Considerations for Timing of Spring Wild Turkey Hunting Seasons in the Southeastern
All You Need to Spring Turkey Hunt
Turkey Videos from KY Afield
This is a summary of hunting laws, intended solely for informational use and is applicable March - June, 2020. The exact wording of Kentucky's spring turkey hunting laws can be viewed here.
NEW THIS YEAR
- PUBLIC LANDS No spring hunting at Blue Grass Army Depot. Open turkey hunts at Land Between the Lakes; quota hunts eliminated for the 2020 spring season. At Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuge, spring squirrel hunting season abides by Tennessee hunting guidelines and is closed during turkey quota hunts.
WILD TURKEY HUNTING
Spring Hunting Seasons
General Season - Twenty-three (23) consecutive days beginning on the Saturday closest to April 15.
Youth-Only Season - Two (2) consecutive days beginning on the first Saturday in April.
Shooting hours are 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. Hunters may be in the field before and after shooting hours.
Exception: Turkey hunting dates and regulations on federal military reservations may differ from statewide seasons. Contact the appropriate agency for details on the following federal lands: Blue Grass Army Depot, Fort Campbell Military Reservation, Fort Knox Military Reservation.
Feeding of Wildlife
From March 1 through May 31, it is illegal to feed wildlife with grain, seed or manufactured animal feed outside the curtilage of the home (the area immediately surrounding a home or group of homes). This regulation does not apply to normal agricultural practices or food plots, or municipal areas not open to legal hunting or trapping.
No Pre-Season Calling
A person shall not mimic the sound of a turkey in an area open to turkey hunting and where turkeys are reasonably expected to be present from March 1 until the opening of the youth-only turkey season, and from the close of the youth-only turkey season until the opening of the state-wide turkey season. However, locating turkeys with an owl, crow, coyote, or woodpecker call is permitted when scouting.
Adult Hunters: Unless exempt, all spring turkey hunters ages 16 and older must carry with them in the field proof of purchase of a valid Kentucky hunting license and a valid spring turkey permit. Short-term (1- or 7-day) hunting licenses are not valid for turkey hunting. The spring turkey permit is valid for the general spring season and allows a hunter to harvest up to the spring season bag limit of turkeys. Persons ages 16 and older may not hunt turkeys during the youth-only season.
Youth Hunters: Children ages 15 and younger may hunt turkeys during the youth-only hunting weekend and the general spring season.
Youths younger than age 12 are exempt from license and turkey permit requirements. Unless exempt, all spring turkey hunters ages 12-15 must carry with them in the field proof of purchase of a valid Kentucky hunting license and a valid Spring Turkey Permit. Youths ages 12-15 are eligible to purchase a Youth Turkey Permit, which is valid for the harvest of one turkey during a license year. Youth hunters must abide by season bag limits and harvest restrictions. The resident-only Youth Sportsman’s License includes two (2) Youth Turkey Permits.
Youth hunting licenses and permits are valid for the entire license year if they are purchased before the child’s 16th birthday. Youths who hunt turkeys with a firearm must be accompanied by an adult who shall remain in a position to take immediate control of the firearm at all times.
Spring Season Bag Limits
A hunter may take a male turkey or a turkey with a visible beard. No more than one (1) bird may be taken per day. No more than two (2) birds may be taken per spring season. Any combination of male turkeys, or turkeys with visible beards, may be included in this two-bird season limit. Turkeys taken by youths during the youth-only season count toward their spring turkey bag limit.
All harvested turkeys must be logged and telechecked. See the
Recording, Checking, Tagging and Transporting
section of our site.
Anyone may call turkeys, or assist in the hunt. Callers and assistants are not required to possess a hunting license or turkey permit, and may carry equipment while in the field.
Hunters are not required to wear hunter orange clothing during the spring turkey seasons. However, wearing an article of hunter orange clothing while carrying a harvested turkey is a simple and effective way to help prevent hunting accidents that can occur when a hunter is mistaken for game.
Possession of Live Wild Turkeys and Eggs/Release of Wild Turkeys
Due o the potential for spread of disease and genetic pollution, it is illegal to possess live wild turkeys. For the same reasons, domestic or pen-raised turkeys should not be released into the wild. It is also illegal to possess or attempt to hatch wild turkey eggs. It is further recommended that turkeys not be artificially fed during any time of the year. Providing standing corn, wheat or clover patches is a much better alternative.
Legal Spring Turkey Hunting Equipment
Hunters may only use the following to take turkeys during the spring seasons:
- Breech-loading or muzzle-loading shotguns no larger than 10 gauge and no smaller than .410.
- Breech-loading shotguns must be plugged to hold a maximum of three shells (two in magazine and one in chamber).
- Lead or non-toxic shot no larger than No. 4.
- Longbows, recurve bows and compound bows of any draw weight (no minimum).
- Crossbows of any draw weight (no minimum) with a working safety device.
- Non-barbed broadheads with a minimum cutting diameter of 7/8-inch, whether expandable or non-expandable.
