Wild turkey numbers in Canada have exploded over the last few years. As they continue to move north more and more, new seasons and hunting opportunities for this challenging fare are growing.
Turkeys typically love to hang out in transitional areas next to farmland where they find soil to dust but still have the security of forest coverage. They move in and out of the fields in the morning and evening and literally know where they are safe and not safe. Early spring offers an advantage as the foliage has yet to appear on trees, allowing hunters to see the birds at a further distance while moving into late May, hunters will need to call the turkeys out to the fields. Keeping still is important, turkeys have excellent eyesight.
Thanks to wildlife restoration and the capacity of this bird to move to new habitats, Canadians can now hunt turkey in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba (residents only), Ontario and Quebec. Although you can find wild turkey in other provinces, it is not currently legal to hunt them there. Getting permission to hunt on private areas is essential.
BC Wild Turkey Hunting
In British Columbia, wild turkeys are classified as upland birds (small game) while across the border, wild turkeys can be classified as big game. Other upland bird species include grouse, pheasant, partridge, and quail.
Turkey can be found all along the southern regions Boundary Country and the Kootenay, typically between Nakusp and Grand Forks. Prime locations include Wildlife Management Unit (WMU) 8-15, particularly around Christina Lake, and WMU 4-8, between Trail and Castlegar. WMU 4-6 around Creston is another popular turkey spot. As habitat is usually rural/farmland and private property, ask permission from local farmers before accessing their land.
There are two turkey seasons in WMU regions 4 & 8, in the spring and in the fall. The spring hunting season starts April 15th and ends May 15th. The fall season begins September 1st for bow and October 1st, for bow or shot, running until October 15th or 30th, depending on the WMU.
In the spring, hunters can harvest one bearded turkey only but in the fall BC turkey hunters can harvest one male or female bird. The cost of a licence to hunt upland birds (including turkeys) is currently $50 and all licenses expire on March 31st of each year. It is legal to hunt with a rifle or a bow, but make sure you check the specs on both before you head out to bag your bearded Tom.
Tip: Like all hunting, take the time to figure out the turkey’s movement patterns. Watch the trails and do some pre-hunt reconnaissance to find the best spot; the route the birds follow between their roost and morning food.
Alberta Wild Turkey Hunting
In Alberta, the main turkey subspecies is the Merriam, considered the wild turkey of the west. Alberta Merriam’s prefer open deciduous forests, forest edges in foothills and semi-mountainous areas, commonly roosting in pine trees at sundown.
The hunting season for turkey runs from May 1st to 31st. While these elusive creatures can be found in the Cypress Hills areas around Elkwater, only Wildlife Management Units 300-308, 400 and 402 covering the foothills on the western side of the province are open for hunting. As is common in other areas, prime turkey habitat is mainly found on private property in Alberta, talk to landowners and obtain permission before hunting.
In Alberta, wild turkeys are classified as a Game Bird and resident game hunters require a WIN card and a Wildlife Certificate. Hunting Merriam’s requires a special license available by draw only with one bearded male harvest permitted per special license holder. Hunters can often end up waiting 6-8 years to get a tag.
Tip: Turkey’s have keen eyesight, avoiding wearing red, white or blue colours while hunting.
Manitoba Turkey Hunting
Like the other western provinces, the turkey habitat and range primarily cover the southern portion of Manitoba. The spring hunt runs from mid-April to mid-May, with only turkeys showing a visible beard allowed to be taken. Any turkey can be harvested during the fall hunt, which runs from September 15th to October 15th.
Although turkey hunting is limited to a specific number of Game Hunting Areas, spots to check out can be found in the south and west of the province. These include GHA 28 around Souris, GHA 22 and 28 around Brandon and GMA 30 near Spruce Woods Provincial Park. Always be sure to obtain permission if heading onto private property to hunt.
In Manitoba, a valid Manitoba Hunter Education Certificate is required to purchase a hunting license. Resident youth between the age of 12 to 17 can hunt legally without a license provided that they carry proof of their age and hold a Hunter Education Certificate. And of course, they must hunt under the supervision of an adult that also has a license for the same species. The province offers a Wild Turkey Seminar to both youth and first-time turkey hunters. It is illegal to purchase or obtain more than one turkey license at the same time for the same hunting year.
Tip: It’s not safe to stalk a wild turkey as you might mistake another hunter’s turkey calls for a bird you can bag and vice versa.
Ontario Turkey Hunting
Ontario continues to see the turkey population grow exponentially in the province. While plenty can be found in Southern Ontario, their range continues to expand and they can be now found as far north as Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury and North Bay.
The spring hunting season begins in late April and runs until the end of May, while the fall season opens in mid-October and runs until the end of October. Those hunting with a bow can enjoy an extended season, encompassing the entire month of October. Dates vary from year to year so doublecheck the regulations.
The geography of Southern Ontario is perfect for turkey populations; plenty of open farm fields interspersed with the safety of trees and forest. Hunters near the GTA can head towards the Brantford area, a short distance from the city while those in Eastern Ontario will find plenty of spots throughout the Ottawa Valley in Lanark and Renfrew Counties. Further north opens up Crown Land and locations are endless. Look for crown land areas on our topo maps next to farmland and brush up on your calling skills.
Ontario residents wishing to hunt wild turkey must have a valid hunting version outdoor card with a small game license listed on your summary and a wild turkey tag. The legal hours to hunt turkeys are a ½ hour before sunrise and a ½ hour after sunset.
Click here to learn more about the Wild Turkeys of Southern Ontario.
Tip: Make sure a decoy or harvested turkey are fully concealed in a camouflaged vest or hunter orange.
Quebec Turkey Hunting
Wild turkey hunting in Quebec is much like other provinces in Canada with hunting in season allowed from one-half hour before sunrise until noon using both bow and shotgun. There is a two-bird limit and only bearded can be taken in the spring. Fourteen hunting zones are open for spring hunting between from the last Friday in April until mid-May depending on zone, while only six are open for the fall season which runs the last week in October.
Like other areas of the country, turkeys are found in the southern portion of the province, along the south shore of the St. Lawrence, through the Eastern Townships and as far east as Mont-Joli, as well as stretching north from Montreal and Trois-Rivières. The province features both Wildlife Reserves and ZEC’s (controlled hunting areas), with prime locations including the Saint-Maurice, Mastigouche and Rouge-Matawin Wildlife Reserves and throughout the Gatineau and Laurentian regions.
To acquire a wild turkey hunting license, all participants need to hold a hunter’s certificate and hold proof (attestation) that they have taken a course on wild turkey hunting while non-residents do need to show proof or attestation of taking a turkey hunting course. A young person may hunt with an adult who possesses a wild turkey license and carries their certificate with them at all times. If the youth does kill a turkey, it has to be added to the adult’s licence and registered under their own name.
Given the keen eyesight of their quarry, turkey hunters in Quebec do not have to wear blaze orange while hunting. However, they cannot use a dog for retrieval and, since turkeys are not defined as small game, laws regarding shooting from public roads apply.
Do you have a favourite turkey hunting location? Let us know! Looking for detailed GPS maps to help pinpoint that hot spot? Check out our Western Canada and Eastern Canada Backroad GPS Maps. These maps showcase private or Crown land areas, WMU/WMZ/GHA/Hunting Zone boundaries and much more!