gobber gun
Your state-by-state guide to gobblers for this spring. TBD

Maybe Benjamin Franklin envisioned the modern golden era of turkey hunting when he opined that the wild turkey would make a fine national bird.

OK, probably not. But with millions of turkeys nationwide and spring hunting in 49 states, Meleagris gallopavo has certainly earned the status of America’s pre-eminent game bird. Whether you pursue wary Easterns in the timber of the Northeast, sharp-spurred Osceolas in Florida’s cypress swamps, hard-gobbling Rios on the mesquite flats of Texas or white-tipped Merriam’s in Western mountains, turkey hunting opportunity abounds. Better, you can start in early March and hunt into early June, provided your marriage, travel budget and tolerance for sleep deprivation allow.

Get out there and enjoy America’s grand spring game this year. Here’s a quick guide to get you started.


Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 400,000

Spring 2016 harvest: Not yet available.

Overall outlook: Steve Barnett, district wildlife supervisor/wild turkey project leader for the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, said Spring 2017 looks promising. Turkey numbers are “stable overall, but some areas are experiencing fewer brood observations (often habitat quality-related),” he said. Potential Spring 2017 hotspots: Barnett pointed to “most areas where management activities promote good nesting/brood-rearing habitat, active prescribed burning programs and management of soft- and hard-mast trees.” Conversely, he said areas where those practices are not undertaken might be down a bit. “There are good hunting opportunities in most regions of the state, but there are segments where reproduction and gobbler density reports are down, such as extreme north and northwestern Alabama,” he said.

Quick tip: “Do your homework and legwork,” Barnett said. “Scout as possible before the spring season on foot, by vehicle and through the use of game cameras. Contact our staff for help in planning a trip to one of the state’s wildlife management areas.”

Brandon Bobo, NWTF regional biologist for Alabama, said hunters should practice patience. “As the old saying goes, patience is a virtue, and it’s never more applicable than when turkey hunting,” he said. “So remember, just because he isn’t gobbling doesn’t mean he isn’t closing in on your location.”

Season dates/bag limits: March 15 through April 30 in most counties (some variation by county). The bag limit is one gobbler per day and five combined for fall and spring seasons.


Subspecies: Merriam’s, Gould’s, Rio Grande

Estimated population: 30,000 Merriam’s, 1,200 Gould’s, 200 Rio Grandes

Spring 2016 harvest: Almost 900

Overall outlook: Rick Langley, Region 1 game specialist with the Arizona Game and Fish Department, said the Spring 2017 outlook is favorable. “Some areas will be better than others,” he said. “I say that knowing that we could encounter adverse winter weather that can affect our turkeys by the time the spring hunts roll around. We have been in a cycle of mild winters with good summer precipitation, resulting in good overwinter survival and good poult production.”

Potential Spring 2017 hotspots: Gould’s hunts in the southeastern part of the state are outstanding, Langley said, but it’s very difficult to draw a permit for those. The hunting unit inhabited by Rio Grandes is also good. “For Merriam’s, I would hunt the eastern units along the Mogollon Rim, where wildfires have created some great turkey habitat, and the North Kaibab. Merriam’s units across the central part of the state have been down in numbers the past couple of years.”

Quick tip: “One sentence, one word,” Langley said. “Scout.”

Season dates/bag limits: Youth hunt: April 21 through 27 and May 12 through 25. Permits in some units are available over the counter, but other units are limited, and you must draw a tag for them. First hunt: April 28 through May 4 and May 12 through 25. All hunts are limited, and you must apply in October to be drawn. Second hunt: May 5 through May 25. All hunts are limited, and you must apply in October to be drawn. Archery-only: May 12 through 25. Available over the counter but only open in specified units. The annual bag limit is one turkey per year. It can be taken in spring or fall.


Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 110,000 to 120,000 * Spring 2016 harvest*: 11,864

Overall outlook: Jason Honey, turkey program coordinator with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, said that with an earlier opening date in 2017, the outlook in parts of the state should be fair to good, depending on weather.

Potential Spring 2017 hotspots: “The eastern Ozarks usually have good numbers of turkeys, followed by portions of the Gulf Coastal Plain and Ouachita Mountains,” Honey said. “Overall, gobbler carryover was good for those regions of the state.”

Quick tip: Honey said hunters in wildlife management areas should get far away from roads to reduce the possibility of hunter interference.

Season dates/bag limits: Zones 1A, 4, 4A, 5A and 9A: April 10 through 18. Limit: One adult gobbler or bearded hen; no jakes. Zones 1, 2, 3, 4B, 5, 5B, 6, 7, 7A, 8, 9, 10 and 17: April 10 through 25. Limit: Two adult gobblers or bearded hens; no jakes. Statewide bag limit: two adult gobblers or bearded hens; no jakes. Only one turkey per day. Note: Hunters 6 to 15 years old in all zones old can harvest one jake as part of their two-bird statewide spring limit. Youth turkey hunt: April 8 and 9.


Subspecies: Rio Grande, Merriam’s

Estimated population: not available

Spring 2016 harvest: not available

Overall outlook: Rio Grandes, which are the dominant subspecies through most of California, had strong reproduction in 2016. Merriam’s, which only exist in a few isolated flocks in the northeastern portion of the state, are struggling.

Potential Spring 2017 hotspots: Northern California had a strong production year, with above-average spring rains. Southern California was slammed by drought, which seemed to affect turkeys. Still, biologists believe 2016 was likely the best reproduction year in quite a while.

Quick tip: “Late-season birds can be a lot of fun to chase,” said Kevin Vella, NWTF district biologist for California and Nevada.

Season dates/bag limits: March 25 through April 30. Archery-only: May 1 through 14. Junior: March 18 and 19, May 1 through 14. Limit: one bearded bird per day, three per season, combined.


Subspecies: Merriam’s, Rio Grandes

Estimated population: About 35,000

Spring 2016 harvest: About 5,700

Overall outlook: Ed T. Gorman, small-game manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said turkey hunting in the state continues to improve, and Spring 2017 should be good.

Potential Spring 2017 hotspots: Typically, the best areas for Merriam’s are the southwestern and western portions of the state. These areas also have abundant public land.

