Wild Turkey and Turkey Hunting FAQs

Turkey with decoy, Photo by Lowell Washburn

What sub-species of wild turkey do we have in Iowa?
Iowa’s wild turkeys are the Eastern wild turkey sub-species - Meleagris gallopavo silvestris.

What are the season dates?
Currently we have one youth season (9 days prior to season 1) and four regular seasons which are 4, 5, 7, and 19 days in length (35 days total). The first season always begins on the Monday closest to April 15. For current season dates please review the Hunting and Trapping Regulations.

How do I obtain a permit?
Iowa residents can purchase licenses through license vendors or through the telephone ordering system (800-367-1188) or the online ordering system. Nonresidents may apply online or call 800-367-1188.

How much does a permit cost?
Resident permits cost $24.50 and nonresident permits cost $102.00. Note: A $13.00 habitat stamp fee and a general small game hunting license is also required for both residents and nonresidents. General small game hunting licenses are $19.00 for residents and $112.00 for nonresidents respectively.

How many permits can I get?
Residents may purchase up to 2 permits (one permit for the youth season for those under 16, or season 1, 2, or 3; and a second permit for season 4). Both permits may also be purchased during season 4. Nonresidents may purchase one permit for any of the four seasons, but not during the youth season. For more information please review the Hunting and Trapping Regulations.

Are decoys legal?
Yes, commercial decoys are legal, however, live decoys are not legal.

What are the restrictions on weapons and shot size?
The only legal firearms for turkey hunting are: shotguns and muzzleloader shotguns not smaller than 20-gauge. Permitted shot sizes are: No. 4, 5, 6, 7 1/2 or 8 in lead, or non-toxic shot in sizes 2 through 8. Lead shot larger than No. 4 and non-toxic shot larger than No. 2 is illegal to possess while turkey hunting.

In addition to firearms, archery equipment including longbows, recurves and compound bows can be used to hunt wild turkeys in Iowa. Arrows must be at least 18 inches long and must be tipped with broadheads, or with bluntheads with a minimum diameter of 9/16 of an inch.

What is a legal bird?
Only male or bearded turkeys are legal in the spring season.

Can I call for someone else?
A resident hunter having a valid license for one of the spring turkey seasons may accompany, call for or otherwise assist anyone having a valid turkey license for any of the seasons. A nonresident may assist other hunters only in the zone and season indicated on their license. The person helping can not shoot a turkey or carry a bow or firearm unless they have a valid license and unused transportation tag for the current season. No one may shoot a turkey for someone else, or tag a turkey shot by someone else.

Why do I need a transportation tag for a turkey?

You must apply a transportation tag to the leg within 15 minutes of harvest, or before the turkey is moved, in such a way that the tag is visible and cannot be removed without being mutilated or destroyed. The transportation tag must bear the license number of the hunter, year of issuance and date of harvest. The tag shall be the hunter’s proof of possession of the turkey. The harvest report tag, with the confirmation number properly recorded, must be attached to the leg of the turkey after reporting the harvest and before the turkey is processed.

How do I register a turkey in the record books?
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources no longer registers trophy wild turkeys. However, the National Wild Turkey Federation invites you to register your turkey through their official wild turkey records program. Entry rules and an application can be obtained by visiting NWTF Wild Turkey Records site, writing the National Wild Turkey Federation, P.O. Box 530, Edgefield, SC, 29824-0530 or by calling (803) 637-3106.

How old is my turkey?
To differentiate between adults and juveniles, examine the tip of the last 1 or 2 primary (large) wing feathers. Adults have rounded tips with white barring extending all the way to the tip. Juveniles have narrow pointed feathers with no white bars on the last 2 inches. In addition, the tail fan on an adult has a regular contour of tail feathers, while a juvenile has an irregular contour.

To further estimate the age of your (male) turkey, examine the spurs on the leg and the turkey’s beard. Generally, 1 year-old turkeys have a spur length of 1/2” or less and a beard length of 2-5”; 2 year-old turkeys have spurs between 1/2” and 7/8” and a beard between 6” and 9” in length; 3 year-old turkeys have spurs between 7/8” and 1” and beards over 10” in length; turkeys 4 years-old and greater have spurs greater than 1” and beards over 10” in length.

Aging Spring Turkeys, by Ron Brenneman - NWTF Wildlife Bulletin No. 18

What sex is my turkey?
Males have black tipped breast feathers, beards and leg spurs, although spur length varies with age. Female turkeys have buff-tipped breast feathers and no leg spurs. Females may have a small beard present, but it not typical.

How do I measure the spurs and beards?
Measuring Spurs and Beards