Turkey hunting is one of the most challenging and rewarding hunts. Their powerful eyesight and keen sense of danger make it difficult to punch your turkey tag. They have a nine-power vision at 360 degrees, which means they can see you blink from 200 yards away.
But don’t let that intimidate you. To help you succeed in the field, take a look at our comprehensive turkey guide.
When is Turkey Hunting Season?
You’ll need to research your state’s department of natural resources’ website to learn the season dates and bag limits. The Spring season typically ranges from March to May. Certain states also have a fall turkey hunting season, which runs from September to December.
Wild Turkey Subspecies
Wild turkeys are some of the most popular game animals in the world. There are two wild turkey species, the Ocellated turkey of Central America and the North American wild turkey. Here are the five subspecies of the American wild turkey.
Eastern wild turkeys are the most abundant subspecies east of the Mississippi River. You can find them in 38 states and several Canadian provinces. They can be identified by their chestnut-brown tips on tail feathers and white and black bars on the wings. They have the strongest gobbles and longest beards of all subspecies. Males can weigh up to 30 pounds, and females can weigh up to 12 pounds.
Florida or Osceola
As the name suggests, Florida turkeys, also known as Osceolas, are only found in Florida. They have dark-brown tips on tail feathers, primarily black wings with tiny white bands, long legs and spurs, and strong gobbles. Adult males weigh roughly 20 pounds, while their female counterparts weigh 8 to 12 pounds.
Rios are found in the desert regions of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and other western states. Mexico also has a healthy population. They have tan-colored tips on their tail feathers, the same amount of black and white barring on wings, and moderate gobbles, spurs, and beards. Adult males weigh around 20 pounds, while females weigh approximately 8 to 12 pounds.
Merriam’s are primarily found in the western mountain regions. They’re distinguished by the white tips on their tail feathers and tail feather margins. Adult males weigh roughly 18 to 30 pounds, and females weigh between 8 to 12 pounds. They have the weakest gobble of all the subspecies and short to moderate beard lengths.
Gould’s are rarer than the other subspecies and can only be found in Arizona and New Mexico. Hunters can identify them by their snow-white tips on their tail feathers and long legs. Adult males weigh 18 to 30 pounds, and females weigh 12 to 14 pounds. Gould’s are known to have moderate gobbles and beard lengths.
Gear Up For Your Turkey Hunt
Now that you know the different subspecies of wild turkeys, you’ll need to gear up for a successful hunt. Here’s what you’ll need.
As mentioned above, wild turkeys have excellent vision, so it’s essential to conceal your movements as much as possible. Therefore, good camouflage is a must. Several brands have a wide variety of camo for turkey hunting, but we have a few favorites, including Sitka, who recently released the Equinox Turkey Collection.
Full camouflage is necessary for turkey hunting, so you’ll want comfortable boots, lightweight pants, a shirt and jacket, and a thin pair of gloves. There are countless patterns available, so make sure to pick a print that will blend seamlessly into the terrain and colors of where you’ll be hunting.
Gun or Bow
You’ll need a shotgun or bow to notch your tag on a turkey. If you choose a shotgun, a smaller gauge like a 16 or 20 will get the job done. Most shotguns come with various removable chokes that tighten the shot pattern for a greater chance of lethality. Turkey chokes are often sold separately if your gun doesn’t already have one.
Although shotguns are the preferred method for hunting turkeys, using a bow is also popular. The most crucial element of bowhunting for turkeys is the type of broadhead you use. Fortunately, a slew of effective designs is available on the market today.
Safety is the number one priority when hunting. So when turkey hunting, where should you sit to protect yourself? You’ll want to have your back against a large tree, rock, or other natural barriers to protect yourself from other hunters approaching from the rear. Since most turkey hunts happen from the ground, make sure to choose a bow that will be comfortable to shoot when you’re in a seated position.
Many successful turkey hunters use calls to bring the gobblers within range. There are a variety of calls, including box calls, slate calls, mouth/diaphragm calls, and wing bone calls. You can even use owl calls for turkey hunting. Having different types of calls in your arsenal is just one small ingredient to getting that turkey. The more you practice, the easier it will be to mimic a wide range of wild turkey sounds successfully. Listening to turkey sounds is a great way to learn how to call these birds.
Wondering how often to call while turkey hunting? A good rule of thumb is calling every 15 minutes or so. Start quieter and get louder as the day goes on. If you hear a hen, try to mimic her exact vocalizations.
