Turkey season: it’s just not long enough. If you love turkey hunting and find yourself wishing you could just do more of it, you can. Here in my home state of Indiana, our spring turkey season is only open for two-and-half weeks, and that is simply not enough for me. A season that opens in late April and closes in early to mid-May with a bag limit of one bird just doesn’t do it for me anymore. I enjoy turkey hunting too much to only spend a couple of weeks out of the year doing it.
Luckily I found a remedy for my turkey hunting addiction: hunting in multiple states. It’s easier than you think, and well within your reach, unlike a lot of big game hunts.
I did some research when I initially began planning my first out-of-state turkey hunts. Missouri, for instance, has a spring season that pretty much overlaps with ours outside of a few days in the beginning or on the end, and tags are pricey at $190 for one bird. Illinois is not much different, and you must be drawn for a spring turkey permit, which cost $125. These are good bets for taking your child on a youth hunt, however. Dirt-cheap licenses and earlier youth seasons make them hard to beat.
Kentucky is a bargain at $60 for the license and the opportunity to kill two gobblers, but here again, not a whole lot of opportunity to extend your season here. Their season does open a few days ahead of ours, but not a lot.
Then I investigated opportunities in Tennessee and Michigan. Tennessee’s spring turkey season begins at the end of March. Their licenses can be pricey at about $275, but you can kill up to four gobblers for that price. My son and I took advantage of Tennessee’s Southern hospitality a few years ago during spring break. We went as a family with a simple plan: my son and I would hunt in the mornings and by the time we returned to our cabin, my wife would be up and ready to do family things the rest of the day. Our plan could not have gone more perfectly. On the very first morning of our hunt, my son Nicholas, 10 years old at the time, smashed his very first Southern longbeard.
What makes Michigan great is that their season does not end until May 31, which is pretty unique in these parts. I can also be at the state line in less than two hours. In Michigan, I can hunt spring longbeards for nearly three weeks longer than I can in Indiana, whenever time permits. And at $69 for a permit, it doesn’t break the bank either. So, even if I only make it to Michigan for a day or two each spring, it’s worth it to me.
My first Michigan hunt started with me leaving my house at 3:15 in the morning and driving to a public hunting area that I had never set foot on. Sounds a little crazy, but what did I have to lose? Our season had already ended, so at the very least I was going to take in some nice scenery.
The first place I pulled into had a truck in the lot, but I didn’t know where the hunter was—until I heard a shot a little ways into the section. I got back in my truck and drove to another spot where I did manage to strike a gobble. The only problem was that bird was a half-mile away and never closed the distance. So, back to the truck I went, and as I was tooling down a gravel road, I saw a field strutter with a couple of hens. A quick check of the map proved the birds were still on public land so I pulled over the hill, snuck out of the truck, grabbed my gear, and crawled a couple hundred yards along the edge of the timber to try to get in the best position I could.
I got as close to the birds as I felt I could, but a hill in the field kept me from being able to lay eyes on them. After an hour-long game of cat and mouse with me calling and the gobbler sometimes responding, I decided to rise up just a bit to try to catch a glimpse of the birds. As luck would have it, just as I rose up, I saw his bright red head pop up over the hill a mere 20 yards away. As quickly as it had appeared, it had disappeared. Still, a pretty successful first-ever Michigan turkey hunt in my mind. I beat that bird. The only problem is that I also beat myself by getting perhaps a bit too anxious. Just a few minutes likely would have changed the outcome considerably, but how was I supposed to know?
If you love turkey hunting as much as I do and just cannot get enough of it in your home state, consider hunting other states to lengthen your season. I mean, can you eat too much wild turkey breast?
Image by Joe Martino