Quick tip: “Scouting and paying attention to weather conditions can be critical to turkey hunting success,” Gorman said.

Season dates/bag limits: April 8 through May 21. Some units have two seasons, the first of which runs April 8 through 28, and the second of which runs April 29 through May 21. Limit: two bearded turkeys per spring, provided one is taken with a limited-draw license and the other is taken with an over-the-counter license.


Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: not available

Spring 2016 harvest: 1,335

Overall outlook: “Due to relatively warm and dry weather during the nesting and brooding periods for the past two years, I believe that the outlook for Spring 2017 should be good,” said Michael Gregonis, wildlife biologist II with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. “Hunters should encounter good numbers of jakes and fair numbers of adult gobblers.”

Potential Spring 2017 hotspots: Gregonis said the eastern portion of the state might hold more birds than the west.

Quick tip: “If hunters have the ability to obtain written permission on private land, they will increase their chances of success,” Gregonis said.

But Doug Little, NWTF conservation field manager for the Northeast, said Connecticut hunters shouldn’t ignore public ground. “Connecticut offers great hunting opportunities on quality public lands that provide plenty of room to roam for those who have done their homework,” he said.

Season dates/bag limits: April 26 through May 27. Limit: two bearded birds, state land; three bearded birds, private land.


Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: About 6,000

Spring 2016 harvest: 706

Overall outlook: Justyn R. Foth, waterfowl, turkey and upland game-bird biologist for the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife, said the state’s turkey population seems healthy, and birds are steadily colonizing new habitats.

Potential Spring 2017 hotspots: The top five zones for turkey harvest in 2016 were 6, with 114; 11, with 76; 4, with 70; 7, with 59; and 12, with 52. “As it relates to negative trends in populations, (turkeys) are more scattered in the northern part of the state, and we are still waiting for a hunter to harvest a turkey in Zone 1A,” Foth said.

Quick tip: “The greatest turkey harvest occurred during the first week of the 2016 season,” Foth said. “Even if the weather isn’t ideal, you may have a better shot at harvesting a bird earlier in the season.”

Season dates/bag limits: April 8 through May 6. Youth hunt: April 1. Limit: one bearded turkey per year.


Florida Turkey
A nice Florida Tom. Experts estimate that two years of decent hatches will lead to a good spring 2017 season overall. Brian Lovett

Subspecies: Osceola, Eastern, intergrade

Estimated population: not available

Spring 2016 harvest: 20,748

Overall outlook: Roger Shields, wild turkey program coordinator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said hunting should be good this spring. “Florida does not conduct summer productivity surveys,” he said. “However, based on anecdotal information from various parts of the state, it appears good hatches have occurred the past two years, which should have many jakes and 2-year-old birds on the landscape.”

Potential Spring 2017 hotspots: Shields said the state’s northeastern region has historically been the strongest area and should be again in 2017. “The southern regions seem to be experiencing a slight downward trend, but hopefully this will reverse with recent better production. The northwest region (panhandle) appears to be on an upward trend. The north-central region is somewhat of an enigma — some indices indicate a downward trend, other indices a stable or upward trend.”

Quick tip: “Don’t give up on late-season birds, particularly if we have a normal to cooler winter and spring,” Shields said. “You may find gobbling activity and responsiveness to calls picks up again toward the end of the season.”

Ricky Lackey, district biologist for the NWTF, said Florida hunters should seek out recently burned ground adjacent to swamps or hardwood bottoms. “These are great areas to find strutting toms,” he said.

Season dates/bag limits: South of State Road 70: March 4 through April 9. Youth hunt, Feb. 25 and 26. North of State Road 70: March 18 through April 23. Youth hunt March 11 and 12. Holmes County, March 18 through April 2. Youth hunt March 11 and 12. Limit: two per spring; two daily, private land. Check individual wildlife-management areas for bag-limit specifics.


Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 300,000

Spring 2016 harvest: 16,108

Overall outlook: After poor production from 2012 through 2015 — resulting in a very poor Spring 2016 harvest — there’s hope for Georgia turkey hunters. “We did have better reproduction in Summer 2016, so I’m more optimistic that harvest should improve in 2017,” said Kevin Lowrey, wild turkey project coordinator for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

Potential Spring 2017 hotspots: “The Lower Coastal Plain and the Ridge and Valley areas should be good again this year,” Lowrey said. “The Piedmont and Upper Coastal Plain should improve over last year but still have to overcome several years of poor reproduction. Reproductive data from the Blue Ridge remains poor. However, with a good winter mast crop and lots of turkeys seen through the winter, I believe we will see improvement in this region as well.”

Quick tip: “Hunters should be patient,” Lowrey said. “Arrive well before daylight, and hunt all day if you can. I think too often, we give up too soon.

Season dates/bag limits: March 25 through May 15. Youth and mobility impaired season: March 18 and 19 (private lands only). Limit of three gobblers per season, including special-opportunity seasons.


Subspecies: Rio Grande

Estimated population: Not available. Turkeys inhabit Kauai, Maui, Molokai, Lanai, Oahu and the Big Island but can only be hunted in spring on the Big Island.

Spring 2016 harvest: Not available

Overall outlook: Guide and longtime NWTF volunteer Jon Sabati said the 2016 hurricane season and unusual weather, including storms and flooding, hurt turkey numbers and poult survival on the Big Island of Hawaii. Field observations indicate low numbers of young and adult turkeys, so Spring 2017 hunting might be challenging.

Potential Spring 2017 hotspots: Sabati recommended Mauna Kea. “You’ll need a four-wheel drive to get to the back side of the volcano,” he said. “It’s best to hunt during the week, because it’s a multi-use area, to avoid the weekend warriors. Elevations run 6,000 to 10,000 feet, and weather is unpredictable, with possible fog in the afternoons.”

Quick tip: “Leave your owl hooters, crow, coyote and other locator calls you use on the mainland at home,” Sabati said. “Hawaii does not have those creatures here. If you use them, (turkeys) may shock-gobble to it, but they’ll more than likely leave the area because it’s not a natural sound. A ringneck pheasant call or turkey call can be used to locate a gobbler.