Important Safety Considerations For Turkey Hunting
Safety is the number one priority when hunting. Since turkey hunters are dressed in full camouflage, hiding, and making sounds like a real turkey, it’s easy for other hunters to confuse them as targets. Here are important safety factors to consider when you’re hunting for gobblers.
First, where should you sit to protect yourself when turkey hunting? You’ll want to have your back against a large tree, rock, or other natural barrier to protect yourself from other hunters approaching from the rear.
Also, always wear goggles and ear protection when near another shooter or when you are shooting. Make sure to identify specific targets before shooting. After firing, place the safety trigger in the on position and only mount or load your gun while shooting.
The video below explains turkey hunting safety 101.
Best Turkey Hunting States
One of the more challenging parts of becoming a turkey hunter is finding a prime location to hunt. Here’s a list of the best turkey hunting states.
Wild turkeys are abundant in the oak and aspen forests that stretch across central and eastern Minnesota. Hunters will also find them in the timbered river valleys and woodlands of the west and southwest. Turkey season in Minnesota begins April 13th and goes to May 31st.
Turkey Hunting Wisconsin
Wisconsin is divided into seven wild turkey management zones. As a result, there’s a mix of ideal turkey hunting habitats across the state, including hardwood forest, farm fields, pasture land, river and creek bottoms, grassland and wetlands, and wooded.
Turkey Hunting in Michigan
Michigan has 7.4 million acres of forest land open to public hunting in both the northern Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula. However, most experienced turkey hunters head to the middle part of the Lower Peninsula.
Nebraska is an outstanding turkey hunting destination, especially if you’re wanting to achieve a Grand Slam. If you have your sights set on Merriam’s, head to the Pine Ridge area in the northwestern portion of the state. You’ll also come across Easterns on the eastern portion and Rios in central Nebraska. Hunters can harvest upwards of three bearded birds. As a bonus, Nebraska has an exceptional fall turkey season.
Rio Grande turkeys are the most widespread subspecies in California and are found along the Coast Ranges, the Sierra Nevada, and Cascade foothills. Merriam’s subspecies thrive in the northeast.
Pennsylvania is a great state for all kinds of hunting. With nearly a million licensed hunters and millions of acres of public land, it has a thriving hunting culture. WMU 4D in central Pennsylvania puts up consistent harvest numbers of Easterns. Allegheny National Forest is also filled to the brim with endless wildlife thanks to its vast amount of acres.
Although turkey production in Missouri has gradually declined over the last several decades, the bird population is still large. The Ozarks remain a stronghold for hunting gobblers thanks to the steep hills and thick forests. The plains are also a hot spot due to the open terrain making it easy to spot the birds.
Texas Turkey Hunting
Texas is filled to the brim with turkeys. The majority of birds are found in the Texas Hill Country and Edwards Plateau, but they can also be found in the south, north, and parts of the west. The Rio Grande turkey is the most abundant of the three subspecies of turkey, followed by the Easterns then the Merriam’s.
Tennessee Turkey Hunting
Tennessee is home to roughly a quarter-million Eastern turkeys and abundant public land. If you’re looking for a true wilderness turkey hunt, head to the Cherokee National Forest. Other Wildlife Management Areas across the state offer a lot of birds and room to roam.
Oklahoma Turkey Hunting
Turkey hunting is deeply rooted in Oklahoma. The Black Kettle Wildlife Management Area is a hot spot for Rio Grande turkey populations. In addition, three Rivers, Honobia Creek, and Pushmataha Wildlife Management Areas are known for their Eastern subspecies.
Kansas Turkey Hunting
There’s no place like Kansas for turkey hunting. You’ll find Rios in the west and Easterns to the east, with huge flocks of hybrids in central Kansas. Milford, Tuttle Creek, Melvern, and Council Grove are great locations to find a gobbler or two. As for the habitat, expect prairie river bottoms, open ranch, and farmland.
South Dakota Turkey Hunting
South Dakota’s prime turkey hunting takes place in the Black Hills to the west. The famous mountain range has 2.3 million acres and is home to the Merriam subspecies. Wild turkeys roam landscapes with minimally forested habitats on the South Dakota prairie.
Alabama Turkey Hunting
Alabama has one of the longest hunting seasons in the country and one of the most generous harvest limits in the country. The Black Belt region across the state’s central portion is home to the Eastern subspecies and offers an excellent and affordable hunt.
Kentucky Turkey Hunting
The Bluegrass State is a hot spot for Easterns. Although 95% of the state is privately owned, there are prime public hunting areas, including Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area, Clay, Peabody, and Kentucky River.
