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Chapter 7 – April 16, 2021

The spring turkey general season is underway!

Time to put it all together from field to table

By Kelly Riordan/WDFW

The spring turkey general season is here! With a streak of a warm weather on tap, the turkeys are sure to be out and about. Spring weather can be all over the place so plan for a variety of conditions. Most hunters agree that part of the fun of any hunt is in the preparation. Sorting and dialing in gear, laying out clothing, and countless back-and-forth trips to the garage gathering gear in anticipation of the hunt are the norm.

In this final post, we wanted to cover a few thoughts to remember in the days and hours before jumping in a vehicle and heading afield.

Make a packing list and check off items as they go into your vehicle before you head afield for spring turkey hunting. (Tom Ryle/WDFW)

Check it twice

Lists are a useful tool to keep organized and lessens the chance of forgetting a piece of equipment or even a required license or tag. Here is a sample:

Turkey Hunt 2021

  1. Documents
    • Wallet (driver license, money, credit cards)
    • Outdoor wallet (keep your licenses and tags together)
    • Copy of the regulations pamphlet (physical copy and downloaded onto your phone)
    • Maps
  1. Hunting weapon*
    • Shotgun
      • Choke tubes and choke wrench
      • Turkey load shotguns shells
    • Sling/shooting sticks
    • Cleaning/repair kit
    • Gun case
    • *If bowhunting, your big game setup will be fine for turkeys. Some folks like to reduce the bow weight, though it’s not necessary. As always, shot placement is essential. You should have already practiced with broadheads, especially if you switch heads to those designed specifically for turkeys. Be sure to study shot placement guides.
  1. Clothing
    • Base insulation layer, mid-weight layer, camouflage outerwear
    • (2) pairs of boots and plenty of socks (plan for wet feet)
    • Gloves and facemask (for cold weather and concealment)
    • Raingear
    • Clothes bag
  1. Pack bag
    • Blind and blind chair
    • Decoys
    • Calls
    • Knife
    • Electrical tape or zip-ties (for securing tag to turkey leg)
    • First aid kit and water
    • Snacks
  1. Support products
    • Cooler or insulated meat bags
    • Boot dryer
    • Folding camp chair(s)
    • Cellphone/GPS

A reliable approach to packing is to check items off the list as you load them into your vehicle. This way, as you do a final rundown, you don’t have to question whether something is packed.

Putting it all together

When all the planning and preparation comes together and you find yourself squeezing the trigger on a gobbler, knowing what to do next is important.

The moments after the shot are a critical time. With good shot placement, turkeys will drop to the ground and often flop around as they expire so approach the bird with care. Leg spurs can be very sharp. Once you ensure the bird has expired, take a minute to enjoy the moment, admire the bird, take some photos, and be thankful for the resource.

Next, tag the bird with a valid turkey transport tag. With a knife, completely remove the month and day of the kill from the tag. Attaching the tag to a turkey can be done easily in a couple of ways. You can use a couple small zip-ties or a small piece of black electrical tape and affix the transport tag to the leg of the turkey. Paracord will also work in a pinch. You want to ensure the tag is secure and will not come off during handling and transport.

After a successful shot, it is important to know what to do next. (Tom Ryle/WDFW)

Field dressing

Now that your turkey is properly tagged, you need to field dress the turkey and begin cooling the meat. This is very important to do as soon as possible to ensure the meat doesn’t spoil. It’s easiest to skin the bird and remove the meat, however if you plan to roast or deep fry your bird, then you’ll want to pluck the turkey while it’s still warm otherwise the feathers will be difficult to remove. If plucking, be careful because the skin of a wild turkey is delicate and will tear easily. Here is a fantastic link from the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) on field care.

A wild turkey is built for running and flying short distances so first-time hunters are are often surprised when they see how sleek and lean a wild turkey is compared to the Thanksgiving store-bought bird. A few items to remember: Save everything. The meat of the breast, thighs and legs, and wing butts are the prime cuts, but the heart is good to eat and some like the gizzard and liver as well. Lastly, per WDFW regulations: It is illegal to possess in the field or transport game birds unless a feathered head is left attached to each carcass.

Tom and Abbey Ryle. (WDFW)

Harvest reporting

The final step after a successful hunt is to report your hunting activity. Hunters can submit reports online at fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov or by telephone (toll free at 1-877-945-3492). Hunters who harvest an animal should submit a report within 10 days of harvest and all reports must be submitted by Jan. 31. Reporting helps the agency with management of wild turkeys in Washington.

The 2021 license year began on April 1 so don’t forget to pick up your hunting license and turkey tags. For more comprehensive information on spring turkey hunting in Washington, check out our “Basics of Turkey Hunting in Washington” publication.

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Chapter 2
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