Talkin’ Turkey – ND Spring Turkey Hunting

January 30, 2009 by  

By Doug Leier

Its getting close to strutting season

It's getting close to strutting season

Deer hunting likely generates more questions than any other hunting season and its popularity in terms of hunter numbers is unparalleled for North Dakota.

Pheasant hunting, with expanding prairie opportunities made possible by warm winters and suitable habitat, has brought new hunters into the field and put a smile on the face for tens of thousands of Dakota rooster fanatics.

Waterfowl hunters? Well, who can’t appreciate the dedication of a hunter slumbering out of bed in the wee hours en route to a cold damp morning huddled on the edge of a marsh?

Fortunately, North Dakota has an array of outdoor opportunities from which hunters can find a favorite. If you ask around a bit, however, you won’t likely find too many people who put spring turkey hunting at the top of their list, but you will find more and more hunters who look forward to a chance at taking a spring gobbler.

With the application deadline for a North Dakota spring turkey license fast approaching, it’s time to get ready. For starters the easiest method to apply is online through the Game and Fish Department website at
After you’ve filed your application – the deadline is Feb. 15 – take a few minutes to ponder turkey hunting in North Dakota. For starters, you’ve likely heard people both praise and despise the reputation of a turkey. I’ve compared turkeys to one of my favorite guilty pleasures – chocolate. A little is good, but sit down and eat a whole bag and you’ll get a belly ache.

It’s similar with turkeys, most hunters and landowners enjoy a few turkeys, but when three turkeys turn into three dozen, the novelty and joy of seeing turkeys near the farm can dwindle.

As we discuss turkey behavior and habits, keep in mind that hunting is the best method for wildlife managers to use to balance populations. On the same note, hunters in any situation prefer less competition. For example, a spring turkey hunter would rather not have a half-dozen other hunters within a few hundred yards of his calling site.

If you’ve ever observed turkeys, however, you know first-hand they tend to travel in social groups, and it’s that behavior that adds difficulty to turkey population management.

Herein lies the problem. If a landowner has three dozen or more turkeys that seek refuge in his farm yard each winter, and he is willing to allow hunters, he’s faced with the task of providing access to thin the local population. However, allowing a dozen hunters in to take out an appreciable number of turkeys is not an easy process.

Wild turkey hunting is growing in popularity all over the country

Wild turkey hunting is growing in popularity all over the country

While hunters are more than willing to assist the landowner, by nature they’d rather have the place to themselves on the day they have permission. Contending with numerous other hunters on the same property can be just as difficult as getting a turkey.

Another localized obstacle is the turkeys’ penchant for inhabiting residential areas where hunting is less of an option. Managing urban turkeys can be even more problematic than managing turkeys in rural settings.

The process can become somewhat of a balancing act for the Game and Fish Department, dealing with a localized increase in turkey numbers without putting undue pressure on landowners or eroding the essence of the spring turkey hunt. It’s not just shooting a turkey that makes a spring hunt a success. Most hunters want to experience a sense of solitude and try to call in a gobbler on their own terms.

This year, more hunters that ever will have a chance to do that, as the Game and Fish Department is making available 6,425 wild turkey licenses, a record number for the third year in a row. Nine units have more licenses than last year, while only one unit – Dunn County – has fewer.

Cost of a license is $8 and only North Dakota residents are eligible to apply. The spring turkey season runs from April 8 through May 14.


4 Comments on "Talkin’ Turkey – ND Spring Turkey Hunting"

  1. charette greg jr on Thu, 29th Apr 2010 12:09 pm 

    need to find land owners that will let you hunt. this is the most problems we as me and my hunting friends will tell you. it is really hard to hunt turkeys when they have it posted. maybe you can help set us up with a land owner this would be great. there is a similar program right now with deer. i was also set up with a landowner for deer and now i have a great relationship with him

  2. admin on Fri, 30th Apr 2010 8:21 am 

    Just because it’s posted doesn’t mean they won’t let you hunt. Often land is posted in the spring that is a carry over from deer season.

    Get the name, look up the number and call, or stop by the nearest farm. I’ve found countless hunting opportunities from doing a little homework and door knocking.

    Good luck

  3. Casey Young on Mon, 13th Feb 2012 12:17 am 

    I am attending UND and just put in for a turkey tag in unit 50. I saw a few turkeys running around during deer hunting. I was wondering if anyone had some advice for a first time turkey hunter, and if there is any connections in unit 50. Hope to hear from you!

  4. jim on Mon, 30th Apr 2012 11:40 am 

    Do spring Toms stay in the same general area all spring? I was on a tom last week and was real close. Went back acouple of days later and havent heard him since. Ant thoughts?

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