Arizona Turkey Hunting Forecast for 2014

The best spring Arizona turkey hunting is found in the Mogollon Rim and the White Mountains at elevations between 5,000 and 9,000 feet above sea level. The biggest band of turkey habitat runs from the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest on the New Mexico border up through the lands of the White Mountain Apaches and the San Carlos, through the Tonto National Forest and the Coconino National Forest through Flagstaff and on up to the Kaibab Plateau. However, turkeys can be found in isolated pockets throughout the state.

Three subspecies call Arizona home: Merriam's, Gould's and Rio Grande. Biologists estimate a total turkey population of 36,000 birds. Last season's spring harvest ran to 833 birds.

Game specialist Tom McCall, in Flagstaff, expects a pretty good hunt spring in his region.

"We had a mild winter, with half the normal snowfall," McCall said. Combine that with a good fall acorn crop and that should translate into a healthy turkey population. "We are coming off three good years of good production; one year kind of builds on the next." McCall said that units 5B South, 6A, 9 and 12A are above the management guidelines.

Look for Merriam's in the pine forests north of the Gila River. Gould's turkeys, slightly larger than the Merriam's, are filling in their historic habitat in the Coronado National Forest and in other high country reaches in southern Arizona. The National Wild Turkey Federation says there are more Gould's in Arizona now than at any time in the last 100 years.

Rio Grande turkeys can be found north of the Colorado River on the Arizona Strip on Black Rock Mountain. Look for Rios in and around stream bottoms studded with the  substantial trees that the birds use for their roosts.

Spring season dates vary according to region. The bag limit is one bearded turkey and hunters may take only one bird per calendar year. The department also offers youth hunts. Fall hunts are issued through a lottery process. Hunters younger than 14 must have proof of hunter education. For more information, visit www.azgfd.gov

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