“Also, to be successful in hunting the turkeys here, you need to be able to adjust to the situation. Here we only have two weather seasons: wet and dry. So, if the weather does not follow the normal trend, it will dictate if the turkeys will go into breeding mode or not. Sometimes in the fall, they may be gobbling and strutting to hens and in the spring broken up into fall-like turkey groups. You just don’t know. This is a very big island. It could be raining and green in one area but dry drought conditions in another, which will dictate the how the turkeys react.”

Season dates/bag limits: March 1 through April 15, units A, F and G, and private land. March 1 through 31, Kipuka and Ainahou. Permit and tag required for public and private areas. Limit: three bearded turkeys per season.


Subspecies: Primarily Rio Grande/Merriam’s hybrids; some pure-strain Rios in the South Hills and a small population of Easterns near the Dworshak Reservoir.

Estimated population: Not available

Spring 2016 harvest: Not available

Overall outlook: Generally, turkey populations are steady to increasing, especially in the Panhandle, Clearwater, Southeast and Boise regions. Biologist worry that deep, crusted snow might result in some overwinter mortality.

Potential Spring 2017 hotspots: The Panhandle and Clearwater regions are great destinations with liberal bag limits. Southeastern Idaho also has good turkey numbers. Flocks near Cambridge and Council have been decreasing for several years, and Mountain Home birds were affected by wildfires in the Boise National Forest South Fork Boise River.

Quick tip: “Turkeys will follow the snow line in spring, taking advantage of fresh green-up,” said Mikal Moore, NWTF district biologist for the Pacific Northwest. “If you are hunting an elevation gradient, follow the snow melt, and look for turkey sign.”

Season dates/bag limits: April 15 through May 25. Youth hunt: April 8 through 14. Limit: one bearded turkey per day, two per spring (one general tag, one extra tag).


Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: Not available

Spring 2016 harvest: 15,489

Overall outlook: “The overall outlook is very positive for Illinois,” said Luke Garver, wild turkey project manager for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. “This year’s brood index was down slightly. However, we are coming off of two years in a row of high reproductive success. Last year’s spring harvest was the highest since 2010, and we would expect Spring 2017 to be promising as well.”

Potential Spring 2017 hotspots: Garver said the top five harvest counties for Spring 2017 were Pike, Adams, Fulton, Jefferson and Jo Daviess. “Essentially any wooded riparian corridor in the state is prime turkey habitat, where quality hunting can be had,” he said. “Some of the major river corridors to focus on include the Mississippi, Illinois, Sangamon and Kaskaskia.”

Season dates/bag limits: North Zone. April 10 through May 11 (five time periods). Youth: April 1 and 2. Southern Zone: April 3 through May 4 (five time periods). Youth: March 25 and 26. Limit: one bearded turkey per county or special area and season-specific permit, with a limit of three per person.


Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 100,000 to 120,000

Spring 2016 harvest: 12,081

Overall outlook: Steven E. Backs, wildlife research biologist and wild turkey statewide project leader for the Indiana Division of Fish and Wildlife, said state turkey populations are maturing or leveling off somewhat after the restoration era. “Across the eastern United States, states have seen lower or downward trends in summer brood production, and many have experienced significant drops in harvests. The northern part of Indiana is still experiencing some growth, but that will likely begin leveling off soon. Long-term, we, like other states, are facing a growing human population and increased urban/suburban sprawl, and the intensity of agriculture production influences the amount of potential habitat. The other quiet issue not generally recognized is the gradual loss (due to the lack of vegetative disturbance, such as timber management) of the oak-hickory forest types that are transitioning toward beech-maple type with less hard- and soft-mast production.”

Potential Spring 2017 hotspots: Southeastern, northern and south-central Indiana usually see high harvests.

Quick tip: “My advice to hunters is pretty basic: Do your homework ahead of time and not the day before the season,” Backs said. “It pays to scout ahead of time but not too early, as winter flock dynamics don’t necessarily reflect turkey population distributions after the winter flock break-up, which generally gets underway in full swing about a month prior to the season. Wild turkeys will redistribute themselves progressively up to and through the first part of the season. All of our public land areas have very huntable populations of birds.”

Season dates/bag limits: April 26 through May 14. Youth: April 22 and 23. Limit: one bearded or male turkey for the spring season.


Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 150,000

Spring 2016 harvest: 12,173

Overall outlook: Jim Coffey forest wildlife research biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, said Iowa should continue to provide great turkey hunting possibilities. “The vast network of river bottoms and blocks of timber provide ample opportunities for harvesting a spring gobbler,” he said.

Potential Spring 2017 hotspots: “Northeastern Iowa is a perennial favorite for turkey hunters, but don’t overlook the under-pressured birds of the Loess Hills region (western Iowa),” Coffey said. “Bird numbers are still good but trending down in southeastern Iowa.”

Quick tip: Coffey said hunters should be persistent and do their homework. “The DNR offers the DNR Atlas, an online aerial map of the state that allows hunters to do some pre-hunt planning from their desk,” he said. “This mapping system is also available on your smartphone.”

Season dates/bag limits: Youth season: April 8 through 16. Season 1: April 17 through 20. Season 2: April 21 through 25. Season 3: April 26 through May 2. Season 4: May 3 through May 21. Resident archery season: April 17 through May 21. Residents are allowed up to two tags; one for any of the first three seasons and one in Season 4, or two in Season 4. Possession limit is one per valid tag. Nonresidents can receive one tag.


Subspecies: Eastern, Rio Grande, hybrid

Estimated population: not available

Spring 2016 harvest: About 30,298

Overall outlook: Kansas has been a hot destination in recent years, and that won’t change in Spring 2017. “While production has declined across much of the state in recent years, numbers of adult birds have remained relatively stable overall,” said Kent Fricke, small-game coordinator for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. “Hunters should expect to find fair to good numbers of Easterns in the eastern portion of the state and fair to good numbers of Rios in western Kansas.”

Potential Spring 2017 hotspots: Fricke said the northern and south-central areas of the state should provide quality hunting opportunities.

Quick tip: “With about 600,000 acres of publicly accessible hunting ground in public lands and Walk-In Hunting Access Program properties, as well as an almost two-month season, hunters have a variety of options across Kansas to have a successful and enjoyable hunt,” Fricke said.

