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Turkey Hunters Offer Thanks

By Fenton Roskelley The Spokesman-

Hundreds of hunters, wearing camouflage clothing and carrying a variety of turkey calls and decoys, are treading softly in turkey country of Eastern Washington and north Idaho and dreaming of tagging big gobblers this spring.

With wild turkey flocks in areas where they’ve never been and big flocks roaming traditional areas, this spring’s season could be the best.

The hills and woods, it seems, reverberate with gobbles every time the scouting hunters scratch and blow their calls.

Unlike pheasants, partridges and quail, the region’s turkeys apparently brought off many and good-sized broods during last year’s nesting season. In a way, their success made up for the disappointing numbers of upland birds.

Hunting should be especially good in Eastern Washington. Biologists are predicting that hunters will find many flocks in Stevens and Lincoln counties, and in most wooded draws in northern Walla Walla, Columbia, Garfield and Asotin counties.

In addition, there apparently are new flocks in Spokane, Ferry, Pend Oreille and Okanogan counties. Wildlife biologist Steve Zender of Chewelah said more turkey flocks have appeared in the Republic area of Ferry County.

Although the turkey population in southeast Washington is continuing to increase, more turkeys likely will be taken in Stevens, Lincoln and Klickitat counties than any county in the state.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Department’s analysis shows that the state’s hunters bagged a record 586 turkeys last year. Hunters killed 242 gobblers in the northern part of the Spokane region and 150 in the Blue Mountains.

Stevens County was the state’s top producer, yielding 130 toms, compared with 109 in Klickitat County, the next highest producer. Besides Stevens, the number of gobblers taken in northern counties of the Spokane region follow: Lincoln, 104; Ferry, 36; Pend Oreille, 3; Spokane, 3; and Whitman, l.

The kill in the Blue Mountains counties: Asotin, 25; Columbia, 52; Garfield, 21; and Walla Walla, 42. Turkey numbers seem to be increasing faster in Walla Walla County than in any county in southeastern Washington. No toms were tagged in the county in 1991. Hunters took 3 in 1992, 12 in 1993 and 13 in 1994. Then came the big jump last year.

This year’s Washington season opens April 15 and ends May 15. A turkey tag costs $18. The season limit is one tom of each subspecies. To qualify for multiple tags, a hunter must apply to the department by Sunday.

The general season in Idaho’s Lewiston region starts April 8 and ends May 5. In Units 1, 2 and 3 in the Panhandle the season runs from April 29 through May 12. The resident tag is $7.50, nonresident, $36.50. Turkey flocks are spread out from Hells Canyon to the Canadian border.

Although Washington’s Stevens and Lincoln counties are big gobbler producers every year, the Blue Mountain counties are the best choice for novice hunters. Most of the flocks in northeastern Washington are on private property and getting permission to hunt usually is difficult. Many property owners give permission only to friends and relatives.

“A hunter’s biggest problem in northeast Washington is not finding turkeys,” Zender said. “The challenge is to get permission to hunt.”

Some landowners are charging hunters $100 or more to hunt on their land.

Few flocks in the northeast counties are on Forest Service land, Zender said. Some flocks are on small, scattered parcels of property controlled by the Bureau of Land Management. The Department of Natural Resources controls most land open to the public for turkey hunting.

“Neither the BLM nor the DNR land is identified by signs,” Zender said. “For a hunter, that means getting large-scale maps that identify the land.”

On the other hand, getting permission to hunt in the Blue Mountain counties is easier than finding gobblers, even though the gobblers are plentiful. Nearly 200 landowners who own about 400,000 acres of land are involved in the department’s Sportsman-Landowner access program, according to Ted Johnson of Walla Walla, who heads up the program for the state.

The land will be posted with various types of signs, including “Feel Free to Hunt” and “Hunting Only by Written Permission.”

One of the problems for hunters is getting permission to hunt just before the opening of the season. Most landowners already have given permission to all the hunters they feel they can permit on their land the first few days of the season.

Fortunately for hunters who haven’t already contacted landowners, there are numerous turkey flocks on Umatilla National Forest land, which is open to hunting by all hunters.

, DataTimes MEMO: You can contact Fenton Roskelley by voice mail at 459-5577, extension 3814.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Fenton Roskelley The Spokesman-Review

You can contact Fenton Roskelley by voice mail at 459-5577, extension 3814.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Fenton Roskelley The Spokesman-Review

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