Skip to main content

Kentucky's Spring Turkey Season Opener

Kentucky's Spring Turkey Season Opener
Sarah Jenkins of LaGrange with a huge tom turkey she harvested during a recent spring turkey season in Shelby County. Spring turkey season opens April 18, this coming Saturday. (Photo courtesy of Kentucky Afield Outdoors)
Sarah Turkey

Sarah Jenkins of LaGrange with a huge tom turkey she harvested during a recent spring turkey season in Shelby County. Spring turkey season opens April 18, this coming Saturday. Kentucky is blessed with many public turkey hunting opportunities for this spring season. (Photo courtesy of Kentucky Afield Outdoors)

The wait is almost over for turkey hunters in Kentucky.

A calendar shift pushed the state’s 23-day general spring wild turkey season back this year to the third weekend in April. It opens Saturday, April 18 and runs through May 10.

Last spring, hunters in Kentucky reported taking 29,943 turkeys.


“The current five-year average of 32,759 birds harvested in the spring is the highest five-year average that we’ve recorded to date,” said Steven Dobey, wild turkey program coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “While we see some year-to-year fluctuation, looking at it at an increment of five years, our harvest success is the highest it’s ever been, which is something hunters should be excited about.”


Spring turkey hunters may harvest a male turkey or a turkey with a visible beard, but not more than one in a day, and no more than two birds total during the season. They now have the option of using a .410 shotgun in their pursuits.

The state’s turkey flock has grown to an estimated 220,000 birds since restoration efforts ended in 1997. Each year, Kentucky ranks first or second among surrounding states in the number of turkeys harvested per square mile.

“The state of our turkey flock is exceptional when we look at it on a regional scale,” Dobey said. “Kentucky has something really special going on as far as its turkeys go, and the hunters are reaping the rewards of that.”

Top Public Lands by Region: The Daniel Boone National Forest sprawls across 21 counties in eastern Kentucky. Unsurprisingly, it produces big numbers when it comes to the spring turkey harvest.


The 497 turkeys harvested last spring by hunters on the Daniel Boone National Forest – not including the Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) contained within it - led all public hunting areas in the state’s Southeast Wildlife Region and Kentucky overall.

“I think the Boone is a sleeper area,” said Jason Lupardus, the Midwest Conservation Field Supervisor with the National Wild Turkey Federation who has regional biologist duties in Kentucky. “There are lots of birds out there. There’s an area that I’ve been to the past two years and taken birds on and heard eight to 10 birds gobbling. It’s just a matter of going out and scouting. It’s so expansive that you have a lot of areas that just don’t get the pressure. I think anyone can go out during the year and have some success.”

Peabody WMA in the Green River Region and Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area in the Purchase Region are among his top three favorite public lands to hunt turkey in Kentucky. Both areas posted spring turkey harvest totals in 2014 that led other public lands in their respective regions. Clay WMA in the Northeast Region and Taylorsville Lake WMA in the Bluegrass Region led their respective regions in the 2014 spring turkey harvest totals.


Public Land Strategies: A general rule of thumb when it comes to hunting turkey on public lands during the spring season is the sooner you can hunt them the better.

Scouting ahead of time is the most effective way to learn how turkeys are using the landscape. It also helps a hunter identify potential set-up locations.

“If somebody outwits you that morning, then you might have to go to your second or third spot on public land,” Lupardus said. “What’s most important is spending some time out in that area and understanding what the hens are doing. If you can mimic what the hens are doing, you’ll have success.”

Can’t make it out opening weekend? A weekday or late afternoon hunt can be just as productive.

“Late afternoon is really a key spot,” Lupardus said. “I’ve harvested turkeys in multiple states all in the 5- to 6-o’clock hour.”

Did you know: Hunters in Logan County have made it the top county by spring turkey harvest total for three consecutive years. It’s entrenched in the Green River Region which stretches from Hardin and Union counties along the Ohio River down to Todd and Monroe counties along the Tennessee border. The region led the state last spring with 9,274 birds telechecked.

“That area is just special,” Dobey said. “When you look at the big picture of what turkeys need to survive, it’s much more intricate than just, do they have food or do they have trees to roost in? There, you have this perfect assemblage of habitat types. Add the agriculture component into that and it’s just a shot to the population because they have this additional available food source that a lot of other portions of the state don’t have. That can compensate for a lack of a natural food source in some years.”