Season dates/bag limits: April 12 through May 31. Archery: April 3 through 11. Youth/disabled hunt: April 1 through 11. Limit: two male or bearded birds per day, season (spring turkey permit and second turkey game tag, valid for units 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6).


Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: Not available

Spring 2016 harvest: Not available

Overall outlook: Kentucky has become a must-visit spot for Easterns, posting some great harvests in recent years.

Potential Spring 2017 hotspots: It’s no secret, but Land Between the Lakes in western Kentucky features miles of great turkey habitat.

Quick tip: Check out fw.ky.gov/Hunt/Pages/Spring-Turkey-Hunting.aspx for information on new public-land opportunities.

Season dates/bag limits: April 15 through May 7. Limit: one bearded bird per day, two per season.


Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 50,000 to 60,000

Spring 2016 harvest: About 4,900

Overall outlook: Louisiana’s turkey harvest has decreased significantly since the early 2000s, according to Cody Cedotal, resident small-game and wild turkey program manager for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. Still, he’s optimistic about this spring. “Overall, we are hopeful that the 2017 turkey harvest increases over previous years,” he said. “Survey data indicated an improved hatch in 2015, which should mean more mature gobblers in the population.”

Potential Spring 2017 hotspots: “Western and northwestern Louisiana provide some of the best turkey habitat in the state and support some of our highest population densities,” Cedotal said. “Both northeastern and south-central (Louisiana) can still expect relatively low harvests compared to long-term averages due to continued poor production.”

Quick tip: “Have a safe and enjoyable season, and report your harvest,” Cedotal said.

Season dates/bag limits: Area A: March 25 through April 23. Area B: March 25 through April 16. Area C: March 25 through April 9. Youth and physically challenged season: March 18 and 19. Limit: one gobbler per day, two per season.


Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 50,000 to 60,000

Spring 2016 harvest: About 5,100 (preliminary)

Overall outlook: Good production during Summer 2016 has Maine hunters and biologists optimistic. “It was one of the best since we started our August brood surveys,” said Kelsey Sullivan, wildlife biologist with the Game Bird Program for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. “Winter so far has been mild and in the southern half of the state, and snow depths are minimal. Next spring is poised to see lots of turkeys on the landscape, although mature toms may not be as abundant as jakes.”

Potential Spring 2017 hotspots: “South of the Bangor line generally has higher densities of turkeys,” Sullivan said. “Northern Maine is seeing a traditional winter, with 50 inches of snow in the far north. Central and southern Maine are expected to be more favorable.”

Quick tip: “Maine’s turkey population is very healthy, and with a two-bird bag limit in most parts of the state and all-day shooting hours for the entire season, it provides a tremendous and unique opportunity for both resident and nonresident turkey hunters,” said Matt DiBona, NWTF regional biologist for New England.

Season dates/bag limits: Youth day: April 29. Regular season: May 1 through June 3. Limit: two bearded wild turkeys per spring.


Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: About 35,000

Spring 2016 harvest: 3,874

Overall outlook: Bob Long, wild turkey and upland game-bird project manager for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, said the Spring 2017 forecast looks good, and he expects harvest similar to that of 2016.

Potential Spring 2017 hotspots: “Populations have increased recently in the Southern, Central and Upper Eastern Shore regions,” Long said. “The Lower Eastern Shore and Western Region populations may be down somewhat from previous highs.”

Quick tip: “Poor reproduction last summer will limit the numbers of jakes, but hunters should find good numbers of adult gobblers (particularly 2-year-old birds) in most regions, providing plenty of excitement once found,” Long said.

Season dates/bag limits: April 18 through May 23. Junior turkey hunting days: April 15 statewide, or April 16 in some counties. Limit: one bearded turkey per day, two per season.


Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 25,000 to 30,000

Spring 2016 harvest: 3,054

Overall outlook: Massachusetts had a near-record 2016 season, and spring harvests have been stable for the past few years. David Scarpitti, wildlife biologist with the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, expects another good season in Spring 2017. “Brood numbers were about average in 2016, but many areas had very good oak mast,” he said. “Although winter conditions can be severe some years, thus far, things have been pretty normal. All in all, it’s expected that there will be another strong spring harvest.”

Potential Spring 2017 hotspots: “Massachusetts is a pretty small state, so there doesn’t tend to be much regional difference,” he said. “Spring harvest has been mostly stable over the past several years. This is despite a couple of pretty harsh winters and apparently average brood production.”

Quick tip: “Hunters that may be new to turkey hunting should take advantage of the fantastic Learn to Hunt programs offered by (the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife),” said Matt DiBona, NWTF regional biologist for New England. “These full-day clinics teach important skills and techniques that will make you a more successful hunter.”

Season dates/bag limits: April 24 through May 20. Youth day April 22. Limit: one bearded bird per day in spring, two birds annually.


Michigan turkey
A hunter with his Michigan gobbler. Brian Lovett

Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: About 200,000

Spring 2016 harvest: About 33,000

Overall outlook: Michigan should again provide excellent hunting opportunities. “There was above-average production during 2016, and bird numbers appear to be up slightly from 2015,” said Al Stewart, upland game-bird specialist and program leader with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. * Potential Spring 2017 hotspots*: Stewart said turkey populations in the southern Lower Peninsula populations have stabilized and should continue to provide good hunting on private and public land. “The Upper Peninsula also has stable populations of birds and should provide respectable hunting prospects this spring,” he said. “The northern Lower Peninsula has experienced some population declines over the last several years. Despite slightly lower bird numbers, hunters maintain a good or better ranking for their hunting experience in this region of the state.”

Quick tip: Stewart urged hunters to scout ahead of time and share their passion with a new turkey hunter. He also touted the public opportunities in the state. “Michigan has 10 million acres of public land open to turkey hunters (the most public land east of the Mississippi river),” he said.

Season dates/bag limits: April 17 through May 31 (varies). 84,140 licenses available through lottery drawing; Feb. 1 deadline. Guaranteed licenses available for May can be purchased over the counter in March. Limit: one bearded turkey.


Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: not available

Spring 2016 harvest: 12,313

Overall outlook: “The outlook is good,” said Steve Merchant, wildlife population and regulation manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “We are hearing lots of reports of good bird numbers. There appear to be lots of young-of-the-year birds, which will be next spring’s jakes.”

