Oregon Fall Turkey Hunt
By Gary Lewis
Southwest Oregon has more turkeys than any other corner of the state. So many, that Oregon has instituted a fall season to keep populations in check. Lots of edge habitat with mixed oaks, madrones and bottom lands along creeks and rivers keep these turkeys (Rio Grande transplants) happy.
Curry, Josephine, Jackson, Coos, Douglas, Lane, Benton, Polk, Marion and Linn counties constitute the open area for this hunt, which runs from October 15 through December 31.
Last December, I hunted fall season turkeys with a muzzleloader. After locating several flocks that ranged in size from 4 to 25 birds, we set up an ambush along a fence line. The first bird to get within 15 yards was a gobbler with an 8-inch beard and one-inch spurs.
Most Oregon hunters overlook the fall hunt, because the bag limit is reduced and calling isn't as effective, but there are guides and outfitters who book fall turkey hunts between deer and elk seasons.
Jody Smith, of Jody Smith Guide Service, based in Douglas County, charges $400 per day for one hunter and $600 for two hunters. Lunches and drinks are provided. If no shot is presented, a refund of $100 will be returned to the hunter.
Big K Guest Ranch specializes in spring turkey hunts, but is happy to offer guided fall turkey hunts in combination with lodging at their Bed and Breakfast. Accommodations here are rustic and upscale. The food is excellent. Call for prices.
Wapiti Outfitters, based in Grants Pass, offers guided spring turkey hunts and will consider guiding fall hunters as the schedule allows.
The area around Roseburg, in Douglas County, produces between 45 and 50 percent of Oregon's turkey harvest each year.
To find public land opportunities, consult Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or U.S. Forest Service 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.
There are turkeys near Loon Lake in the Elliott State Forest and up Little Mill Creek. Take Highway 38 west past Scottsburg, then head south along Mill Creek.
To hunt the Tiller area, follow Route 227 east from Canyonville at I-5.
Pay the most attention to the river bottoms near stands of oak. Turkeys key on the acorns, but also feed in the meadows on grubs, worms and insects. In ranchland, the turkeys spend a lot of time around livestock feeders, where they pick up spilled corn and grain.
For the nearest airports, look to Eugene and Medford. In Douglas County, most hunters base operations out of a hotel in Roseburg. Private and public campgrounds can be found along the North Umpqua River, the South Umpqua River and the mainstem Umpqua River.
In Jackson County, Highways 66 and 140 will bring the hunter to a mixture of public and private land to the east. Turkeys can be found all the way to the eastern edge of Jackson County. Visit www.bendmapping.com for a map of the area. Highway 62, from Shady Cove to Prospect, takes the hunter through good turkey habitat. The area around Lost Creek Reservoir provides good hunting on public land.
For a do-it-yourself hunt here, base camp at Emigrant Lake, Hyatt Lake or Howard Prairie Lake, east of Ashland.
In Josephine County, explore BLM land on back roads to the southwest of the towns of Talent and Phoenix.
On the south coast, in Curry and Coos counties, the best turkey hunting is found on and around private land in the river valleys.
The weather ranges from daytime highs of 30- to 65-degrees Fahrenheit. Rainfall is more common than snow during this season. Be prepared for both.
A 3-day nonresident hunting license that allows the hunter to pursue migratory waterfowl and upland birds costs $21.50. A nonresident turkey tag costs $64.00. A maximum of 3,000 tags are sold on a first-come, first-served basis. Licenses are available at most sporting goods stores or by mail-order. Call 503-947-6100 for specific license agent locations. For information, or to request regulations, call 800-720-6339 or visit www.dfw.state.or.us. The bag limit is one turkey of either sex. See the Oregon Game Bird Regulations for details.