this spring, those numbers might go back up.”