Turkey Hunting Colorado
Colorado is rich in outdoor recreation activities and exceptional hunting opportunities. The best counties to bag a Merriam include Archuleta, Delta, Garfield, Mesa, and Yuma. Head to Eastern Colorado to find yourself a Rio Grande. Turkey season in Colorado runs from April to May and September to October.
New York Turkey Hunting
Turkey hunters can find the Eastern wild turkey throughout New York. The state offers public lands, wildlife management areas, and state forests. Unfortunately, wild turkey numbers and poult production have declined over the past few decades. Turkey hunting season in New York runs from May 1st to May 30th. The shorter, lesser-known fall season runs in October.
Turkey Hunting Washington
Three of the five subspecies of wild turkey are found throughout Washington. Typically, Merriam’s roam Northeast Washington, Rios occupy the southeast, and Eastern hold southwest. There are a variety of options available to hunters on public land. In addition, some private landowners allow public hunting access on their lands.
Indiana Turkey Hunting
Indiana provides several private and public land hunting opportunities. The eastern wild turkey is the most abundant of the five subspecies. Keep in mind that Indiana’s limit on turkeys is one bearded or male turkey per spring season.
Oregon Turkey Hunting
Although wild turkeys aren’t native to Oregon, tens of thousands of birds have been transplanted throughout the Beaver State. The Rio Grande turkey is the dominant subspecies. However, hunters will also find some Merriam’s and hybrids. In recent years, the top-producing regions include Melrose, White River, Rogue, Evans Creek, and McKenzie.
Turkey Hunting Florida
Looking to bag an Osceola? Florida should be at the top of your list. The Sunshine State is home to more than 100,000 Osceolas. On top of that, there are roughly 40,000 Eastern birds. With vast public land opportunities and beautiful weather, you’ll have a ball. Head to the panhandle counties if you’re looking for an Eastern. If you’re eager to find Osceolas, focus on the central or southern portion of the state.
Arizona Turkey Hunting
Turkey hunters can find three of the five subspecies of wild turkeys in the Grand Canyon State. Merriam’s and Gould’s wild turkeys are both native to Arizona, and Rio Grande turkeys were transplanted from Utah. There is plenty of public land to hunt wild turkeys in Arizona. However, getting a tag through their limited license system can be difficult.
New Mexico Turkey Hunting
New Mexico’s turkey population includes Merriam’s, Rio Grande, Gould’s, and hybrids. To find yourself a longbeard, set your sights on the Sacramento Mountains in south-central New Mexico, the Gila National Forest out West, and the Zuni Mountains.
Turkey Hunting Virginia
Virginia offers plenty of opportunities for turkey hunting thanks to its vast public land. The George Washington and Jefferson National Forest in central Virginia cover more than 1.7 million acres. Here, you’ll be able to bag an Eastern wild turkey.
Turkey Hunting in South Carolina
With plenty of land opportunities, it’s no wonder why the state has a deep hunting tradition. South Carolina is home to 630,000 acres of Wildlife Management Areas, over 600,000 acres between the Francis Marion and Sumter National Forest, and more than a quarter-million acres of DNR lands. Easterns are the dominant subspecies in these lands.
Montana Turkey Hunting
Montana is a solid western turkey hunting destination and boasts the largest Merriam’s turkey population in the Rocky Mountain West. Hunters tend to notch their tag in the Long Pines and Ashland areas of Custer National Forest, the Missouri River Breaks, the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, and the Intermountain Valley Region.
Turkey Hunting Maryland
Maryland offers a stable population of turkeys, but it’s on the lower end compared to neighboring states. The highest concentrations (mostly of Easterns) are found on the east and west portions of the state, including the northern region near Pennsylvania.
Turkey Hunting Illinois
Illinois offers around 700,000 acres of public land, and the 280,000-acre Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois is the most popular. Turkey hunters can also find decent hunting opportunities on private land. Although it’s not at the top of our list, Illinois is still worth checking out, especially if you’re looking for Easterns.
Turkey Hunting Louisiana
Louisiana’s estimated wild turkey population was once a million birds. Unfortunately, this number has dwindled to an estimated 40,000. With that being said, it’s still a fun state for hunting Easterns. LDWF’s wildlife management areas also offer lottery hunts for youth hunters, physically challenged hunters, disabled veterans, and the general public.
Utah Turkey Hunting
Overall, Utah is a solid option for turkey hunting. It offers beautiful landscape, excellent access to public land, and the opportunity to hunt Merriam’s and Rio subspecies. The best opportunities are found in Cedar City, the Boulder Mountains, Enterprise. and Pine Valley.
Pull the Trigger With CamoFire
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