The Eastern turkey represents one of Montana's most prized upland game birds. A flock of wild Eastern turkeys moving across a hillside studded with ponderosa pine has become an exciting and permanent addition to Montana's wildlife and hunting scene. This serves as a fitting tribute to the sportsmen who worked so hard to insure that introduction of the wild Eastern turkey into Montana would be a success.
Montana falls outside the wild Eastern turkey's ancestral range and it is not native to Montana. When the Montana Department of Fish and Game decided to introduce turkeys into Montana, it selected the Eastern turkey as the best choice to achieve success. In 1954, department biologists introduced 13 Colorado Eastern turkeys into the mountains of central Montana. A second release was made in 1955, when Eastern turkeys from Wyoming were released into southeastern Montana. Wyoming stock was also used in southeastern Montana in 1956 and 1957, when 26 Eastern turkeys were released. This marked the last time stock from outside Montana was transplanted. Subsequent trapping and relocating distributed Eastern turkeys through numerous sites in Montana.
Montana has a spring gobbler season and an either-sex fall season. Hunters are required to purchase a turkey tag in addition to a bird and conservation license, in order to bag an Eastern turkey. Hunters are allowed one wild turkey per special tag holder, per special season. Popular hunting areas include the Long Pines and Ashland areas of the Custer National Forest, and portions of Fergus County and the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge. Specific information on season hunting dates, open and closed areas, and other information on regulations can be obtained from the turkey regulations for the spring and fall hunts.
Consistently, successful Eastern turkey hunting for toms requires a high degree of skill. Wild turkeys are extremely wary and possess keen color vision and good hearing ability. Finding a place to hunt Eastern turkeys in the Montana spring does not present major problems since much hunting in eastern Montana occurs on either U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service land, or Bureau of Land Management land. But finding Eastern turkeys can present a problem. Preseason scouting for sign left by Eastern turkeys is the best way to find a good hunting area. Signs to look for are roost trees, droppings, feathers, scratch and dusting areas. Also, listen for gobbling. Make a note of feeding areas. In the timbered areas of Montana, preferred roost trees are tall, overly mature, and dead ponderosa pines that are sheltered from high winds. A lot of the Eastern turkey range east of the Continental Divide in Montana is on private property. You must have permission to hunt Eastern turkeys on private property in Montana.