Best Turkey Hunting States: The Ultimate Guide

turkey hunting

Turkey hunting season in most states begins with the arrival of April. Many hunters look forward to this time of year. Despite fluctuations in turkey populations, well-designed hunting regulations are in place to ensure stability and sustainability for future seasons. If you are fortunate to live in a state renowned for turkey hunting, you are already at an advantage. But for those in areas where turkey hunting opportunities are less abundant, it is the perfect time to go out and find new hunting grounds. We have taken a close look at turkey populations, historical data, the length of hunting seasons, and the likelihood of success in identifying the top states for turkey hunting. Let’s dive in and explore where your next hunting adventure could take you.

Top 10 States for Turkey Hunting

1. Wisconsin

Wisconsin has excellent hunting opportunities, with nearly 5 million acres of public hunting land, including massive national forests and state-managed wildlife areas. That is a hunter’s paradise. Combine this with a healthy turkey population (over 500,000 according to the Wisconsin DNR), and you have a recipe for success.

  • Turkey Population: Estimated 500,000
  • 2023 Harvest Data: 42,439 turkeys
  • Public Land: 5 million + acres
  • License Cost: Resident $15; Non-resident $65
  • Spring Season: Typically April to May
  • Best Spots: Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, Chippewa County (incl. Flambeau River State Forest)

2. Alabama

Alabama takes its turkey hunting seriously, offering a long enough season for hunters to really make the most of it. The state is home to a good population of Eastern wild turkeys, setting the stage for some memorable hunts. To get the most out of your hunting trips, it’s wise to do a little research beforehand. Checking in with Alabama’s wildlife agency will provide you with up-to-date information on turkey populations and their locations, helping you plan your hunts more effectively.

  • Turkey Population: 365,000
  • 2023 Harvest Data: 47,000 Turkeys 
  • Public Land: 1 million acres
  • License Cost: Resident $32.55; Non-resident $377.25
  • Spring Season: Typically March to May
  • Best Spots: William B. Bankhead National Forest, Talladega National Forest (incl. Talladega WMA), Walter B. Jones National Wildlife Refuge

3. Missouri

Missouri really stands out for its turkey hunting. The state boasts a population of over 500,000 turkeys, making it a prime destination for hunters. With nearly 900,000 acres of public land available, you won’t find yourself short on places to set up. It’s a welcoming spot for both locals and visitors looking to experience some of the best hunting around.

  • Turkey Population: Over 500,000
  • 2023 Harvest Data: 41,970 turkeys
  • Public Land: 900,000+ acres
  • License Cost: Resident $20.50; Non-resident $276.50
  • Spring Season: Typically April to May
  • Best Spots: Mark Twain National Forest, Ozark National Scenic Riverways, Schell-Osage Glades Wildlife Area

4. Tennessee

Tennessee is a great place for turkey hunting, thanks to its healthy population of Eastern wild turkeys and plenty of public lands suited for hunting. You can find good spots in both the hills and forests, making it easy to find a location that matches your hunting style. Overall, Tennessee offers diverse and rewarding turkey hunting experiences for both novice and experienced hunters.

  • Turkey Population: Over 200,000
  • 2023 Harvest Data: 31,802 turkeys
  • Public Land: 175,000 acres
  • License Cost: Resident $33; Non-resident $140
  • Spring Season: Typically March to May
  • Top Spots: Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area, Big Ridge WMA, Catoosa Wildlife Management Area

5. Texas

Everything’s bigger in Texas, and that includes turkey hunting. With vast landscapes and clear skies, it’s the Rio Grande turkeys that steal the show here. They are big, challenging, and waiting for you. While finding public land to hunt on might require a bit of effort, it is all part of the Texas-sized adventure. To get the lowdown on licenses and the best hunting spots, Texas’ wildlife agency is the place to go.

  • Turkey Population: 510,500
  • 2023 Harvest Data: 16,630 Turkeys
  • Public Land: 1 million acres
  • License Cost: Resident $25; Non-resident $126
  • Spring Season: Typically March to May
  • Best Spots: Edwards Plateau (incl. Edwards Plateau WMA & Kerr WMA), Hill Country (incl. Gillespie County WMA & Blanco State Park), South Texas Plains (incl. Chaparral WMA & Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge)

6. Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is a highly regarded pursuit, thanks to the state’s abundant Eastern wild turkey population. The state offers a diverse range of environments, from dense forests and mountainous regions to farmlands and rolling hills. Extensive public hunting areas, including state game lands, national forests, and state forests, provide ample space and opportunity for turkey hunters.

  • Turkey Population: About 200,000
  • 2023 Harvest Data: Not available yet (check state wildlife agency website for updates)
  • Public Land: 2.1 million acres
  • License Cost: Resident $20.97; Non-resident $101.97
  • Spring Season: Typically April to May
  • Best Spots: Allegheny National Forest, Pennsylvania State Game Lands (various locations), Elk State Forest

7. South Dakota

South Dakota offers a unique hunting experience with its vast open landscapes. The state is known for its Merriam’s turkeys, which are quick and alert, presenting a rewarding challenge for hunters. With 5 million acres of public land available for hunting, you will have plenty of room to roam and strategize your hunt.