Potential Spring 2017 hotspots: Merchant said turkey populations are still growing in the northern part of the state but have stabilized in the core range of southeastern Minnesota. “Top spots should be the southeast and west-central Minnesota,” he said.

Quick tip: “Spend more time hunting, and be patient,” Merchant said.

Season dates/bag limits: Six time periods, beginning April 12, concluding May 31 (lottery for first two periods). Limit: one bearded turkey.


Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 225,000 to 250,000

Spring 2016 harvest: About 22,000

Overall outlook: The Spring 2017 season might not be as good as hunting in the 1990s and early 2000s, but it could be better than the previous few years, according to Adam B. Butler, wild turkey program coordinator with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. “Certain areas of the state look poised to have a very good 2017, while other areas are bouncing back off several down years,” he said. “Overall, statewide turkey sightings by hunters trended downward from 2013 to 2015 but jumped back up last spring in 2016. Parts of the state had a good hatch during Summer 2016, so observations should be even greater for Spring 2017. Jakes sightings during last season (2016) were very similar to the year prior (2015), suggesting the upcoming season (2017) should at least be a replay of 2016, if not slightly better.”

Potential Spring 2017 hotspots: Jake observations from 2016 and brood survey results from 2015 suggest that the northern third of the state should provide the best hunting in 2017, Butler said. “Some counties in the north-central portion of this region seem to be supporting better numbers than in quite some time,” he added.

Quick tip: “Turkey activity during the early season is very weather dependent,” Butler said. “Gobbling typically peaks during the third or fourth week of the season, so don’t base all your assumptions on what you hear during the opening days.”

Derek Alkire, NWTF conservation field manager for Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi, advised hunters to find the fire. “When trying to find birds on public land, look for areas that have been recently burned,” he said.

Season dates/bag limits: Regular season: March 15 through May 1. Youth season: March 8 through 14. Limit: one adult gobbler or gobbler with a beard 6 inches or longer per day; three per spring season. Hunters 15 and younger can harvest one gobbler of choice per day, three per spring season.


Missouri Gobbler
Although the turkey harvest might not be as high as it was the previous year, after five years of population increase, the season still looks promising. Brian Lovett

Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 320,000

Spring 2016 harvest: 48,354

Overall outlook: This longtime Eastern hotbed should continue to produce. “Turkey numbers have been increasing in much of the state during the last five years,” said Jason Isabelle, wild turkey program leader with the Missouri Department of Conservation. “With poor production in 2016, the number of jakes will be noticeably lower. However, there should be plenty of adult gobblers for hunters to pursue. Although the spring turkey harvest will not likely be as high as in 2016, hunters are expected to harvest over 45,000 turkeys during Missouri’s 2017 season.”

Potential Spring 2017 hotspots: “Portions of west-central and southwestern Missouri remain top destinations for 2017,” Isabelle said. “Harvest in these areas of the state the last several years have been among the highest on record. Turkey numbers have also been increasing the last five years throughout much of the Ozarks of southern Missouri. This increasing trend coupled with an abundance of public land in the region also make it a top choice. Although turkey numbers have been increasing in north-central Missouri in recent years, turkey numbers in most of northern Missouri remain well-below the population peak of the early to mid-2000s.”

Quick tip: Don’t overlook public hunting areas. “Missouri is fortunate to have an abundance of public land, much of which offers excellent turkey hunting,” Isabelle said.

Season dates/bag limits: April 17 through May 7. Limit: two male turkeys or birds with a visible beard, only one of which can be taken during the first week of the regular season; one per day. Youth season: April 8 and 9.


Subspecies: Merriam’s, Eastern, possibly hybrids.

Estimated population: not available

Spring 2016 harvest: not available

Overall outlook: Turkey numbers seem to be increasing slightly after five or six years of declines.

Potential Spring 2017 hotspots: Populations in the inter-mountain valleys of western Montana seem to be doing well and did not experience the declines suffered by birds in the eastern portion of the state.

Quick tip: “Depending on the habitat type you are hunting, Merriam’s wild turkeys in Montana can migrate great distances between overwintering locations and spring nesting/breeding areas,” said Collin Smith, NWTF district biologist. “They utilize different habitat types during different times of the year, often dictated by weather conditions. Do what you can to learn these birds’ behavior and patterns prior to your hunt and it will greatly increase your chances of positioning yourself in the right areas to call up a bird.”

Season dates/bag limits: Not yet available; typically early to mid-April through mid-May. Limit: up to two bearded birds per spring season (varies by region; tags available on limited and over-the-counter basis).


Nebraska turkey
Nebraska’s turkey population is considered to be a hybrid of Merriam’s and Rio Grandes. Brian Lovett

Subspecies: Merriam’s Rio Grande, hybrid. “The majority of reintroductions were of intentionally hybridized turkeys (Merriam’s crossed with domesticated Easterns), although there were releases of both pure Merriam’s and Rio Grandes,” said Jeffrey Lusk, upland game program manager for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. “We are currently undertaking a study of the genetics of turkeys to determine the makeup of the turkey population across the state. Given current knowledge, however, we consider Nebraska’s turkeys to be hybrids.”

Estimated population: not available

Spring 2016 harvest: 22,136

Overall outlook: Nebraska is usually good, and this spring should be no exception. “Based on currently available rural mail carrier survey data from October 2016, turkey abundance is slightly above the five- and 10-year means statewide,” Lusk said. “Spring 2016 harvest was 11 percent higher than in Spring 2015.”

Potential Spring 2017 hotspots: Lusk said southwestern and central Nebraska have the highest turkey abundance.

Quick tip: “Although there are good opportunities on public areas to harvest turkeys, don’t be afraid to ring doorbells to access private land as well, particularly adjacent to public land,” Lusk said.

Season dates/bag limits: Archery season: March 25 through May 31. Youth shotgun: April 8 through May 31. Regular shotgun: April 15 through 31. Limit: one male or bearded turkey per permit; limit of three permits per person.

