Turkey Hunting in Arizona

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  • C
  • 36,000

    Wild Turkey Population

  • Merriam's, Gould's and Rio Grande

    Turkey Subspecies

  • 200,097

    Number of Licenses Sold Annually

  • $75

    Hunting license is $37 and turkey permit is $38.

    Cost of Resident License and Permit

  • $265

    Hunting/fishing license is $160 and turkey permit is $105.

    Cost of Non-Resident License and Permit

Full disclosure: I've never turkey hunted Arizona. All of my understanding comes from talking with folks in the know, and digging into research data and websites.

That said, 740 turkeys were killed here in 2014, the most recent data available.

Although there is plenty of public ground to hunt wild turkeys in the Grand Canyon State — and some of the units do offer good hunter success rates — getting a tag through their limited license system can be tough.

Depending on the unit, it can take three-plus years to draw, which makes Arizona a difficult destination for the out-of-state hunter. 

On average about 13,000 hunters apply for tags. About half this many are successful in drawing one. So that's an upside.

The hunter success rate has been around 18 percent statewide the last half-dozen years; however, the better Merriam’s turkey units will provide a 25- to 30-percent chance.

Gould’s subspecies draw success averages nearly 100 percent annually, but tags are in high demand.

According to state officials, Rio Grande turkeys were also recently introduced on the Arizona Strip at Black Rock Mountain as well, transplanted from Utah. The NWTF currently estimates this number at around 200 birds.

And here's some more history . . .

Merriam’s and Gould’s wild turkeys are both native to Arizona. Since 1913, turkeys have been classified as a big-game species in the Grand Canyon State. The original bag limit of three was changed to two in 1929. At the time only a fall hunting season was offered. However, in 1963, the first spring turkey opportunity was introduced, and 100 tags were sold.

Today, Arizona turkey tags are sold on a limited-draw basis, with about 9,300 of them up for grabs each spring.

Turkey hunting in Arizona. (John Hafner image)

Virtually any unit offering tags can provide a good hunt, says NWTF regional biologist Scott Lerich, but sometimes it can take years to draw. The White Mountains, Kaibab National Forest and the Mogollon Rim from Flagstaff to Springerville are excellent locations for birds.    

Fun Facts: There are many success stories when it comes to turkey management throughout the Lower 48. Perhaps the most impressive in recent history is the reintroduction and establishment of the Gould’s wild turkey subspecies in southern Arizona.

One of this state's two native turkey subspecies, the Gould’s at one time was widely distributed in southern Arizona. History tells us overhunting in the early 1900s depleted their numbers within the region. However, through sound management practices by the Arizona Game & Fish Department — and partnerships with organizations like the NWTF and others — populations of Gould’s now number around 1,000 in southern Arizona.

Each year a handful of hunters are lucky enough to be a part of recent turkey conservation history when their limited tag arrives in the mail.

– Steve Hickoff 

Arizona Turkey Hunting

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