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

Hobie MirageDrive 360 Kayak Propulsion: Amazing Control and Power

Hobie MirageDrive 360 Kayak Propulsion: Amazing Control and Power

The Hobie MirageDrive 360 pedal propulsion system is the pinnacle of kayak control with more efficient fin designs, glide technology and allows the boat to be moved in any direction.

New for 2021: Hoyt RX-5, RX-5 Ultra, Ventum 30 and Ventum 33

New for 2021: Hoyt RX-5, RX-5 Ultra, Ventum 30 and Ventum 33

ATA 2021 NeDuring this video from the Archery Trade Association's New Product Premiere showcase, Bowhunter's TV Mike Carney visited with Evan Williams, pro staff manager for Hoyt Archery, to learn about the new RX-5, RX-5 Ultra, Ventum and Ventum 33 bows.w Product - Hoyt

New for 2021: Mathews V3 27 & 31 Bows

New for 2021: Mathews V3 27 & 31 Bows

Bowhunter Editor Curt Wells had an exciting visit with Mark Hayes, design engineer for Mathews, as the pair looked at the new V3 27 and V3 31 bows.

New for 2021: Elite Archery Bows, Slick Trick Broadheads and CBE Sight

New for 2021: Elite Archery Bows, Slick Trick Broadheads and CBE Sight

Learn more about two new Elite Archery bows, the Enkore and Remedy, two new broadhead from Slick Trick and a new site from Custom Bow Equipment (CBE).

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

With the Hobie MirageDrive 360 pedal propulsion system, anglers have ultimate kayak control with more efficient fin designs, glide technology and the ability to move their boat in any direction desiredAmazing Kayak Power and Control: Hobie's MirageDrive 360 Propulsion System Other Fishing

Amazing Kayak Power and Control: Hobie's MirageDrive 360 Propulsion System

OSG Editorial Staff - November 01, 2020

With the Hobie MirageDrive 360 pedal propulsion system, anglers have ultimate kayak control...

As most catfish anglers know, blue cats, channel cats and flatheads will eat darn near anything that fits in their mouths.5 Ways To Catch Catfish on Lures Catfish

5 Ways To Catch Catfish on Lures

Keith Sutton

As most catfish anglers know, blue cats, channel cats and flatheads will eat darn near...

HyperFlite arrows improve accuracy, penetration.Barnett's Breakthrough Small-Diameter Crossbow Arrow Crossbows

Barnett's Breakthrough Small-Diameter Crossbow Arrow

Game and Fish Staff - December 09, 2020

HyperFlite arrows improve accuracy, penetration.

Expansion of Woodland Series targets continues fun, realistic way to practice.New for 2021, Rinehart's 1/3-Scale Moose Archery Targets ATA Show

New for 2021, Rinehart's 1/3-Scale Moose Archery Targets

Game and Fish Staff - January 07, 2021

Expansion of Woodland Series targets continues fun, realistic way to practice.

See More Trending Articles

More Stories

Active-duty Navy chief hosts newbie friend on memorable archery hunt in Maryland.No Limits: Inspiring Amputee Shares Buck Fever with First-Timer Whitetail

No Limits: Inspiring Amputee Shares Buck Fever with First-Timer

Aaron Ritter - December 15, 2020

Active-duty Navy chief hosts newbie friend on memorable archery hunt in Maryland.

Four generations later, Faulk's Game Calls continues family tradition.Fabled Waterfowl Maker Still Turning Out Custom Calls Waterfowl

Fabled Waterfowl Maker Still Turning Out Custom Calls

John N. Felsher - January 11, 2021

Four generations later, Faulk's Game Calls continues family tradition.

Crossbows are more popular – and legal – in more places, and statistics show they're not that much more effective than vertical bows.Few Bowhunters Can Ignore This Case for Hunting with Crossbows Stories

Few Bowhunters Can Ignore This Case for Hunting with Crossbows

Patrick Durkin - September 30, 2020

Crossbows are more popular – and legal – in more places, and statistics show they're not that...

From a world-record crappie to the best gear of the year, these hunting and fishing articles were most popular with our readers.Game & Fish's Top 10 Stories of 2018 Stories

Game & Fish's Top 10 Stories of 2018

G&F Online Staff - December 24, 2018

From a world-record crappie to the best gear of the year, these hunting and fishing articles...

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

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Game & Fish App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

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