New Hampshire

Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: About 40,000

Spring 2016 harvest: 3,882

Overall outlook: Ted Walski, turkey project biologist with New Hampshire Fish and Game, expects good things from Spring 2017. “The turkey population probably reached carrying capacity in the state’s 10 counties several years ago,” he said. “Summer 2016 had above-average temperatures and semi-drought conditions, contributing to good turkey hatching success.”

Potential Spring 2017 hotspots: “The southern half of the state has significantly better habitat and higher turkey populations,” Walski said. “Of the state’s 18 wildlife management units, J2, K, L, M and H2 (essentially the southern and southeastern portions of the state) registered the most gobblers during the spring 2016 season.”

Quick tip: Scout one or two months before the season in towns where you plan to hunt, Walski said. “If unfamiliar with that part of the state, you might ask at local town stores,” he said. “Also, get a copy of the Fish and Game Department’s 2016 Wildlife Harvest Summary, which comes out in late March and records the turkey harvest number by unit and town.”

Season dates/bag limits: May 3 through May 31. Youth hunt: April 29 and 30. Limit: one bearded turkey per spring.

New Jersey

Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 20,000 to 25,000

Spring 2016 harvest: 2,906

Overall outlook: Anthony McBride, supervising biologist for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Division of Fish and Wildlife, said Spring 2017 prospects look good thanks to fair poult production in 2016 and good production in 2015.

Potential Spring 2017 hotspots: “The southwestern corner of the state continues to produce high harvest totals,” McBride said. “We’ve also seen an increase in turkey hunting areas 6 and 7 (in the northern part of the state).”

Quick tip: McBride suggested that hunters try the final two weeks of the season because many hens are incubating then and gobblers might be lonely.

Season dates/bag limits: April 24 through May 26, split into five time periods. Hunters must choose which they want to hunt. Permits awarded via lottery system; leftover permits sold afterward. Limit: one male turkey per permit but only one per day. Youth: April 22.

New Mexico

Subspecies: Merriam’s, Rio Grande, Gould’s

Estimated population: Not available

Spring 2016 harvest: estimated Spring 2015 harvest was 2,607

Overall outlook: Merriam’s numbers seem to be about average, and hunters can find those birds in most state mountain ranges. Good 2016 mast production and fair 2017 weather have helped Merriam’s rebound after several years of harsh drought, according to Casey Cardinal, resident game-bird biologist with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. The state has limited Rio Grande habitat, but those birds are doing well. Gould’s numbers have been increasing the past few years.

Potential Spring 2017 hotspots: Cardinal said the Sacramento Mountains and Gila National Forest have good numbers of Merriam’s and offer plenty of hunting opportunities. Rios along the Rio Grande River have been doing well, and hunters might have good success there. Also, publicly accessible Open Gate Program properties near Tucumcari should continue to provide good hunting this spring.

Quick tip: “Spend some time looking at satellite images or on the ground scouting before heading out to find a good spot, and don’t be afraid to do some hiking in pursuit of New Mexico turkeys,” Cardinal said.

Season dates/bag limits: April 15 through May 10. Youth: April 7 through 9. Limit: two turkeys with visible beards per over-the-counter tag

New York

Subspecies: Eastern

Overall population: not available

Spring 2016 harvest: About 20,000

Overall outlook: Mike Schiavone, wildlife biologist with the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, said turkeys enjoyed above-average reproductive success in 2015 and flourished through a mild winter in 2016. “We anticipate that there will be more 2-year-old gobblers available to hunters this spring compared to the previous few years,” he said.

Potential Spring 2017 hotspots: Turkeys in the Capital Region and western New York had good hatches the past two years, so Schiavone anticipates that hunters will have increased success in those areas.

Quick tip: “To ensure a safe and enjoyable season, DEC suggests hunters follow the cardinal rules of hunting safety,” Schiavone said. “Assume every gun is loaded, control the muzzle, keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot, be absolutely sure of your target and what may be beyond it and don’t stalk. Set up with your back against a large tree, and call birds to you.”

Season dates/bag limits: May 1 through 31. Limit: one bearded bird per day, two per season. Youth season: April 22 and 23.

North Carolina

Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 265,000

Spring 2016 harvest: 17,932

Overall outlook: Good, with a slight caveat. “Statewide turkey populations and harvest have been very high in recent years and are expected to be relatively high in 2017,” said Chris Kreh, upland game-bird biologist with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. “However, summer observation surveys (brood surveys) have generally been declining somewhat in recent years, so we may not continue to the increases to which we’ve become accustomed.”

Potential Spring 2017 hotspots: “Many counties in the coastal plain in eastern North Carolina have shown large increases in turkey populations and harvest in the last few years,” Kreh said. “Hunters in the piedmont and mountains will likely see numbers similar to what they’ve experienced for the last few years.”

Season dates/bag limits: April 8 through May 6. Youth season, April 1 through 7. Possession and season limit: two.

North Dakota

Subspecies: Eastern, Merriam’s

Estimated population: Not available

Spring 2016 harvest: 2,309

Overall outlook: “Turkeys have been declining since 2008,” said R.J. Gross, upland game biologist with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. “Last fall, we saw a slight increase in production, which was encouraging. However, this winter has been very hard so far, and I am guessing it will be tough on the turkeys.”

Potential Spring 2017 hotspots: Gross said the central part of the state near the Missouri River is always good and should continue to hold turkeys. “Also, the badlands around the Killdeer Mountains has a good number of birds,” he said. “The eastern portion of the state is down, and birds are few and far between.”

Quick tip: “There are birds to be hunted,” Gross said. “It will just take a good amount of time of scouting to find the birds in traditional areas, such as river corridors.”

Season dates/bag limits: April 8 through May 14 (tentative). Limit: one bearded or male turkey per license. Nonresidents cannot hunt North Dakota unless they buy the one license the state gives to the NWTF or hunt on tribal land, such as the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.


Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: More than 200,000

Spring 2016 harvest: 17,805*

Overall outlook: After great 2016 production, Ohio seems primed for a stellar Spring 2017 season. “During Summer 2016, the productivity index (3.6 poults per hen) was higher than it has been in 15 years, largely attributable to the emergence of Brood V (17-year) cicadas in eastern Ohio,” said Mark Wiley, wildlife biologist with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. “Additionally, the 2016 fall turkey harvest was 41 percent greater than the previous year. In the past, this sequence of events has included a spike in total turkey harvest during the subsequent spring seasons.”

