Talkin’ turkey: Birds on the rebound in valley |

Talkin’ turkey: Birds on the rebound in valley

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Courtesy Colorado Division of Wildlife

CARBONDALE – Sunday brought an end to Colorado’s spring turkey hunt. Local hunters who didn’t bag a bird can’t blame their lack of success on lack of turkeys, though.

The wild turkey population in the Roaring Fork Valley is, by all accounts, booming – a result both of efforts to bolster populations by the Colorado Division of Wildlife and the turkeys proliferating on their own, according to John Groves, district wildlife manager in the DOW’s Carbondale office.

“We’re seeing turkeys … in areas where we’ve never seen them before,” Groves said.

Wild turkeys are doing well across Colorado, according to DOW spokesman Randy Hampton in Grand Junction. It is no longer unusual to encounter the birds on a backcountry hike, for example.

“It’s a relatively new – within the last 10 years – critter to see around Colorado,” he said.

The population south of Carbondale along Highway 133 is doing well enough that, in many years, the DOW traps a number of the birds and relocates them to help boost or reintroduce populations elsewhere, Groves said.

Still, Carbondale-area resident Franz Froelicher and his son struck out in their turkey hunt this spring. The younger Froelicher held one of the limited permits to hunt turkeys in game unit 43, the Carbondale unit southwest of Highway 82. Only 30 licenses were available for the spring hunt in that area, according to the DOW.

The Froelichers saw plenty of turkeys, but the birds were flocking to food on private ranches, where they weren’t accessible to the hunters.

Froelicher remembers wild turkeys in Carbondale when he was a kid in the 1950s, then they nearly disappeared completely. Now, he said, the birds are thriving again.

Their expanding range includes growing populations in the Fryingpan River Valley, east of Basalt, on Missouri Heights and stretching farther south in the Crystal River Valley, outside of Carbondale, according to Groves.

Hunting the birds is also growing in popularity, he said, but spring permits in the valley are limited, and hunters can’t get one annually.

“I’ve drawn a permit a couple of times and had pretty good luck,” said Carbondale-area resident Michael Benge, who said he has encountered turkeys more frequently for about the past decade.

“I’ve seen them down low in the valleys to up to 10,000 feet or so,” said Benge, who is also a big-game hunter.

The spring turkey hunt ran from April 10 through May 23. In addition to the 30 permits available in the Carbondale unit, 35 spring licenses were available in unit 444, covering the area north of Basalt and the Fryingpan, stretching to Glenwood Springs on the east side of Highway 82.

The units south of Basalt (east of Highway 82) and from Aspen to Independence Pass are closed to both the spring and fall turkey hunts because bird populations are insufficient. But Carbondale unit 43 will have unlimited fall permits, and Basalt unit 444 will have 20 fall licenses, according to the DOW.

The fall hunt runs Sept. 1 to Oct. 3.