Turkey season opens May 1

— From John J. Audubon’s “Birds of America”

The spring season for hunting wild turkey in New York runs from May 1 to 31.

Spring turkey season opens May 1 in all counties north of the Bronx-Westchester County boundary and, new for 2023, in Suffolk County on Long Island.

Another change that went into effect last fall allows shot sizes as small as Number 9 for turkey hunting. This regulatory change affects both the spring and fall seasons statewide. The change was made to modernize regulations as technology has advanced over the years to increase the down-range effectiveness of smaller shot sizes. 

On average, about 18,000 turkeys are killed each spring season, varying with the number of hunters and turkey productivity in previous springs. This spring, according to a release from the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, “improved turkey harvest is expected compared to last year. Hunters prefer to take toms (2+ year-old birds) typically producing a two-year lag between summer productivity and spring take.”

Overall, turkey populations are lower now than a few years ago due to below-average reproductive success two of the last four years. However, improved turkey productivity in 2020 and 2022 means a greater proportion of toms available to hunters this spring compared to last year.

The spring season runs from May 1 to 31. Hunters must have a turkey hunting permit in addition to their hunting license. Shooting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise to noon each day.

Hunters may take two bearded turkeys during the spring season, but only one bird per day and may not use rifles or handguns firing a bullet. Hunters may hunt with a shotgun or handgun loaded with shot sizes no larger than Number 2 or smaller than Number 9, or with a bow or crossbow.

Successful hunters must fill out the tag that comes with their turkey permit and immediately attach it to any turkey harvested. They must report their harvest within seven days of taking a bird by calling 1-866-426-3778 (1-866 GAMERPT), or by reporting the harvest online at DEC's Game Harvest Reporting website.

For more information about turkey hunting in New York, see the 2022-23 Hunting and Trapping Regulations Guide or visit the "Turkey Hunting" pages of the DEC's website.

Safety tips

The DEC offers this advice for hunting turkeys:

— Don’t stalk. More than half of turkey hunting injuries happen when one hunter stalks another;

— Always assume any call or footsteps you hear are from another hunter. Don’t shoot until you clearly see the whole turkey and know its sex;

— If you see another hunter, talk to them clearly, and don't move. Never wave or use a turkey call to alert another hunter;

— Turkeys are tough. You need to be close before you shoot (30 yards or closer is best). You need to get a clear head and neck shot. Do not try to shoot the turkey in the body or when they are flying;

— Smaller shot, Number 4, 5, and 6, work better than larger shot, due to denser shot patterns;

— When calling, sit still with your back against a big tree, to hide you from turkeys and stalkers;

— Never wear turkey colors — red, white, or blue;

— Wear hunter orange when going in or out of the woods and when walking around to make yourself more visible to other hunters;

— When sitting still waiting for a turkey, put hunter orange on a tree near you to alert other hunters to your presence; and

— If you take a turkey or carry a decoy, wrap it in hunter orange.

— Melissa Hale-Spencer

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