Local Longbeards

Wild turkeys, not unlike the namesake whiskey, can bring an otherwise sane person to the heights of elation, the depths of depression, or the brink of madness. Fortunately for sportsmen (and their significant others), Montana’s spring turkey season is just slightly over a month long—usually April 14 through May 20. The bulk of the state’s turkey population resides in the eastern and southeastern areas, but good-sized flocks do exist in several areas in the western and southwestern parts of the state.

There is a catch, though: an early March drawing is in place for spring turkey tags within Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) Region 3 (the game-management area encompassing approximately 100 miles or so of the Bozeman area). Thus, if you’re so inclined, got lucky and drew a tag, and have a likely spot in which to bag a big gobbler, set your sites on Broadwater, Lewis & Clark, Gallatin, Madison, Park, Beaverhead, Jefferson, and Silver Bow counties. It’s important to note that several of these tags are “youth only,” which means the hunter has to be 12 to 15 years old and has completed the mandatory hunter safety course.

Access in this region is very difficult. Many if not most of these turkey flocks inhabit private land, so drawing the tag is only part of the battle. You’ll still need to know their habits and get landowner permission, but the hunt itself may be the simplest piece of the puzzle. Even though they’re wary, wily, and cunning, turkeys tend to be creatures of habit. Big toms choose their favorite roosts, as well as their feeding and breeding areas, based on the maximum amount of return for the least amount of output.

Patience is paramount for hunting wild turkey. It can take years of experience in turkey hunting, good calling technique, and a lot of luck to be in the right place at the right time in order to get a gobbler in the freezer. If luck wasn’t on your side this year, or you couldn’t get any access, there’s still hope. In eastern Montana, a lot of turkeys are thriving on U.S. Fish & Wildlife or Bureau of Land Management areas. Again, do your homework and spend lots of time on preseason scouting. Good luck, long beards, and long spurs.

For more information on turkey hunting in Montana visit fwp.mt.gov or nwtf.org.