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Iowa’s spring turkey season is right around the corner

  • 3/26/2024 11:36:00 AM
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Coming off record harvests in 2020 and again in 2023, Iowa’s spring turkey hunters could be living in the “good ol’ days.” And with three straight years of good hatches across much of the state, roughly 35,000 hunters are ready to hit the woods.

“Two-year-old birds drive the population, do lots of the gobbling and tend to move more than the older toms, which is what hunters like,” said Jim Coffey, forest wildlife biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. “Hunters like to hear a lot of birds and not see other hunters.”

Iowa’s spring turkey hunt is spread among four seasons, allowing hunters to have a unique experience. Season one is April 8-11; season two is April 12-16; season three is April 17-23; and season four is April 24 – May 12. Hunters may purchase up to two tags with at least one being in season four.

“It looks we will have an early leaf-out this spring, which will get the birds disbursed to their breeding areas soon, so it will be a good opportunity to do some scouting,” he said.

Last spring, hunters reported a record harvest of nearly 14,850 turkeys, with birds harvested in all 99 counties.

“We have seen good production in the north central part of the state, which isn’t an area that most people think of when it comes to turkey hunting,” Coffey said. “The Loess Hills, northeast and southeast Iowa are more traditional turkey spots and also have good populations. We have documented good production in southeast Iowa, which is nice to see as the population in that area had been down in recent years.”

Iowa has become a bucket list turkey hunting state for many nonresidents who apply for an opportunity at a large Midwestern bird. Applications are taken in January for a limited number of tags based on four seasons and five zones. 

“We want to provide non-resident hunters an opportunity to explore our state and see what Iowa has to offer, knowing there are many Iowans that enjoying traveling to new states to hunt as well,” he said.

Nonresident hunting is limited to 2,148 tags annually.

Youth-only season is April 5-7

Youth turkey season is designed to provide a strong mentoring experience for the youth hunter. It is restricted to Iowa residents only.

“Turkey hunting is an intimate sport and mentoring is a way to learn from other’s mistakes,” Coffey said. “With only about one-in-five hunters tagging a turkey, failure is part of the process. A successful hunt should be gauged on the adventure and experience of being in the woods not placing a tag on a bird.”

Youth tags are sold through the end of youth season on April 7. Youth tags are valid for youth season and each of the four regular seasons until filled or when the season four closes on May 12.

Licenses are not sold after the youth season closes. Youth tags have been steadily increasing, with nearly 6,200 sold last year.

Report your harvest

Successful hunters are required to report their harvest by midnight of the day after it is recovered through the Go Outdoors Iowa app, by going online at www.iowadnr.gov, calling the toll free phone number printed on the tag, at any license vendor during regular business hours, by texting your registration number to 1-800-771-4692.

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