Potential Spring 2017 hotspots: Wiley said hunters in counties within the Brood V cicada range (most of eastern Ohio) should encounter more birds, especially jakes. Quick tip: “Sit still longer, call less and always hunt safely,” Wiley said.

Season dates/bag limits: South Zone: April 24 through May 21. Northeast Zone: May 1 through 28. Limit: one bearded turkey per day, two per season (must purchase a second spring turkey permit).


Subspecies: Rio Grande, Eastern

Estimated population: Rio Grande, 106,220; Eastern, 7,000

Spring 2016 harvest: 7,362

Overall outlook: Jack Waymire, senior biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, said the Rio Grande outlook is good, but the forecast for Easterns is only fair, as those turkeys are still recovering from extreme droughts.

Potential Spring 2017 hotspots: All areas of Rio Grande country — essentially the central and western portions of the state — appear promising, according to Waymire. Quick tip: “Get out and do your scouting prior to the season opening,” Waymire said.

Season dates/bag limits: April 6 through May 6; Southeast: April 17 through May 6. Youth: April 1 and 2, or April 15 and 16 (Southeast). Limit: up to three bearded turkeys, but varies by county.


Subspecies: Primarily Rio Grande. “At one time, we also had Merriam’s in small portion of the state, but due to expansion in the range of the Rios, there are likely few if any pure Merriam’s left,” said Dave Budeau, upland game-bird coordinator with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Estimated population: 40,000 to 50,000

Spring 2016 harvest: Not yet available. “Anecdotally, we expect the 2016 spring harvest to be similar to slightly above the 2015 spring harvest of 4,948,” Budeau said.

Overall outlook: Budeau said it’s probably too early to tell, as winter weather can affect the survival of birds in the eastern two-thirds of the state. “So far this winter, we have experienced some significant snow and subzero temperatures in eastern Oregon, which if it persists, will likely result in higher winter mortality and lower spring populations,” he said. “Winter weather will likely not have a large impact on winter survival of turkeys in western Oregon. Populations in western Oregon have been stable to increasing over the past three years. Reproductive success and brood survival appear to be the primary factors influencing population trends in western Oregon.”

Potential Spring 2017 hotspots: “The southwestern part of Oregon consistently has the best spring turkey hunting, but hunter access can be limited,” Budeau said. “Northeastern Oregon is also a worthwhile place for spring turkeys and offers more public access, but numbers can be influenced by winter weather.”

Quick tip: Budeau suggested that hunters check out www.oregonhuntingmap.com, which can assist them with locating turkey hunting areas.

Season dates/bag limits: April 15 through May 31. Limit: one male turkey or bird with a visible beard per day; three per season.


Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 220,000

Spring 2016 harvest: 35,966

Overall outlook: Good, especially after above-average recruitment during 2015 and 2016. “This translates into an above-average 2-year-old gobbler population for 2017, and we all know those 2-year-old birds are the most vocal longbeards,” said Mary Jo Casalena, wild turkey biologist with the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

Potential Spring 2017 hotspots: Casalena said several wildlife-management units look promising, including 2A, in the southwestern corner of the state; 2B, in the areas around Pittsburgh; 4E, in central Pennsylvania; and 3C, in the northeastern corner of the state.

Quick tip: Pennsylvania has lots of turkey hunters and abundant public ground. The Pennsylvania Game Commission website provides a good reminder to hunters of all experience levels: “A safe turkey hunter, like a safe driver, is defensive-minded, whether hunting public or private land. If you suspect there’s another hunter already working the same bird, leave the area.”

Season dates/bag limits: April 29 through May 31. Youth: April 22. Limit: one bearded bird per regular hunting license. Hunters with a special second spring gobbler license may take a second bird.

turkey hunter
A turkey hunter waits for gobblers. Brian Lovett

Rhode Island

Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: About 3,000

Spring 2016 harvest: 122

Overall outlook: Hunting conditions should be better than in 2015, according to Brian C. Tefft, principal wildlife biologist with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. Harvest should also increase.

Potential Spring 2017 hotspots: Rhode Island is small, and conditions appear to be excellent statewide.

Quick tip: “Turkey hunting in Rhode Island takes patience, persistence and ingenuity, so prepare well and have Plan A hunting spots and a few fallback plans for hunting,” Tefft said.

Season dates/bag limits: April 27 through May 21. Youth season: April 22 and 23. Limit: one bearded turkey per spring.

South Carolina

Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: About 120,000

Spring 2016 harvest: 16,783

Overall outlook: Fair. “This is based on the annual summer turkey survey, which estimates reproduction and recruitment,” said Charles Ruth, big-game program coordinator with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. “The trend over much of the last decade has generally been poor reproduction, which has caused a decline in turkey numbers and harvest. Reproduction has been a little better the last two summers, so things have gotten a little better, and I expect the harvest will increase in 2017.”

Potential Spring 2017 hotspots: Ruth pointed toward the Midlands, a region that roughly encompasses the middle of the state.

Quick tip: “Although turkey numbers are down compared to record levels earlier in the century, slightly better reproduction the last couple of summers should show up as increased harvest opportunities in 2017,” Ruth said.

Season dates/bag limits: Private land: March 20 through May 5; three gobblers total, no more than two per day. Public land (wildlife-management areas): April 1 through May 5; three gobblers total, no more than two per day. See the state’s annual regulations guide for specifics on WMAs open to turkey hunting.

South Dakota

Subspecies: Merriam’s, Eastern, Rio Grande

Estimated population: not available

Spring 2016 harvest: 5,272

Overall outlook: Mixed. Travis Runia, with the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks, said turkey numbers in prairie units have generally decreased the past 10 years. “Hunting will still be good in 2017, but turkey abundance is below objectives in most areas,” he said. Meanwhile, Chad Lehman of South Dakota GFP, said Black Hills birds appear to be on the upswing after a downward trend that began in 2008.

Potential Spring 2017 hotspots: The Black Hills area remains a hotspot, with abundant public land. Also, look into prairie units with leftover tags, which usually become available in March.

