Time to get permits for turkey hunting
Spring turkey season gets under way today in Kansas.
This spring, the season runs through May 20. Primary turkey permits cost $20.50 for Kansas residents and $30.50 for non-residents. A second turkey game tag for Unit 2 can be purchased for $10.50. People at least 12 years old who have completed a hunter education course can hunt wild turkeys. However, turkey hunters under the age of 14 must have immediate supervision of an adult at least 21 years old.
Thanks to a trap-and-transplant program beginning in the early 1960s, Kansas' first turkey season was held in 1974. Only a handful of permits was available, and hunting was limited to the southcentral and southwestern parts of the state. Since then, continued management, combined with the remarkable adaptability of the wild turkey, have made it possible to hunt turkeys statewide.
Kansas is home to two subspecies of wild turkeys, the Rio Grande and the eastern. The Rio Grande is a plains dweller and can be found in the western three-fourths of the state. Rio Grande turkeys roost in riparian timber and tree belts, and forage in open grasslands or crop field edges.
Said to be the easier of the two subspecies to hunt, Rio Grandes tend to use open areas that make their keen eyesight a major obstacle for hunters. Rio Grande turkeys can reach weights up to 25 pounds, but 18-21 pounds is more common. Beards on Rio Grandes tend to be thinner than those of their eastern counterparts, and feathers on the tail and tail base have light, buff-colored tips.
The eastern turkey prefers timbered areas in the eastern fourth of Kansas. It has a reputation as the more difficult subspecies to hunt, due to wariness and the thick cover it prefers. Eastern turkeys are larger than Rio Grandes, reaching weights up to 30 pounds. The eastern's tail feathers have bronze or caramel-colored tips.
Where ranges overlap in northcentral and southeastern Kansas, cross-breeding can occur. Hybrid turkeys can show characteristics of both subspecies.
Kansas is divided into three turkey management units. Unit 1, in southwestern Kansas, only has 100 resident-only spring permits and is closed for fall hunting. Permits are limited in this region because bird numbers haven't kept pace with populations elsewhere.
Unit 2, which encompasses the eastern and southcentral parts of the state, provides unlimited permits (two-bird limit) during spring and fall seasons. Unit 3, in the northwest, has unlimited turkey permits (one-bird limit) in the spring, and restricted permit numbers in the fall.
Spring permits may be purchased over the counter, or an application may be downloaded from the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, www.kdwp.state.ks.us. For more information, call (620) 672-5911.
Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks