A beginner’s guide to Turkey Hunting

Before turkey hunters can begin their hunting adventures, there are some things they need to know. The Ministry of Natural Resources strictly regulates hunting wild turkeys in southern Ontario so before stepping out into the field, make sure you are educated!

When does turkey season start this year?

The Ministry of Natural Resources decides when all hunting seasons begin and end. Their wild turkey management plan is ensuring sustainable populations. The turkey spring hunting season traditionally starts on April 25th. Season dates are available in the yearly guide, which is on their website.

There are two wild turkey hunting seasons in Ontario. The spring season is beginning as male turkeys enter rut. The rut is what makes wild turkeys so responsive to calls. There is a two-bird bag limit during the spring turkey hunting season. In the spring, only bearded birds are fair game. This rule protects the turkey hens during their laying season.

There is also a fall turkey season. It begins in October. In fall hunting, part of the season allows for bow hunting, and part of the season is bow and shotgun. The fall season of turkey hunting has a single bird bag limit.

What does a hunter need before they can go turkey hunting?

A clear tag holder that protects the new paper tags from being damaged

Before heading out into the field for the first time, every turkey hunter needs to complete a hunter education course and received their outdoors card. They must purchase a small games license for every year they want to hunt. The outdoors card and small game licenses are managed by the Ontario Fish and Wildlife Services as part of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act

If hunters plan to use a gun, they also need to have their PAL.

Once hunters have all the correct licenses, they must also purchase turkey tags. After harvesting an animal, hunters must tag them immediately to show they were harvested legally.

It's important to keep those tags safe! Hunters now print their tags at home, and the system allows them to be printed just once. These new paper tags can be easily damaged, so ensure tags have a sleeve to protect them. If a conservation officer finds someone carrying an untagged turkey, that person could face a $300 fine.

For a full listing of regulations and enforcement, visit the Ontario Fish and Wildlife website.

Remember, the new hunting rules are in full effect this year. Forgetting to report a hunt has serious consequences.

Is there special equipment for turkey hunting?

When setting out to hunt wild turkey, it's important to invest in some special equipment. It might seem expensive, but proper turkey gear can make the difference between reaching bag limits or reaching for air. Hunting in hot spots isn’t enough. A smart turkey will still sus you out unless you are prepared.

Turkeys have incredibly keen eyesight. Camo can help a hunter remain hidden. Investing in a proper spring camo pattern can help a hunter remain unnoticed by the wild turkeys as they draw in close. Turkey habitat includes both fields and open forested areas. Turkeys roost in the trees at night and loiter in the fields during the day.

An essential part of wild turkey hunting is a turkey decoy. During the spring, turkeys are searching for a mate. The sight of a hen or a parading tom can drive all sense from their heads and send them on the attack. A distracted turkey is easy to shoot.

Turkey calls help a hunter lure a turkey into their ambush. Turkeys during the rut are very susceptible to calls. Toms follow the noise of hen calls to find a mate or tom calls to chase off competition. There are several types of calls; the most popular are mouth calls, box calls, and slate calls.

Of course, it is essential to have a good turkey shotgun and good turkey ammo to be successful in the game bird season.

What are the rules when turkey hunting?

Before you begin your outdoor adventure, it’s important to know the rules of turkey hunting.

A bow or a shotgun is required when turkey hunting. There is no rifle season for turkey.

During the spring hunting season, a hunter can buy up to two turkey tags. Each tag is good for one bearded wild turkey. Bearded turkeys are predominantly male. A hunter can only bag one turkey in a day. Turkey hunting hours during the spring season are limited to a half-hour before sunrise to 7:00 p.m.

During the fall turkey season, it is okay to hunt both male and female turkeys. Fall turkey hunting extends until sundown.

Hunters need to be respectful of private property. Trespassing is still a crime, even if it is turkey season. Before hunting on private land, make sure to ask the landowner for permission. Also, check your WMU (wildlife management unit) and regional restrictions to ensure you are complying with all hunting laws in your area.

Did you know?

Organizations like the Ontario Federation of Hunters and Anglers or the Canadian Wild Turkey Foundation are serious about ensuring sustainable Turkey populations. They have a special interest in wildlife management and preservation. They worked hard to bring back the Southern Ontario turkey populations to sustainable levels. It's thanks to their hard work that we have wild turkey hunts again. Without their efforts, Ontario’s wild turkey population would still be extirpated (locally extinct).