Salt Lake City – Thanksgiving is a time that revolves around all things turkey. From adorable interiors to deliciously prepared main dishes, turkeys are a great holiday centerpiece. If you like the idea of harvesting your own locally sourced turkey—rather than fighting the mob to buy one at your neighborhood grocery store—you can start planning next year’s Thanksgiving feast now and apply for a chance. to hunt turkeys in Utah next spring.
The application period for the spring 2023 limited access turkey hunt opens December 13. To be included in the permit drawing, you must submit your application before 11:00 PM on December 27. You can apply on the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources website or by phone by calling the nearest regional DWR office.
The results of the draw will be released no later than January 5, 2023. You will be notified by email, but you can also get the draw results online or by calling 1-800-221-0659.
The restricted-access hunt will be held from April 8 to 27, 2023. The following number of permits are available for each of the DWR’s five regions:
- Northern: 400
- Central: 299
- Northeast: 200
- Southeast: 200
- Southern: 600
However, if you don’t pull one of the limited-access permits, you can still hunt turkeys in the spring. After the limited-access hunt is over, general statewide turkey hunting takes place in May. Permits for general season hunting are not restricted – although each hunter can only get one – and are sold over the counter or online, so you won’t have a problem getting one.
Permits for Utah’s statewide general turkey hunt go on sale March 2 at 8 a.m. The general turkey season runs from May 1 to 31, and the juvenile turkey hunt runs from April 28 to 30.
More information on Utah’s upcoming spring turkey hunting season is available in the 2022-2023 Utah Upland Game and Turkey Guidebook. The free guide is available on the DWR website or you can pick up a copy at a DWR office or hunting and fishing licensing agents throughout Utah.
Hunting seasons in Turkey
Utah offers a spring turkey hunt (limited access and general season) and also a fall turkey hunt. The spring hunts provide more opportunities for hunters across the state, while the fall turkey hunt in general was implemented in 2014 as a way to address the ongoing turkey nuisance and depredations that lead to damage to private property.
Because fall hunting is specifically designed to eliminate conflicts with landowners, turkey hunting is conducted in the fall to alleviate these conflicts, rather than provide opportunity. Fall limits are raised annually to address these specific nuisance or predatory areas and are not available in all areas of Utah. This hunt runs from October 1 to February 28, 2023.
“The fall turkey hunting permits are also limited in number because they are not designed to provide opportunity, but to reduce recurring damage to specific properties,” said DWR Upland Game Coordinator Heather Talley.
History of Turkeys in Utah
There are currently between 25,000 and 35,000 wild turkeys in the entire state. While there is some expected decline in the population due to last year’s drought – which is impacting the survival of fledglings (chicks) to adulthood – there is still a stable population of turkeys statewide. There are two subspecies of turkey that live in Utah: Rio Grande and Merriam’s. Turkeys have a long history in Utah, but while current populations are thriving, that wasn’t always the case.
“Based on historical and archaeological evidence, it is clear that Native Americans and turkeys coexisted in Utah,” Talley said. “That evidence includes pictographs, petroglyphs, blankets made from turkey feathers and turkey bones found in places where Native Americans historically lived.”
However, no established turkey populations had been seen in Utah for 100 years or more until the 1950s. Other than a failed reintroduction in the 1920s, there are no records of turkeys in Utah from when Europeans began exploring the state until the successful reintroduction of the birds in the 1950s.
In the 1950s, biologists from the Utah Department of Fish and Game (the agency’s name was later changed to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources in 1967) successfully released Merriam’s wild turkeys into Utah obtained from Colorado and Arizona. These transplants established turkeys in Grand, Garfield, Kane, Iron and Washington counties. Turkeys from these populations have since been trapped and relocated within the state.
Beginning in 1989, the DWR began a wild turkey capture and transplant program in the state, using primarily Rio Grande turkeys and occasionally Merriam turkeys from Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming were used.