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Turkey Hunting

New York State has both spring and fall hunting seasons. The most successful turkey hunters use a variety of calls (e.g., box calls, slate calls, mouth calls) to bring a bird within gun range (usually 30 yards or less). Head-to-toe camouflage helps hunters to stay undetected prior to the shot. Movement must only occur when the bird is behind a tree or other obstacle. Few hunting experiences can rival the excitement as a turkey approaches a hunter. Turkey hunters need to be extremely careful, however, before taking a shot.

The excitement of a turkey hunt should sharpen the hunter's awareness of key safety rules: Always identify the target before shooting, and be sure that no other person is in harm's way. Some people are tempted to try to stalk a wild turkey. Forget it! First, it is extremely difficult to approach a turkey undetected. You will be much more successful calling the bird to you. Second, stalking turkeys puts both you and other hunters at risk. Let the bird do the walking.

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Proposed Fall Turkey Season Regulations

Public comments accepted through June 29, 2015

DEC is currently accepting public comments on a regulatory proposal to revise fall turkey hunting seasons beginning in fall 2015.

As DEC biologists, most hunters, and others have noted, wild turkey populations have declined dramatically since their peak around 2001. Reasons for this decline include changes in habitat, higher predator populations, poor reproductive success in years with above average rainfall during the nesting season, and hunter harvest of hen turkeys during the fall season. Although weather and habitat conditions vary across the state, nearly all regions of New York have fewer turkeys today than in the past.

The proposal to modify fall turkey seasons is an important step in a four-year study to better understand changes in turkey populations and provide harvest opportunities that are appropriate based on current environmental factors. Since 2012 DEC biologists and partners at SUNY ESF and Cornell University have been working to better understand the biological and social factors associated with turkey management. This proposal is the result of those research endeavors. This work has included:

  • A study to understand how weather and landscape-scale habitat interact in different parts of the state and how this influences the number of birds found there;
  • Surveys of turkey hunters to identify what they value in terms of turkey populations, a high quality hunting experience, and the trade-offs they make between hunting opportunity and turkey abundance.; and
  • Field research where hens are banded and radio-tagged so biologists can track survival and estimate fall harvest rates.

The collective goal of these projects was to develop a comprehensive understanding of wild turkeys and the people who enjoy them so sustainable fall hunting seasons could be set based on current environmental and social conditions. Our survey of fall turkey hunters indicated that the most important factors in their satisfaction were hearing and seeing birds and having the chance to go afield prior to the regular deer season. We considered a variety of season length and bag limit combinations to address the decline of turkey populations while accommodating hunter interests. We concluded that the best approach was the same among all geographic regions: a two-week season with a bag limit of one bird of either sex (click map above to see a larger image). Season dates will be staggered among three broad regions of the state, which will provide some avid hunters the chance to hunt turkeys for more than just two weeks: October 1-14 in the Northern Zone; October 17-30 in the Southern Zone; and November 21 - December 4 on Long Island (Suffolk County). This represents a reduced season length in most of the state, no change in the Lake Plains, and a modest increase in season length for Long Island.

The proposed fall hunting season changes will be evaluated as part of a four-year research program. DEC staff banded over 1,000 hens in 2013 and 2014, attaching satellite radios to a portion of these, to assess survival rates and harvest rates under our current fall season structure. DEC staff will continue to band and track hens in 2015 and 2016 in order to evaluate the impact of a modification to the fall season on harvest and survival. This approach allows for adaptive harvest management whereby this information is used, in addition to the abundance, productivity, and hunter survey data collected annually, to offer sustainable fall harvest opportunities that reflect environmental conditions and current trends in turkey populations.

To submit comments, visit the Proposed Regulations page and click the e-mail link or write to "Proposed Turkey Regulations", NYSDEC, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4754. Comments must be received in writing by June 29, 2015.

Here are some tips for a successful and safe turkey hunting season.

  • Don't stalk. More than half of turkey hunting injuries happen when one hunter stalks another.
  • Always assume any call or footsteps you hear are from another hunter. Don't shoot until you clearly see the whole turkey and know its sex.
  • If you see another hunter, talk to him or her clearly, and don't move. Never wave or use a turkey call to alert another hunter.
  • Turkeys are tough. You need to be close (30 yards or less is best). You need to get a clear head and neck shot. Do not try to shoot them in the body or when they are flying.
  • Smaller shot, no. 4, 5, and 6, work better than larger shot, due to denser shot patterns.
  • When calling, sit still with your back against a big tree, to hide you from turkeys and stalkers.
  • Never wear turkey colors -- red, white, or blue.
  • Wear hunter orange when going in or out of the woods and when walking around.
  • When sitting still waiting for a turkey, put hunter orange on a tree near you.
  • If you take a turkey or carry a decoy, wrap it in hunter orange.
Turkey hunter with decoy and blaze orange
An orange marker on a
nearby tree identifies a
camouflaged hunter to others.

Here are some rules you need to know:

  • You will need a hunting license and a turkey permit.
  • You may hunt with a bow or crossbow, but you may not hunt turkey with a crossbow in the fall in the Northern Zone if you are using dogs.
  • You may hunt with a shotgun or handgun only when using shot no larger than #2 and no smaller than #8.
  • You may not take a turkey with a rifle, or with a handgun firing a bullet.
  • You must fill out the tag which comes with your permit and attach it to any turkey you shoot immediately.

Be sure to consult your hunting regulations guide for other rules.

Watch a clip about youth turkey hunting and check out other clips on DEC's YouTube Channel.

More about Turkey Hunting: