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News Public hearing scheduled for turkey hunting changes

MassWildlife is proposing changes to turkey hunting regulations affecting bag limits, fall season dates, shot size, and the Youth Hunt. A public hearing has been scheduled for May 15. *If approved, regulation changes would be NOT be effective until 2020.
  • Division of Fisheries and Wildlife

Media Contact for Public hearing scheduled for turkey hunting changes

Marion Larson, MassWildlife

Turkey hunters

MassWildlife is proposing changes to turkey hunting regulations affecting bag limits, fall season dates, shot size, and the Youth Hunt. The proposed changes strive to create new hunting opportunities and increase participation. *PLEASE NOTE: If approved, regulation changes would NOT be effective until the 2020 season.* 

A public hearing has been scheduled for Wednesday, May 15 at 6:30 p.m. at the MassWildlife Field Headquarters (1 Rabbit Hill Road, Westborough, MA 01581) to amend rules and regulations relative to turkey hunting. Turkeys are abundant across the state and harvest numbers have been stable in recent years. All data indicate turkey populations will remain robust statewide with increased harvest limits and expanded seasons. The Fisheries and Wildlife Board will accept written comment on the proposal at any time prior to the public hearing, and will accept either written or oral comment at the public hearing. Written comments may be sent to: Chairman, Fisheries and Wildlife Board, c/o Director of MassWildlife, Mass. Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, 1 Rabbit Hill Road, Westborough, MA 01581. Comments may also be sent by email to to the attention of the Fisheries and Wildlife Board. The public comment period will remain open for an additional 2 weeks following the public hearing.

Summary of the proposed turkey hunting regulation changes

The summary below provides an overview of the proposed changes. To review the regulatory language and redline version, please click here.

Increase the annual limit to three birds (2 bearded turkeys in the spring and 1 of either sex in the fall). Currently, hunters may harvest either two bearded birds in the spring with no fall birds or one bearded bird in the spring and one bird of either sex in the fall, for an annual limit of two birds. At this time, 20% of successful spring turkey hunters harvest their season limit of two bearded birds and therefore cannot hunt turkeys during the fall season. The proposed change would allow all hunters to take two bearded birds in the spring and an additional turkey of either sex in the fall, increasing the annual bag limit to three birds. Given the overall high population of turkeys, increasing the annual limit will not impact turkey abundance in the state.

Increase the daily bag limit to two per day during the spring season. Currently, turkey hunters may harvest one turkey per day during the spring season. Increasing the daily bag limit to two will allow hunters to take their spring season limit in a more efficient manner.

Expand the fall season (ARCHERY ONLY) to coincide with the archery deer season. Currently, the fall turkey hunting season begins the second to last Monday in October and ends the second Saturday thereafter, during which hunters may use a shotgun, muzzleloader, or archery equipment. This proposed change would allow turkey hunters to harvest turkeys with archery equipment during the entire duration of the archery deer season (6–8 weeks depending on zone). Turkey hunters would continue to be permitted to use shotgun, muzzleloader, or archery equipment during the traditional 2-week season from the second to last Monday in October through the second Saturday thereafter. In recent years, there has been an increase in fall turkey permits and the number of turkeys harvested with archery equipment; this change will increase opportunity for turkey bowhunters and those deer bowhunters who may have enhanced opportunity to take a turkey while deer hunting.

Allow no larger than #4 shot size. Currently, turkey hunters may only use #4–#7 size shot for turkey hunting. The proposed regulation change will remove the minimum shot size restriction. Due to advancements in ammunition technology, there are now shotshells available that are made of lead alternatives like tungsten which are denser than lead. These alternatives can utilize small shot sizes (#7 or #9) while still maintaining lethal ballistics down range to effectively and humanely harvest a wild turkey at common hunting ranges. These types of ammunition allow hunters greater flexibility when choosing ammunition/shotgun combinations for turkey hunting, including the use of smaller gauge shotguns that may be easier or more convenient for hunters to carry and shoot.

Expand Youth Day turkey hunting hours to ½ hour before sunrise until 5 p.m. The Youth Turkey Hunt Day occurs on only a single day the Saturday before the last Monday in April; approximately 250–285 young adults ages 12–17 participate each spring. This provides young hunters the opportunity to hunt on a special day before the start of the regular spring hunting season. Currently, hunting hours begin one half hour before sunrise and end at noon, providing a limited window of opportunity for young adult hunters. Due to the relatively low participation on Youth Day, expansion of the hunting hours will greatly increase the total time available for hunting and will not result in any impact on turkeys or other constituents.  

Allow Youth Turkey permits issued to youth aged 12–14 for use in the fall turkey hunting seasons. At this time, youth 12–14 years old who successfully complete the mandatory training program for the Youth Day are issued a free Youth Turkey Permit with two turkey tags and must always hunt with a licensed adult mentor hunter. These tags are currently only valid on the Youth Day and the remainder of the regular spring turkey hunting season. When hunting turkeys in the fall, these young hunters must currently use their accompanying mentor’s turkey tags and license. Because young adults who complete the mandatory training workshop for the Youth Day demonstrate significant initiative to earn the Youth Turkey Permit and must always hunt with a mentor, it is unnecessary to restrict the use of their tags to the spring season only. This change will provide additional opportunity for young hunters with the Youth Turkey Permit to use their own tag during the fall season by providing them with 2 spring tags and 1 fall tag. (Note: Under current regulations, youth aged 15–17 are required to have their own hunting license and turkey permit, which allows them to hunt in the spring or fall seasons.)

Media Contact for Public hearing scheduled for turkey hunting changes

Division of Fisheries and Wildlife 

MassWildlife is responsible for the conservation of freshwater fish and wildlife in the Commonwealth, including endangered plants and animals. MassWildlife restores, protects, and manages land for wildlife to thrive and for people to enjoy.