The Ranking of the Seven Best Turkey States

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The Ranking of the Seven Best Turkey States

March is here, and some turkey seasons have already opened. With that, it is time to look into the best states for hunting turkeys this season. Though recent years have seen a decline in overall turkey populations across the U.S., states are adjusting their regulations to help level these fluctuating numbers to ensure that the wild turkey—and these hunting opportunities—will be around for generations to come.

If your home state made the list, then you’re in luck, grab a tag and get in the field. If you are living in a state where turkey hunting isn’t very accessible, maybe it’s time to fill up the gas tank and hit the road. These states made the list after considering current populations estimates, season length, bag limits and opportunity for the traveling hunter. Here are the seven best states to hunt turkeys this spring.

Photo courtesy of Dale Evans

California

Coming in at number one is California. Though it might be known as one of the most extreme states for attacking our hunting heritage, California can be a great state to chase turkeys. The population there is a true conservation success story. Just ten years ago the population was down around 250,000. But now, with an estimated population nearing 400,000 birds, California is a gold mine. Season runs from March 25th until the end of April and each hunter is allotted a bag limit of three gobblers per season. With three of the four subspecies needed to complete the Grand Slam and decent public-land access, the Golden State could easily be considered the top sleeper state for turkeys.

Season Dates: General Season – Mar 25 – Apr 30; Archery Only – May 1 – 14

Tag Cost: $75.60/resident; $210.34/non-resident

California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Mississippi

If you don’t want to head all the way to the West Coast, try the great state of Mississippi. This allows you to kick off your season down South with the earliest opener of the year on this list. With a turkey population of just over a quarter million birds, the ‘Sip season starts on March 15th and runs through the beginning of May. With ample amounts of public land throughout the entire state, there’s no shortage of hunting opportunity. Although, the Mississippi Delta is a region worth homing in on when planning your trip. Mississippi has a generous bag limit of three gobblers with beards six inches or longer and hunters took more than 22,000 birds last season. It’s easy to see why Mississippi ranks so high and it’s a great option to chase a swamp bird this spring.

Season Dates: Mar 15 – May 1

Tag Cost: $27.29/resident; $212.50/ 7-day non-resident

Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, & Parks

Moultrie
Photo courtesy of Haynes Shelton

Alabama

Alabama is one of the states that has seen a slight decline in overall turkey numbers in recent years, but still boasts a population of 365,000 birds. With the highest bag limit of any state on this list, you can take one gobbler per day, not to exceed four total for the spring and fall seasons. Zone 1 opens on March 25th but doesn’t allow decoy use until April 4th; Zone 2 opens April 1st with decoys legal to use on April 11th. Alabama has an abundance of public land for hunters to try their luck on, but just as with most southern states, hunting pressure could be high. But it’d be hard pressed to not have Bama in the top three.

Season Dates: Zone 1 & 3: Mar 25 – May 8; Zone 2: Apr 1 – May 8

Tag Cost: $30.25/resident; $216.20/ 10-day non-resident

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Photo courtesy of Dale Evans

Tennessee

Coming in at the fourth spot is Tennessee. With a liberal bag limit and lengthy season, I’d definitely volunteer to go there this season. Tennessee has a healthy population of more than 250,000 birds, a good amount of public land from the hills to the hollers and a season spanning six weeks. If you haven’t stood on a ridge in the dawning of a new day and heard the echoes of gobbles ringing out in multiple directions, you’re flat missing out. Make sure to put Tennessee on your list and try your wits against one of these eastern toms.

Season Dates: Apr 15 – May 28

Tag Cost: $66/resident; $214/ 7-day non-resident

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency

Texas

The old adage of everything is bigger in Texas rings true in regard to turkey hunting this state. With the largest population in the U.S.— over half a million birds—there’s no doubt Texas could be the best place to take a true Rio Grande. Though there are limited public-land opportunities, Texas has numerous management areas that allow access for hunters. This state has multiple season dates to consider depending on where you’ll be hunting as well as varying bag limits, so be sure to read the regulations thoroughly before planning your trip. But with the incredible population and low pressure, it’s easy to see why this state ranks number five as a turkey hunter’s paradise.

Season Dates: Eastern: Apr. 22 – May 14; Rio Grande North Zone: Apr. 1 – May 14; Rio Grande South Zone: Mar. 18 – Apr. 30

Tag Cost: $25/resident; $133/non-resident

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

Rio
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock/Iv-olga

Maine

Maine might surprise you as the number six spot on our list due to its small size, but it has a relatively high number of turkeys. This little state in the northeastern part of our country can offer great turkey hunting. It’s also one of the only states that gives you the opportunity to hunt birds all the way into June. There is plenty of publicly accessible land, and it’s one of those states where a door knock, and a handshake, might just get you access to prime ground. With a bag limit of two bearded birds per season, and season dates that allow you to stretch every second out of spring, Maine must be on your list. Don’t overlook the northeast corner of the U.S. for turkey opportunities.

Season Dates: May 1 – June 3

Tag Cost: $46/resident; $115/non-resident

Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife

South Dakota

One of the most coveted birds of the Grand Slam is the Merriam’s, and so many turkey hunters dream of notching a tag on one of these birds. That’s why South Dakota must be on this list. With over 2.3 million acres of public land and three quarters of that located around the Black Hills region, those of you looking to fill a tag on a Merriam’s just might be in luck. Though overall numbers have seen a slight downward trend, there is still a dense population along river corridors and a well-established population covering most of this state. Add in a season that runs almost two months, buckle up because it can get a bit western chasing these overly vocal birds.

Season Dates: Single-season Prairie units – Apr 8 – May 31; Black Hills – Apr 22 – May 31

Tag Cost: $25/resident; $100/non-resident

South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks

Photo courtesy of Dale Evans

Maybe you’re like me and love traveling to different states to test your skills against different birds, or maybe you’re chasing that elusive U.S. Super Slam of a bird in each of the 49 states that have an established season. Regardless of your motivation, these seven states are the best places to spend your time chasing gobbles this year. Get out there and enjoy it this spring, we only get so many.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>