Although November might be the month that typically celebrates the turkey, more and more hunters enjoy chasing the interesting gobblers in two separate seasons all over South Dakota.
Turkey hunting, although sometimes overshadowed by the state’s world-class pheasant hunting, is still a captivating sport for adventurous gamesmen. According to the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish & Parks, turkey populations and the number of people hunting them have grown exponentially in the past 15 years.
South Dakota has both spring and fall turkey seasons and they are open to residents and nonresidents. According to John Cooper, past Secretary of South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks, most hunters prefer to hunt turkey in the spring season.
“People by far prefer to hunt in the spring because they like to call them, and they’re much easier to call in the spring,” said Cooper. “Hunters also generally like to hunt turkeys in the spring because it’s one of the first outdoor activities you can do after a hard winter. It’s a neat time to be outside because you can enjoy the greening of the woods and watch the wildlife come back out.”
For the avid sportsmen who love to hunt turkey, it’s the experience that keeps them coming back. Hunters can’t get enough of the thrill of scouting for the wild birds, and then calling the bird to them to see the visual and audio displays the bird projects. Turkeys will often fan out their feathers and show their colors, while clucking animatedly. It’s a sight that truly must be witnessed first-hand.
The most common turkey species in South Dakota is the Merriams Turkey, which was introduced into the Black Hills and western prairies in the 1950s and 60s. The reason Merriams have faired so well is that they’re a bird that is comfortable around snow and cold weather. Another species found in South Dakota is the Eastern Wild Turkey – a bird found in counties east of the James River Valley.
Hunters need to purchase either a Black Hills license or a prairie turkey license to hunt legally on public land. Hunters can also contact local Native American tribes for information on hunting on tribal lands. The Black Hills spring turkey licenses are unlimited in number, but prairie turkey firearms licenses are limited in number and are distributed by lottery drawings. Black Hills fall turkey licenses, if available, are limited in number and sold via lottery drawing.
For those hunting in the Black Hills, the hunting area covers about 2.3 million acres and more than 50 percent of that is open to the public. Here, turkey hunting success is about 40 percent on average.
The fall season opens October 1, 2007 and runs through January 31, 2008.