Crab Turkey 0005


The opening of turkey season is a time of emerging interest in the many acres of public access lands.  Each spring turkey hunters prowl the woods in search of lovesick gobblers.

Southern Illinois contains approximately 350,000 acres of huntable turkey territory.  Hunters fan out throughout those public lands to hunt their favorite locations.

Nesting success has been good in the area and local residents report seeing large flocks of birds all through the winter.  Of particular interest to turkey hunters are the expansive 277,000 acre Shawnee National Forest which offers the single most tract of turkey habitat in Illinois.  Hunter success has traditionally been very high in the forest.

Other state and federal lands are also available for turkey hunting in southern Illinois.   A complete list of public hunting lands is in the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Hunting Digest.  It is available free at locations that sell hunting licenses, from all Department offices throughout the state, and on the IDNR website.

Spring turkey hunting is gobbler hunting.  The male birds gobble to attract hens for mating.  The birds mate, and the hen goes her own way.  Once she is successfully bred, the hen will make a nest, lay eggs, and raise a brood of young.  If the breeding was not successful, she will seek out another gobbler with which to make.

Hunters seeking turkeys should be sure that they learn how to hunt turkeys before taking to the field.  Consistently successful hunters are those that scout the birds prior to the season.  They find sign of the bird’s activity such as feathers, droppings, dusting areas and tracks.  You can sight birds from roadways with the use of binoculars.

Another way of locating birds in the spring is with the use of a “shock gobble”.  Male turkeys will sound off when hens are in the area.  He thinks he is king of the woods during this period and will offer a challenge gobble in response to almost any sound.  The sound can be the gobble of another bird, the hoot of an owl, or even the slamming of a car door.

In the early morning and late afternoon, turkeys move to areas where two types of vegetation converge.  This can be grass, pasture, crop fields, brush or woods.  They frequent fence rows, roadsides, weedy ditches, abandoned roads and old railroad rights of way.

It is important to remember safety always when in the woods turkey hunting.  Turkey hunter will be sharing the woods with mushroom hunters during at least part of the season.  Safe hunters are those who hunt in the traditional fashion by calling birds to a point where a clear kill can be made of a clearly identified target.  A hunter’s knowledge of proper hunting techniques and familiarity with the birds’ habits can be helpful in promoting safe hunting.

Turkey hunters can gain information about the sport from the National Wild Turkey Federation.  Information is available on line at:

Information about turkey hunting is Illinois is available from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, One Natural Resources Way, Springfield, IL62702-1271.  Their website address is


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