Colorado’s 2018 Spring Turkey Forecast

If you plan to hunt turkeys in Colorado, there are plenty of reasons to get out there and “strut your stuff” this spring.

Colorado’s 2018 turkey season kicks off Saturday, April 14. And, if you plan to hunt gobblers, there are plenty of reasons to get out there and “strut your stuff” this spring. Abundant turkey populations, easy to obtain licenses and good access to public land are all available to hunters this season.

“Turkey hunters should see a good season here in Colorado in the spring of 2018,” said CPW Small-Game Manager Ed Gorman. “Populations are healthy and robust. Production was good last summer. Good numbers of birds, good access–all the things you look for in a successful turkey season.”   

The “gobble” of a wild turkey is one of the most recognizable sounds in all of nature. Yet, the wild turkey’s boisterous call was nearly silenced in the early 1900s due to poaching and habitat loss. Thanks to decades of conservation programs and aggressive trap-and-transplant efforts, however, the turkey is now one of Colorado’s most abundant gamebirds and also one of the state’s biggest conservation success stories.

“Trap and transplant is an interesting part of CPW’s history,” stated Gorman “Our primary partner on the trap and transplant efforts is, of course, the National Wild Turkey Federation. Historically, over the past 30 to 40 years ago, we trapped and transplanted thousands and thousands of turkeys to many locations. So, we can credit a lot of our increasing turkey populations and particularly range distribution expansions to the trap and transplant programs.”

Historical Photo: Colorado Parks and Wildlife works with members of the National Wild Turkey Federation to release Rio Grande turkeys at Bijou Creek in Adams County. In 2004, there were 29 turkeys released at the site and the population has successfully reproduced, ensuring additional hunting opportunities for future generations of turkey hunters. Photo by © Tyler Baskfield/CPW

Colorado is home to two subspecies of turkeys– the native Merriam’s and the non-native Rio Grande, which was introduced to the state in the 1980s. Merriam’s are widely dispersed and are generally found in the forests and meadows throughout the foothills and mountains west of I-25. The Rio Grande turkeys are plains dwellers, inhabiting the cottonwood and riparian areas adjacent to the agricultural fields in eastern Colorado. For turkey hunters, it’s important to understand the differences in habitat and behavior between the two subspecies.

Gorman helped explain the differences between the two subspecies.“Merriam’s wild turkey are nomads, meaning they move all over the landscape wherever there is suitable habitat. Merriam’s are here today and gone tomorrow. It goes without saying as much as Merriam’s turkeys move around the landscape that scouting is integral. Merriam’s are classic species that move up the hill as the snow melts. So, if you’re in a spring where there is lots of snow and it’s really low, the birds are probably low. If you’re in a normal spring where the snowmelt is occurring at the the lower elevations and is moving up the hill, turkeys are going to follow that. Generally speaking, right below the snow line is a great place to locate Merriam’s.”

“Rio Grande turkeys tend to be more home bodies,” he added.Most of their habitat is arranged in narrow, linear design. So, they may move up and down a river corridor but they are very tied to a home range.”

Colorado offers both limited and over-the-counter turkey licenses. Success rates are generally high for both types of licenses. Additionally, there are a variety of public lands that offer turkey hunting during the spring season.

Gorman is enthusiastic about success rates of turkey hunting. “It’s generally pretty easy to get a turkey license in Colorado, and when you do get one, our success rates are generally pretty high. On limited permits, we’re averaging in the high 50s (percent) for hunter success. And when we get to the over the counter stuff, our success rate is in the upper 30s (percent), which is really high compared to turkey hunting elsewhere.”

And when it comes to land access, Gorman says that it “can be pretty easy for the most part. There are tons and tons of public land in this state, whether that’s forest service, BLM or state wildlife areas that have good numbers of wild turkeys in the spring. There are many places to look for wild turkeys in this state and many of those occur on public land.”     

For more information about Colorado’s spring/fall turkey seasons, please see the Turkey Brochure. Brochures and over-the counter licenses are available online, at CPW offices and statewide license agents.

Additional Turkey Hunting Tips & Tactics

Colorado Parks and Wildlife thanks you for hunting Colorado and encourages you to have a safe and successful spring turkey season.

Blog post and video by Jerry Neal. Neal is a videographer and information specialist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. 

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