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Turkey hunting is a popular sport in the United States, with an estimated 2.6 million hunters taking part each year, with diehard fans of the sport spread out across the country. While every state has unique turkey hunting traditions, some states stand out as the best places to bag a big bird.
This article will examine the top states for turkey species hunted based on harvest data from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. So whether you’re a seasoned turkey hunter looking for a new challenge or a first-time hunter hoping to bag your first bird, this article is for you!
Top State With Most Turkey
Alabama is renowned for its turkey hunting activities, named the “Turkey Hunting Capital of the World.” With 200,000 wild turkeys and a healthy harvest rate, hunters can access ideal hunting conditions in The Yellowhammer State. While Alabama was home to 500,000 birds up until recently, current estimates suggest that the number has now dropped to 365,000, according to National Wild Turkey Federation data.
Despite this decrease, Alabama remains an ideal destination for any hunter looking to bag their next trophy bird, thanks to its robust regulations and public land opportunities.
Turkey Hunting: The Best States To Hunt Each Subspecies
Alabama and The Easter Turkey
For those looking for a prime turkey hunting destination. With an estimated population of half a million birds and 40,000 harvested yearly, what’s not to love? Even better, you can take five turkeys during the spring/summer season- one of the most generous limits in the US. Turkey hunters after the Eastern subspecies flock to Alabama’s Black Belt region and its large public land areas; even better, guided hunts here are some of the most affordable. Missouri is atop notch turkey state, but with a 2-bird limit and hunting ending a 1:00 pm to those coming in for a hunt, this should be considered.
Oklahoma And The Rio Grande
The Rio Grande turkey is one of the most sought-after types of turkey in North America. These birds are prized for their large size, beautiful plumage, and excellent taste. Oklahoma is perfect for turkey hunters looking to bag the Rio Grande, with 140,000 turkeys – Rios, hybrids, and Easterns – plenty of game to be found all over the state. The terrain ranges from open plains to forests and everything in between, making Oklahoma one of the best places for turkey hunting.
Plus, the season is relatively long compared to many other states, from mid-April until mid-May. Unfortunately, there’s a catch: hunters are only allowed one tom per season. Bottom line? Head to Oklahoma if you want a great chance at scoring your Rio Grand this year! Depending on which Wilderness Management Area you decide to explore, your season may differ from the overall state dates. Texas is coming in a close second.
With its abundance of Rio Grande turkeys, however, the state ranks low on this list due to its lack of public land. Texas has one of the lowest percentages in the country for public land—less than six percent in total. This indicates that opportunities for turkey hunting may not be as plentiful as in other states.
Florida And The Osceloa
The Osceola turkey, also known as the Florida turkey, is a bird of exceptional distinction due to its location. While Merriam, Rio Grande, and Eastern turkeys are found in many states, only Florida offers this unique subspecies. The Osceola turkey’s unique colors, build, and vocal nature contribute to its special status. If you’re a skilled hunter, there’s nothing like taking an Osceola turkey in Florida. The Sunshine State is home to wild turkey and Eastern bird subspecies. And the Osceolas know they’re the prey – they roost deep in swamps so predators can’t easily ambush them.
Moreover, boy birds don’t gobble much, and their vocalizations are limited; this means hunters need to pinpoint the bird’s hangouts after it flies down for the morning and wait for an opportunity. You can take a ground blind with you or build a natural hide before waiting patiently for your chance to make a successful kill.
Nebraska And The Merriam
Hunters looking to maximize their chances of success in the great outdoors should put Nebraska at the top of their list for Merriam’s turkey hunting. In 2020, 22,750 spring permits were issued with a 59.7 % success rate (adult and youth combined). The season is very long–archery hunters can start in late March, followed by a shotgun opening in mid-April until the last day of May. Furthermore, you don’t need a permit to take three turkeys every season as it is offered over the counter. With these advantages, it is easy to see why Nebraska tops our list for Merriam’s turkey hunting.
If you’re looking for wild Merriam’s turkeys on public land, the Black Hills of South Dakota is your next option. The hills are home to both Eastern and Merriam’s turkeys, with predators from east of the Missouri River usually Easterns and those from west Merriam’s. The spring season runs from mid-April to the end of May, following an archery session that begins earlier in the month. Buying your over-the-counter tags before then is advised if you intend to participate.
Arizona And New Mexico And The Goulds
Gould’s wild turkey is an incredibly special subspecies with a limited range in Arizona and New Mexico – primarily existing in Mexico. It’s almost as large as the eastern, making it quite a sight! Thanks to effective management, the population of Gould’s has seen a 50% improvement in the last few years, boasting 1500 individuals today. Obtaining a hunting license for this bird is not easy, though – 13,000 applicants annually battle for half of them. However, those who get one can experience 18-30% success rates. If you’re looking to hunt Gould’s turkey in Arizona, apply often and be ready to put forth your best effort when the opportunity arises.
Get That Grand Slam
Hunting turkeys can be a challenging and rewarding venture. A grand slam in turkey hunting is defined as killing one of each of the four subspecies of wild turkey in North America in a single hunting season. The four subspecies are the Eastern, Osceola, Merriam’s, and Rio Grande. Taking a grand slam is considered the ultimate achievement in turkey hunting. It is a difficult feat, but one that is within reach for dedicated and experienced hunters.
Turkey hunting is a popular sport across the United States, and some states stand out as the best places to bag a giant bird. Alabama holds the top score for turkey harvest data with more than 200,000 wild turkeys, but plenty of other states offer excellent public land hunting and unique species of wild turkeys. A grand slam in turkey hunting is the ultimate goal of any hunter and is an incredibly rare feat. When beginning turkey hunting, the best way to find what states have the best turkey hunting is to do your research, which includes looking into harvest data, regulations, access to public land, and local knowledge of turkeys.
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