Opening day approaches, and over the course of the next two months, millions of turkey hunters will be heading out into the first warm days of spring in the hopes of bagging a turkey or two. Whether you are one of those who spend endless hours scouting, talking to other hunters, and researching online for that perfect hunting spot, or you just prefer to let the dice roll, turkey season is something that we’ve been looking forward to all winter.
Yet, not all states are equal when it comes to turkeys. How well does your hunting spot hold up to the rest of the country? In this list, we have compiled the top 10 states for turkey hunters in the United States. Since the list is judged by turkey populations, hunter success, and total harvest numbers, it is of course heavily skewed towards states with more birds. However, a huge turkey population is not the only factor that makes for a good hunt, and we also take into account the scenery, regulations, amount of public land, and the opinions of veteran hunters. Statistics are provided by the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) and come from 2014, the latest year with comprehensive data on turkey populations.
This list is in no particular order.
Do you agree with our list? What are some other states you think deserves a spot on here? Maybe you want to find turkey hot spots near you? Check out the Gobble Map, created in collaboration between the NWTF and Powderhook.
Want more hunting tips, articles, videos, and gear features? Visit Cabela’s Turkey Roost.
- Turkey Population: 210,235
- 2014 Harvest numbers: 41,260
- Season Dates: April 30 to May 31
Nobody should be surprised that this state is on the list. With a rich and lengthy turkey hunting tradition, Pennsylvania is one of the first states that spring to mind for many Americans when it comes to hunting gobblers. With an ample amount of turkeys and hunters anticipating the spring season, the Quaker State is well-known for ranking within the top five states for total harvest nearly every year.
- Turkey Population: 350,000
- 2014 Harvest numbers: 37,804
- Season Dates: April 15 to May 24
Often ranked first among the best turkey hunting states in the country, Wisconsin brings a large turkey population and vast amounts of public land to the table. Depending on where you hunt and how conditions are, hunters will practically trip over turkeys to their abundance. Wisconsin also makes for one of the safest places to hunt the big birds. Reportedly, the state has never seen a major hunting accident during turkey season.
- Turkey Population: 400,000 to 450,000
- 2014 Harvest numbers: 40,600
- Season Dates: varies
Depending on which expert you talk to, Alabama’s turkey population may actually be well north of half a million, making it practically swarming with the birds. Alabama also typically holds the largest harvest on average and plenty of public land to hunt, which coupled with a fair bag limit, makes it a very desirable place to hunt.
- Turkey Population: 317,000
- 2014 Harvest numbers: 47,603
- Season Dates: April 18 to May 8
Missouri may not be swimming in turkeys as it was a decade ago, but it still has a sizable population and enough opportunities to make it one of the best turkey states in the country. However, expect a lot of competition. Turkey hunting isn’t just a tradition in Missouri, it’s an obsession.
- Turkey Population: Rio Grande -175,000/Eastern 87,500/ Hybrid – 87,500
- 2014 Harvest numbers: 31,400
- Season Dates: April 4-12 Archery, April 13 to May 31 Regular
Kansas is no slouch when it comes to turkeys, and neither are its hunters. In recent years, hunters have netted record-setting harvest rates, which only add to the reputation of Kansas sportsmen and women being skilled shots. Wild turkeys were reintroduced into Kansas in the 1960s, and these days it’s the Rio Grande subspecies that dominates most of western Kansas.
- Turkey Population: Rio Grande – 500,000/ Eastern – 8,000/ Merriams – around 500
- 2014 Harvest numbers: 19,941
- Season Dates: varies
Everything is bigger in Texas, and that includes the turkey population as well. The Lone Star State boasts one of the largest turkey populations in the country, which is somewhat dampened by the lack of public land. Find the right outfitter though, and you’ll find that Texas is a turkey-hunting mecca. You can even top off your hunt with chasing some of the local wild hogs. Feral pigs compete with turkeys and are environmentally destructive, so you’d really be doing the state a favor.
- Turkey Population: 144,733
- 2014 Harvest numbers: 18,960
- Season Dates: March 25 to May 31 Archery, April 16 to May 31 Shotgun
This state’s entry on the list may come as a surprise to some, but great hunting opportunities, scenic backdrops, and an early bow hunting season is what landed Nebraska here. The state may not have the largest bird population, but it more than makes up for that with atmosphere. Plus, growing turkey numbers means this state may soon be the next hot spot for turkey hunters.
- Turkey Population: 200,000
- 2014 Harvest numbers: 31,377
- Season Dates: varies
Four million acres of public land and a sizable bird population make the Wolverine State a great destination for a low-cost turkey hunt. Like many other states, turkeys had once been rare bird in Michigan, but efforts by conservationists, hunters, and state agencies have now put the bird in every Michigan county. in 1977, only 400 turkeys were taken annually, with a success rate of just 10 percent. Now Michigan hunters take over 30,000 birds yearly with an impressive 30 percent harvest rate.
- Turkey Population: 248,748
- 2014 Harvest numbers: 32,586
- Season Dates: April 2 to May 15
The Volunteer State may have a relatively pricey non-resident license, but it also boasts some of the best turkey hunting in the country. With lots of public land, large bag limits, and a decent bird population, Tennessee enjoys a good reputation during both the spring and fall seasons. Central Tennessee enjoys the most popularity, while eastern Tennessee’s Cherokee National Forest is also renowned for its turkey hunting opportunities.
- Turkey Population: 335,000
- 2014 Harvest numbers: 44,106
- Season Dates: March 26 to May 15
What? Georgia has no fall Turkey season? While this might be a downer for some, the Peach State makes up for this by having one of the most liberal spring seasons in the country. There’s also plenty of public land, more than a million acres’ worth. The most legendary however, is of course Chattahoochee National Forest itself, situated in the northern edge of Georgia. The Berry College, Paulding Forest, Lake Russel, River Creek, and Tuckahoe WMAs are also well known hot spots for hunters.
This article was produced in cooperation with Cabela’s.
Image courtesy Cabela's