Arizona Game and Fish Department officials advise spring turkey hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts that the snowpack is still significant in some higher elevations, and many state highways and forest roads in prime turkey country are closed or impassable due to snow or muddy conditions.
Check for the current closures before going, state game and fish officials said.
Higher-than-average winter snow and rainfall has resulted in the Arizona Department of Transportation and the National Forest Service to continue some winter road closures, many of which access traditional turkey-hunting areas. A number of popular routes of travel in the Apache-Sitgreaves, Kaibab and parts of the Coconino National Forests are closed due to unsafe travel conditions, and to prevent road damage and damage to meadows and sensitive habitats from off-road travel.
Closures may affect Game Management Units 1, 3B, 4A/B, 5B, 6A, 12A/B, 13A/C and 27. The state highways and forest roads of concern are SR67, SR261, SR273, FR113 and many forest roads south of Flagstaff through the Lake Mary and Mormon Lake corridor.
Juniors-only spring turkey hunters can be affected the most by these closures, with the season beginning Friday, April 18. The general spring turkey season starts the following Friday, April 25, and warming weather conditions could allow more roads to be opened.
The majority of these popular hunts take place in the northern part of the state on the Mogollon Rim, the White Mountains and on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
Contacts for the latest updates on road closures and conditions are:
- Arizona Department of Transportation, 5-1-1 or (602) 712-7355, www.az511.com/hcrsweb/hcrsweb.jsp?eventFilter=all&timeFilter=beyond&menuName=az
- Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, (928) 333-4301, www.fs.
- Coconino National Forest, (928) 527-3600, www.fs.fed.us/r3/
- Kaibab National Forest, (928) 635-8200, www.fs.fed.us/r3/
"Despite these conditions in some areas, sportsmen will find there is still plenty of country in which to find turkeys. But plan for nighttime and early morning temperatures to be below freezing, and dress appropriately," department spokesman Bruce Sitko says.
"Also, because of the potential for getting stuck and poor weather conditions, leave a detailed itinerary with a family member or friend, including specific hunting and camping sites and an arrival time back home."
Big Game Management Supervisor Brian Wakeling offers these tips to young hunters: "Gobblers are often moving up in elevation pursuing hens. The hens are often feeding on fresh green growth that is beginning to flourish as snows recede. Gobblers may be found along the receding snow line, and it doesn't require slogging through deep snow with a four-wheel-drive truck or OHV to access them."
Sitko strongly encourages drivers not to attempt going around barricades or locked gates. "Not only have many people already gotten themselves stuck by doing so, they can also be cited," he said.