Turkey Populations in Southeastern Montana
Spring turkey hunters can harvest up to 2 gobblers in Region 7 or 1 gobbler in Region 7 and 1 gobbler in other general hunting or special permit areas. The spring season begins on April 14th and runs through May 20th. Means of taking are limited to shotgun or long, recurve or compound bow and arrow during the spring season. Hunters may use a rifle only during the autumn season in Region 7.
According to Wildlife Biologist, Dean Waltee, “Hunters should expect numbers and opportunity to be similar to the 2011 spring season.” Even though mild conditions existed during the 2011-12 winter, turkey numbers remain well below average across Region 7. Below normal temperatures and record precipitation during the 2011 spring coupled with flooding persisting into July caused poor production across most of the region. In the Glendive area there are fewer birds than normal but it remains the most productive area, especially along the Yellowstone River downstream from the city of Glendive.
Overall turkey populations in southeast Montana have experienced a combination of harsh environmental events during the recent past. Winter conditions during 2010-11 season covered most of Region 7 with more than 24 inches of crusted snow for up to three consecutive months. Turkeys struggle to forage in snow depths greater than 8 to 10 inches. The previous three springs have produced major late winter snow storms and spring rain events accompanied by cold weather. Late winter snow storms accompanied by deep snow made natural sources of food that the turkeys were depending on immediately unavailable. Food sources remained unavailable until snow melt, dramatically increasing adult mortality.
Hunters from other parts of Montana and non-resident hunters should understand the opportunities to harvest a turkey in and around the Ashland Ranger District of the Custer National Forest are not as abundant as they have been in the past. But existing resident turkey populations elsewhere across southeastern Montana can provide spring hunting opportunities. Early green-up conditions have turkeys dispersing across the landscape and if current conditions persist, better production is expected to occur this spring.