Prohibited Spring Turkey Hunting Methods
A person hunting wild turkeys shall not:
- Hunt over bait. An area is considered baited until 30 days after the bait has been removed. However, a person may hunt wild turkeys on an area where grain, feed or other substance exists as the result of a bona fide agricultural practice or manipulating a crop for a wildlife management purpose.
- Use a dog during the spring season.
- Hunt from a boat, or from any type of vehicle unless prescribed by regulation (see “Hunting Method Exemptions” in the “General Information” section of this guide).
- Use or possess an electronic or digital calling device.
- Harvest a roosting turkey.
- Use live decoys.
TURKEY HUNTING SAFETY TIPS
Don't stalk a turkey. The chances of getting close enough for a shot are slim, and odds of becoming involved in an accident increase.
Use extreme caution when tail fanning or reaping for gobblers. Hunters run the risk of being mistaken for a live turkey while engaging in this type of hunting technique.
Eliminate the colors red, white and blue from your turkey hunting outfit. Red or white are the colors hunters are looking for when differentiating a gobbler’s head from the hen’s grayish-blue head. These colors not only put you in danger, but they can be seen by turkeys as well.
Don't move, wave or make turkey sounds to alert another hunter to your presence. A quick movement may draw fire. Yell in a loud voice, "Hey, I'm here", and remain hidden.
Be particularly careful when using a gobbler call. The sound and motion may attract other hunters, and could draw fire.
When selecting your calling position, sit at the base of a large tree, if one is available, to protect your torso and head. Position yourself so you can see 180 degrees in front of you.
Never shoot at a sound or movement. Be certain of your target. Assume that every sound you hear is made by another hunter.
When hunting with a turkey decoy, place the decoy about 20 yards from your calling position. To be safe, you need a clear line of sight beyond the decoy of at least 80 yards. This will enable you to see any approaching hunter and keep you at a safe distance if another hunter were to shoot at your decoy.
Keep your shotgun unloaded when not in the field, and open the action or unload your shotgun when climbing a steep hill, stepping over low fence wire, or fording a creek
LICENSES AND PERMITS
General Hunter Licensing
Q: Does a non-resident who owns land in Kentucky have to buy non-resident licenses and permits?
Yes. All nonresidents must purchase nonresident licenses and permit.
Persons who take or attempt to take game are considered hunters and therefore subject to licensing requirements.
Unless license exempt, hunters must obtain and carry while in the field proof that they have met the license requirements for the kind of hunting they are doing. This proof can be either a paper license/permit or a license authorization number.
Persons who can’t show they are licensed properly while hunting risk being issued a citation.
Each hunter must have his or her own license or permit. Paper licenses and permits must be signed and the hunter information portion (signature, address, eye and hair color, sex, height and weight) completed before going afield.
In some cases, a resident hunter may not be required to buy a hunting license, permits to hunt deer, bear or turkey, or a Migratory Game Bird-Waterfowl Permit.
Here are those situations:
- Resident and nonresident children younger than the age of 12 are not required to purchase licenses and permits, except the elk hunt drawing application.
- Kentucky resident owners of farmlands, their spouses and dependent children hunting upon their own farmlands during an open season.
- Tenants, their spouses and dependent children hunting on farmlands where they reside and work.
- Kentucky residents on military leave of more than three days in this state who carry identification and papers verifying their leave status.
- Members of the U.S. Armed Forces based in Kentucky engaged in sport hunting or fishing on the following Kentucky National Guard properties: Hidden Valley Training Area in Powell County and the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Muhlenberg County.
HOW TO BUY LICENSES AND PERMITS
WHICH LICENSE OR PERMIT DO I NEED?
LICENSE AND PERMIT FEES
Q: Can more than one youth turkey permit be purchased?
Yes. Multiple youth turkey permits may be purchased, but season bag limits must be followed.
A resident is any person who has established permanent domicile and legal residence, and has resided in Kentucky for 30 days prior to buying a license, full-time students enrolled in an educational institution for at least six months, or military service personnel on permanent assignment in Kentucky.
A person who does not meet the definition of a Kentucky resident is considered a nonresident and must purchase nonresident licenses and permits. Nonresident youth hunters are subject to the same license and permit requirements as resident youth hunters. A nonresident who owns land in Kentucky must purchase nonresident licenses and permits.
Resident and nonresident hunters younger than 12 are not required to purchase licenses and permits, except for the elk drawing application.
Resident and nonresident hunters ages 12-15 are eligible to purchase discounted youth licenses and permits, which are valid for the entire license year if they are purchased before the youth is 16.
Persons 15 years of age and under who hunt turkey, elk, deer or bear with a firearm must always be accompanied by an adult.
Persons under 12 years old, who have passed a hunter education course, may hunt small game and furbearers without being accompanied by an adult.
The annual youth hunting license authorizes the holder to hunt all small game species and migratory bird species.
