Turkey Hunting in Arizona

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  • C
  • 25,000 (Merriam's), 1,500 (Gould's) and 500 (Rio Grandes)

    Wild Turkey Population

  • Merriam's, Gould's and Rio Grande

    Turkey Subspecies

  • 200,097

    Number of Licenses Sold Annually

  • $37 (general hunting) plus $38 (turkey)

    Cost of Resident License and Permit

  • License options vary; plus $105 (turkey)

    Cost of Non-Resident License and Permit

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.

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.

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 1,500 in southern Arizona (up from a thousand just several years ago).

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 500 birds (up from 200 several years back).

How and Where to Hunt

That said, 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. Each year some hunters are lucky enough to be a part of recent turkey conservation history when their tag arrives in the mail.

Virtually any unit offering tags can provide a good hunt, authorities say, 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. 

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% statewide the last half-dozen years; however, the better Merriam’s turkey units will provide a 25- to 30% chance.

– Steve Hickoff 

Turkey hunting in Arizona. (John Hafner image)

Go here for more Realtree turkey hunting.