If You’re Talkin’ Turkey You’re Talking Southwest Oregon
By Gary Lewis
Decades ago, the National Wild Turkey Federation and state Fish and Wildlife officials set about to establish a population of wild turkeys in southwest Oregon. After a few false starts, a population of Rio Grande turkeys gained a foothold in Douglas County. From there, trap and transplant operations spread the birds far and wide.
Turkeys are now found in every county of the state, but Douglas, Jackson and Josephine Counties are still the hotspots.
The habitat is the reason why these Texas transplants, have thrived. Mixed oaks, madrones and bottom lands along creeks and rivers keep the turkeys happy. And a lot of edge habitat with small farms and ranches where the woods are close to pastureland. The area around Roseburg in Douglas County (Oregon's Melrose Unit) produces between 45 and 50 percent of the total Oregon turkey harvest each year.
Most hunting here is on private land. When the turkey populations began to take off, so did the opportunities for hunters. Many landowners are fed up with the growing flocks of turkeys. Spend a little time before the season, knocking on doors and you may find an invitation to hunt.
To find public land opportunities in Douglas County and nearby Coos County, consult Bureau of Land Management (BLM) maps and look for pockets of public land off the main roads, but adjacent to agricultural land and oak forests. Most of the larger timber companies allow hunter access. Some of it is limited to foot or bicycle traffic only, but that only makes the hunting better.
Look at the Tiller area, east of Canyonville. Once a pressure point for turkeys and hunters, many hunters went away and now turkey numbers in this area have bounced back.
There are turkeys in the Elliott State Forest and up Little Mill Creek. Take Highway 38 west past Scottsburg, then head south along Mill Creek.
Pay the most attention to the river bottoms adjacent to oak uplands. The turkeys feed on the acorns, but spend time in meadows, feeding on grubs, worms and insects.
To the south, Jackson and Josephine counties are Oregon's other top turkey producers and the place to focus on if you want to go unguided.
Highways 66 and 140 will take you to a mixture of public and private land to the east. You'll need a map. Explore BLM land on backroads to the southwest of the towns of Talent and Phoenix. Highway 62, from Shady Cove to Prospect takes you through good turkey habitat. The area around Lost Creek Reservoir provides good hunting on public land.
For a do-it-yourself hunt here, a hunter would do well to base camp at Emigrant Lake east of Ashland or near Hyatt Lake or Howard Prairie Lake.
Turkey season begins April 15 and runs through May 31. The daily bag limit is one bearded turkey. Hunters are allowed two gobblers for the season, except that a third turkey may be taken in some west-side counties. A separate turkey tag is required for each bird. See the Oregon Game Bird Regulations for details.
Roe Outfitters. 877-943-5700. www.roeoutfitters.com
Big K Guest Ranch. 800-390-BIGK. www.Big-k.com
Jody Smith Guide Service. 541-643-6258. www.jodysmithguideservice.com
Wapiti Archery Outfitters. 541-472-9677. www.wapitiarchery.com