The youth turkey permit allows the hunter to harvest one turkey. The youth turkey permit may be used during any turkey season. The resident-only youth sportsman’s license includes the annual youth hunting license, two (2) youth deer permits and two (2) youth turkey permits.
Resident Senior or Disabled Combination Hunting and Fishing Licenses
Please go to http://fw.ky.gov/Licenses/Pages/Resident-Senior-and-Disabled-Licenses.aspx for information about resident senior or disability licenses.
Sportsman's License - Save $67
Available to Kentucky residents only, the Sportsman’s License includes a combination hunting and fishing license, spring and fall turkey permits, statewide deer permit, state Migratory Game Bird-Waterfowl Permit and trout permit.
A federal duck stamp (available at post offices and online at www.duckstamp.com ) is required for waterfowl hunting.
RECORDING, CHECKING and TAGGING
All successful turkey hunters must follow the steps for recording, checking and tagging their harvest. See the Recording, Checking, Tagging and Transporting page for all info. View the County Code Numbers for Telecheck here.
GENERAL HUNTING REGULATIONS
A person shall not enter upon the lands of another to shoot, hunt, trap, fish or for other wildlife-related recreational purposes without the verbal or written permission of the landowner, tenant, or person who has authority to grant permission.
Those who fail to obtain permission are subject to arrest and prosecution.
Railroad tracks and rights of way are privately-owned property and permission to hunt, trap or fish must be obtained prior to entry.
Landowners are under no obligation to allow hunters to retrieve game or hunting dogs from their property.
Persons born on or after Jan. 1, 1975 must carry a valid hunter education card or hunter education exemption permit while hunting. Persons not required to have licenses or permits are exempt from hunter education certification.
Hunter education courses are held throughout the state. Pre-registration must be done online at fw.ky.gov More information about the registration process is available here.
Children must be at least 9 years old to take the hunter education course. People who complete the course are is - sued an orange certification card. Hunter education cards issued by other states are valid in Kentucky.
Children younger than 12 years old are exempt from hunter education certification, but must be accompanied by an adult who meets the hunter education requirement. The adult must be in a position to take immediate control of the bow or firearm at all times while hunting. One adult cannot accompany more than two hunters under 12 years old at the same time.
Apprentice Hunting Opportunity
Persons new to hunting who have not taken the hunter education course may buy a one-time temporary hunter education exemption permit online for free (for a limited time). This apprentice hunting opportunity allows new hunters in Kentucky to hunt for up to one year (from date of purchase) without a hunter education card. The permit requires its holder to hunt with a licensed, adult hunter (at least 18 years old) who meets the hunter education requirement. The adult shall be in a position to take immediate control of the exempted hunter’s bow or firearm at all times while hunting. This law applies even if the exempted hunter is an adult.
After the hunter education exemption permit expires, the hunter is no longer exempt and must successfully complete a hunter education course.
The temporary hunter education exemption permit is valid only in Kentucky. It is not accepted at Blue Grass Army Depot or Fort Campbell.
Resident landowners, spouses and dependent children, tenants, their spouses and their dependent children are only hunter education exempt on property they own, or the property where they reside and work. When hunting elsewhere, they must comply with Kentucky’s hunter education law.
Replacement Hunter Education Cards
Free replacement hunter education cards can be printed here online.
Hunting Method Exemptions
The department grants exemptions to hunters with certain physical disabilities to hunt with a crossbow during archery-only seasons, or to use a stationary vehicle as a hunting platform. However, persons with qualifying physical disabilities must first have an exemption form completed and signed by a licensed physician certifying why the exemption is necessary.
Forms are available online or by calling the department.
Go to Hunting Method Exemptions
page for more information. A completed exemption form serves as the hunter’s exemption permit. It should not be returned to the department. Persons who obtain an exemption are still required to have the appropriate hunting license and permits, and must carry the signed exemption form with their hunting license and permits while in the field.
Concealed Carry Deadly Weapons Permits
Anyone who may legally possess firearms may carry firearms while hunting, but any firearms carried concealed must be done so pursuant to KRS 527.020.
A person convicted of a felony is prohibited from possessing or hunting with a firearm in Kentucky. The prohibition on handguns applies to those convicted after Jan. 1, 1975. The prohibition on other firearms applies to those convicted after July 15, 1994. See KRS 527.040 for more details, or contact your County Attorney.
Report Game Law Violations
Anyone may report wildlife law violators anonymously by calling 1-800-25-ALERT (1-800-252-5378).
Wild Turkey Summer Brood Survey
We need your Help!
Please help us collect important observation data on turkey reproduction each summer, July 1-August 31!
Complete the summer brood survey one of these three ways:
Wild Turkey Survey ArchiveSpring Hunting Guide
Youth Turkey Season FAQ
- Paper Datasheet - print, write in your observations, and mail back to us on September 1st
- Web Page - makes entering observations easy
- App for Apple or Android smart phones – easy data entry on the go! (Survey Instructions for app)