OKLAHOMA — Turkey hunters have every reason to be optimistic when the spring season opens statewide April 6.

Rio Grande turkey populations are doing well according to Rod Smith, southwest region wildlife supervisor for the Wildlife Department.

“Turkey populations are in good shape right now. We had a solid hatch last year which will maintain turkey numbers at a high level through this spring,” Smith said.

Some hunters had expressed concern that the warm, dry weather may cause gobblers to begin the spring breeding season before opening day. No need to worry, says Smith.

A few winter flocks are beginning to break up into smaller groups, but there are still some large flocks out there in their winter pattern. Overall, I would say they are progressing normally,” Smith said.

Following several good production years, turkey numbers are way up across the eastern half of the state.

“If you found turkeys last year, you’ll likely find them in the same place this spring,” said Jack Waymire, southeast region senior wildlife biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “Things are beginning to green up and turkeys are starting to hang out in those open areas.”

With turkey populations high, this year is a good opportunity to focus on taking a mature gobbler, according Waymire.

“I always encourage veteran hunters to try to take an adult. It can be a little more difficult at times, but it is a fun challenge,” Waymire said.

To hunt turkeys in Oklahoma, hunters must possess a resident or non-resident Oklahoma hunting license or combination license and the $5 fishing and hunting legacy permit, as well as a spring turkey permit. Lifetime license holders are exempt from having to purchase the spring turkey permit and the annual fishing and hunting legacy permit.

Hunters do not check turkeys taken west of I-35, but all turkeys harvested east of I-35 must be checked at the nearest hunter check station. For more information on regulations and bag limits, consult the “2005-06 Oklahoma Hunting Guide,” which are available at hunting and fishing license vendors across the state or on line at www.wildlifedepartment.com.