  • Turkey Population: 80,000
  • 2023 Harvest Data: 13,074 Turkeys
  • Public Land: 5 million acres
  • License Cost: Resident $25; Non-resident $100
  • Spring Season: Typically April to May
  • Best Spots: Black Hills National Forest, Custer State Park, Sand Creek WMA

8. Kansas

If you are looking for a hunting experience with plenty of space to strategize, Kansas is your destination. The state boasts a significant population of Rio Grande turkeys, set against a backdrop of vast fields and open skies. With plenty of public lands at your disposal, Kansas invites hunters to enjoy the great outdoors.

  • Turkey Population: 400,000
  • 2023 Harvest Data: 12,182 Turkeys
  • Public Land: 420,000 acres
  • License Cost: Resident $20.00; Non-resident $75.00
  • Spring Season: Typically April to May
  • Top Spots: Flint Hills National Scenic Byway (incl. Maxwell Wildlife Refuge & Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area), Comanche National Grassland, Republic County (incl. Arikaree Breaks WMA & Solomon River Wildlife Area)

9. Nebraska

Offering a mix of terrains from rolling hills to expansive plains, Nebraska provides a diverse hunting experience with both Eastern and Merriam’s turkeys. With around 1 million acres of public land available, hunters have a great opportunity to find their perfect spot. Nebraska is a prime destination for turkey hunting enthusiasts.

  • Turkey Population: 40,000 (Estimated)
  • 2023 Harvest Data: 12,302 turkeys
  • Public Land: 1 million+ acres
  • License Cost: Resident $70 (plus $3 issue fee); Non-resident $140 (plus $3 issue fee)
  • Spring Season: Typically April to May
  • Best Spots: Pine Ridge National Forest (incl. State Park & WMA), Sandhills Region, Missouri National River Bluffs

10. Mississippi

For turkey hunters, Mississippi might just be paradise. The state is teeming with Eastern wild turkeys, complemented by a landscape that offers both the birds and hunters plenty of space to thrive. With 2 million acres of public land, finding a place to hunt is the least of your worries. With supportive regulations and a strong tradition of conservation, Mississippi remains a top destination for turkey hunting aficionados.

  • Turkey Population: 225,000
  • 2023 Harvest Data: 11,257 turkeys
  • Public Land: 2 million+ acres
  • License Cost: Resident $32.00; Non-resident $50.00
  • Spring Season: Typically March to May
  • Best Spots: Delta National Forest, Bienville National Forest, Holly Springs National Forest (scattered public land, focus on bottomland habitat for Eastern turkeys)

Tips for Successful Turkey Hunting in Top States

  • Callings:
    • Yelps: Master the basic call to mimic a hen. It is great for initiating communication.
    • Clucks and Purrs: Perfect for close-range, use these calls to reassure turkeys that everything is safe.
    • Variations: Pay attention to regional differences in calls by listening to local birds.
  • Decoys:
    • Spring Setup: A single hen decoy can be very effective. Place it in a visible spot.
    • Fall Strategy: A mix of hen and jake decoys can create an attractive scene. Space them naturally.
    • Visibility: Ensure your decoys are placed where incoming turkeys can see them from a distance.
  • Terrain Tactics:
    • Wooded Areas: Look for clearings or edges where turkeys might feed or cross.
    • Open Fields: Use natural cover or shadows to disguise your position at field edges.
    • Elevation: If possible, set up on slightly higher ground to improve your view and shooting angle.
  • Ethics:
    • Regulations: Always check the current year hunting regulations for the area.
    • Land Respect: Only hunt in permitted areas, and practice Leave No Trace principles.
    • Fair Chase: Use ethical hunting methods to ensure a fair pursuit of turkeys.
  • Safety Measures:
    • Visibility to Others: Wear blaze orange when moving. Switch to camouflage only when stationary and in your setup.
    • Target Identification: Be absolutely sure of your target and what is beyond it before taking a shot.
    • Inform Someone: Always let someone know where you are hunting and when you plan to return.

Planning Your Turkey Hunting Trip

Here are some key steps to ensure your turkey hunting trip starts off smoothly:

  • Secure Your Hunting License: Especially for those visiting from out of state, get this sorted well in advance to avoid last-minute complications.
  • Check Your Gear: Go over your gear list thoroughly. From your calls to your camouflage, having everything ready is crucial.
  • Make Accommodations: Booking a stay near your hunting area can drastically cut down your morning commute, giving you more time in the field.
  • Scout the Location: If possible, spend some time familiarizing yourself with the hunting area. Locate turkey roosts, feeding areas, and travel routes. Understanding the terrain can give you a strategic advantage.
  • Prepare for Weather: Keep an eye on the weather forecast and plan accordingly. Being prepared for sudden changes can make a big difference.

Once you have these basics, the real focus shifts to the hunt. Proper preparation not only prevents potential issues but also enhances your overall experience. Whether it is your first hunt or you’re a seasoned professional, each trip can offer something new. Get ready to experience the excitement of waking up before dawn, setting out into the quiet morning, and waiting for that first call or sight of a turkey.

Mossy Oak Properties has a strong presence in states known for great hunting. Contact us for help finding the perfect property to suit your hunting style.