With spring turkey season just days away in Washington and Idaho, bird numbers are healthy, and the crafty critters are well distributed throughout vast areas of the two states.
It just might be the high-water mark of turkey hunting in the region, a time that will be talked about for years to come.
“Turkey hunting is unbelievable right now,” said Eric Crawford, of Moscow. “They are everywhere — everywhere.”
“We’ve been talking about how there is a real possibility these are the good old days,” said Kurtis Brooks, of Boise.
The two men are hunting partners, and after a fantastic season in 2020, they are looking forward to the spring opener on Thursday. Of course, there are no sure things in hunting, and many variables, such as unpredictable weather, can influence the success of an outing. But lack of birds isn’t likely to be a factor.
“Last year was good for turkey hunters, and there’s no reason to believe it would be different in 2021,” said Jeff Knetter, upland game bird manager for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game at Boise.
“This winter was relatively mild throughout the state, and we’ve had no major events that give us cause for concern regarding turkey survival,” Knetter said.
Mike Butler, of Clarkston, sees it the same way. Butler chases gobblers on both sides of the Snake River and said birds and hunting opportunities are ample.
“Within an hour of your house, if you live in the (Lewiston-Clarkston) Valley, you can be hunting in Oregon, Washington and Idaho for turkeys,” he said. “There are birds on public land; there are birds on private land. Every draw up the Clearwater River has birds in it.”
Seth Bynum, of Moscow, travels far and wide to hunt gobblers and has seen declines in some southeastern states. Not so in the Northwest.
“I think for now we have way more opportunity than we have hunters,” Bynum said. “Pretty much any time you find a food source and good habitat, you find turkeys.”
Bynum, a veterinarian who goes by @wild.turkey.dvm on Instagram, likes to introduce new hunters to the sport and says he has just as much fun calling the birds for others as he does for himself.
Butler said pursuing turkeys is a good way to get kids involved in hunting. Like many, he sees parallels between hunting toms and chasing bull elk in the fall.
“It’s like elk hunting in miniature,” he said. “You are calling in an animal. He is making noise, and you are setting yourself up for a good clean shot. A lot of things you learn in the spring turkey woods carry over to the fall woods for deer and elk.”
Even if a hunt ends without a bird in the bag, there’s plenty to relish. The sun often is warm, the grass is green, wildflowers are blooming, morel mushrooms are sometimes a tasty side benefit, and deer and elk sheds can be found.
“It’s just a fun time to be outside,” Bynum said.
Barker may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (208) 848-2273. Follow him on Twitter @ezebarker.w