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Expanding Turkey Population Means Expanded Fall Hunting

Similar to the expanding wild turkey population, fall hunting for the large keen-eyed bird continues to expand, and from September 15 to September 30, hunters in the Clearwater, Southeast and Panhandle regions that purchase a general fall turkey tag can harvest either a gobbler or hen. Fall hunts differ from spring hunts since any bird is legal. Only gobblers are legal in the spring. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game has been expanding fall turkey hunting opportunities for several reasons, largely because of a surplus of birds. "The turkey population has really taken off with several mild winters and favorable nesting and brood rearing weather," said Jim Teare, habitat biologist with IDFG. "Hunters can go just about anywhere in the Clearwater and find birds." With the vast majority of the quality habitat now holding an excess of birds, IDFG, with the help of several conservation groups, will continue to move birds into new areas throughout the state. However, these new areas are often marginal habitat and many of the transplanted birds will not survive. Providing extra fall harvest opportunity is a good way to utilize the many birds now available "Hunters should take advantage of the increased fall opportunity because eventually, unfavorable conditions may reduce numbers and fall hunting may be reduced," Teare said. The abundance of turkeys also brings conflicts, with depredations a growing problem. Increasing numbers of landowners are reporting damage to crops and other property and are asking for bird numbers to be reduced. In addition to transplanting the problem birds to other areas, hunting is a tool that can be used to regulate numbers in response to landowner concerns. According to IDFG, hunter participation and harvest in previous fall controlled hunts was lower than anticipated. The fall general hunts are designed to encourage participation and eliminate the controlled hunt permit and application fees.