Looking Ahead: The emergence of a cicada brood later this spring in the Green River and Purchase Regions west of Interstate 65 could result in a spike in the spring turkey harvest in the near future.

Hunters achieved a record turkey harvest two years after a significant cicada emergence throughout much of the state in 2008.

“That is a huge food source for turkeys and poults in particular,” Dobey said. “They feast on insects. Something like a cicada would be a goldmine. We could really see a huge increase in poult production in the western part of the state this summer which would be fantastic.”

Hunters are encouraged to consult the 2015 Kentucky Spring Hunting Guide beforehand. Available online at fw.ky.gov and wherever licenses are sold, it provides information about current regulations, licenses and permits, legal equipment, safety tips and more.

Editor’s Note: Author Kevin Kelly is a staff writer for Kentucky Afield magazine, the official publication of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. Get the latest from Kelly and the entire Kentucky Afield staff by following them on Twitter: @kyafield.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Kevin VanDam Fishing Reels from Lew

Kevin VanDam Fishing Reels from Lew's

The Kevin VanDam LFS Baitcast reel ($139.99) comes in three models (6.2:1, 7.5:1, 8.3:1), with right- and left-hand retrieve, 10-bearing system with Zero Reverse one-way clutch, aluminum frame and spool, carbon fiber drag system, up to 20 pounds drag power.

Lew

Lew's Kevin VanDam Fishing Tools

The bass-fishing legend talks about Lew's new tools with In-Fisherman's Todd Ceisner as part of the 2020 ICAST New Fishing Gear Guide.

Costa Ferg Sunglasses

Costa Ferg Sunglasses

Costa's Todd Barker reveals the features of the new Costa Ferg sunglasses, a best-of-category winner at ICAST 2020.

SPRO Madeye Diver 85 & Minnow 120

SPRO Madeye Diver 85 & Minnow 120

The Madeye Diver 85 & 120 feature sound chambers that imitate various batfish.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Dozens of different bait types are commonly used for catfish, including these great options.12 Great Catfish Baits Catfish

12 Great Catfish Baits

Jeff Samsel

Dozens of different bait types are commonly used for catfish, including these great options.

Want to test the outer limits of your shooting skill? You'll need a cartridge that lives up to the expectations demanded at ranges up to and beyond 500, 600 or even 1,000 yards. Try these different loads until you find the one that thumps steel at long ranges consistently.10 Best Long-Range Rifle Cartridges Ever Made Ammo

10 Best Long-Range Rifle Cartridges Ever Made

David Hart - January 14, 2015

Want to test the outer limits of your shooting skill? You'll need a cartridge that lives up to...

Sight Savvy: Different styles of bow sights each have their strengths—and weaknesses.How to Pick the Right Bow Sight for You Bows

How to Pick the Right Bow Sight for You

Tony Hansen - August 25, 2020

Sight Savvy: Different styles of bow sights each have their strengths—and weaknesses.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation provides places to start.Are You a New Hunter Looking for Help? Hunting How-To

Are You a New Hunter Looking for Help?

Adam Heggenstaller - August 19, 2020

The National Shooting Sports Foundation provides places to start.

See More Trending Articles

More Stories

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused us to re-examine many cherished traditions, but hunting remains an essential activity.Perspective: Why We Hunt Stories

Perspective: Why We Hunt

Andrew McKean - August 12, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused us to re-examine many cherished traditions, but hunting...

Midwestern turkey hunters and others are hitting the woods. So are a variety of harmful tick species.Tick Talk: What You Need to Know Pre-Hunt Conservation & Politics

Tick Talk: What You Need to Know Pre-Hunt

Patrick Durkin - May 14, 2020

Midwestern turkey hunters and others are hitting the woods. So are a variety of harmful tick...

Behind the Badge is a regular series of perspective stories by Oklahoma game warden Carlos Gomez. In this article, Gomez recounts his experiences from his first nighttime poaching bust.Behind the Badge: A Warden's First Night-Poaching Bust Stories

Behind the Badge: A Warden's First Night-Poaching Bust

Game & Fish Online Staff - July 30, 2018

Behind the Badge is a regular series of perspective stories by Oklahoma game warden Carlos...

Last year alone, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act was responsible for $100 million in funding to benefit game, fish and other wildlife in the United States.At Issue: Greenbacks for Greenheads (and Other Game) Conservation & Politics

At Issue: Greenbacks for Greenheads (and Other Game)

Andrew McKean - August 04, 2020

Last year alone, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act was responsible for $100 million...

See More Stories

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now