Quick tip: Studies of Black Hills turkeys by SDGFP indicate a second gobbling peak in early May, just before or during peak incubation.

Season dates/bag limits: Prairie and Black Hills: April 8 through May 21. Archery: April 1 through May 21. Limit: one per license. Tag availability varies; one in some areas, two in others. Leftover tags available for some prairie units.


Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: not available

Spring 2016 harvest: 31,048

Overall outlook: Tennessee has become an Eastern turkey hotspot in recent years, and that trend should continue. “The overall outlook is great,” said Joy Sweaney, wild turkey program leader for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. “There’s nothing to indicate otherwise. The spring harvest was up from last year.”

Potential Spring 2017 hotspots: Sweaney said the middle portion of the state typically sees a higher harvest than other areas. The central to northern part of middle Tennessee will likely be the hottest.

Quick tip: Topography varies considerably through Tennessee, with mountains in the east, farmland and rolling hills at the center and river bottoms to the west.

Season dates/bag limits: April 1 through May 14. Youth: March 25 and 26. Limit: one bearded bird per day, four per season.


Subspecies: Rio Grande, Eastern and Merriam’s (in the Davis Mountains)

Estimated population: About 580,000

Spring 2016 harvest: 23,281

Overall outlook: Spring 2017 is expected to be outstanding for Rios. “Texas had a ton of Rio jakes last year, and we have a ton of mature toms across the Rio Grande range in Texas this spring,” said Jason Hardin, upland game-bird specialist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “Eastern wild turkeys are holding steady in places they are commonly found. Merriam’s wild turkeys are rapidly being bred out of existence by the surrounding Rio Grande population.”

Potential Spring 2017 hotspots: Pick a spot. Hardin said all of the state’s massive Rio Grande range looks to be in good shape.

Quick tip: “Hunters should focus on riparian systems (springs, creeks and rivers) when chasing turkeys in Texas,” Hardin said.

Season dates/bag limits: Rio Grande South Zone (54 counties): March 18 through April 30. Rio Grande North Zone (101 counties): April 1 through May 14. Limit: four gobblers or bearded birds. Rio Grande, special one-turkey bag limit (10 counties): April 1 through 30. Limit: one gobbler. Eastern Turkey (15 counties): April 15 through May 14. Limit: one gobbler.


Subspecies: Rio Grande, Merriam’s, hybrid

Estimated population: 30,000 to 35,000

Spring 2016 harvest: 3,561

Overall outlook: Fantastic, according to Jason D. Robinson, upland game program coordinator with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. “Might be the best turkey hunting ever in Utah,” he said.

Potential Spring 2017 hotspots: “Southern parts of the state look great,” Robinson said. “We are having a pretty snowy winter so far, and that could impact populations, but we will have to wait and see.”

Quick tip: Locate pockets of birds. “Find where the turkeys are before the season starts,” Robinson said.

Season dates/bag limits: Limited-entry hunts: April 8 through 27 (must apply by Dec. 27). General: May 1 through 31. Limit: one bearded turkey per spring.


Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 50,000 to 55,000

Spring 2016 harvest: 5,537

Overall outlook: Despite a slight downward trend in harvest, turkey hunting in Vermont should continue to be good to excellent, said Amy Alfieri, wild turkey project leader for the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department. “Populations continue to expand in the Northeast and are stabilizing through much of the state,” she said.

Potential Spring 2017 hotspots: Generally, Alfieri said, units J2 along the Connecticut River, D1 in the northeastern part of the state and WMU B in northwestern Vermont see the highest spring harvests.

Quick tip: “Vermont has some excellent turkey habitat,” Alfieri said. “Don’t be afraid to knock on some doors to get permission to hunt. Enjoy the hunt — there’s nothing else like it.” Season dates/bag limits: May 1 through 31. Youth: April 29 and 30. Limit: two bearded turkeys.


Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: About 200,000

Spring 2016 harvest: 17,243

Overall outlook: Good; likely similar to previous seasons. “Recruitment in 2015 was near average, so our 2-year old age cohort for the 2017 season will likely maintain current population trends,” said Gary Norman, forest game-bird project leader for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. “2016-’17 fall harvest data are not available yet, but mast crops were below average for white oaks and slightly above average for red oaks. So, mast crops appeared to be near average in 2016, which means that fall harvest rates are likely to be below average (high mast equals low harvest rates; low mast equals high harvest rates). Overall, recruitment two years ago was near average, and fall harvest rates in 2016-’17 were low. These conditions should result in similar population levels and trends.”

Potential Spring 2017 hotspots: “Our Northern Neck area remains the turkey capital of the state.” Norman said. “High populations can also be found in some of our southern Piedmont Region counties.” Populations in many areas of the central Mountain Region of western Virginia are low but stable.

Quick tip: “Don’t give up on the latter weeks of the season,” Norman said. “Gobblers are easier to hunt and kill when hens begin incubating nests.”

Season dates/bag limits: April 8 through May 13. Limit: one bearded turkey per day, three per license year, no more than two of which can be taken in fall. Youth and apprentice spring season: April 1 and 2.


Subspecies: Eastern, Merriam’s, Rio Grande

Estimated population: not available

Spring 2016 harvest: 4,561

Overall outlook: “The Merriam’s and Rio Grande subspecies has a good outlook,” said Angelique Curtis, small-game section manager, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. “Those populations have continued to expand and stabilize. The Eastern subspecies has a very small population in western Washington. They can be challenging to find.”

Potential Spring 2017 hotspots: Curtis said the state’s northeastern and central portions look most promising. “The northwest has the smallest population (Easterns), with only three turkeys being harvested in 2015 and one in 2014,” she said.

Quick tip: “Some of the best turkey habitat in Washington is located on private lands. Go to the WDFW Private Lands Hunting Access [website](Wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/hunting_access/private lands) to locate private lands available for turkey hunting.”

Season dates/bag limits: April 15 through 31. Youth season: April 7 and 8. Limit: combined spring/youth season limit of three male or bearded turkeys (limits vary by region and county; see regulations).

West Virginia

Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: About 100,000

Spring 2016 harvest: 10,369

Overall outlook: Things are looking up, according to Keith Krantz, game management supervisor, Northern Region, for the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources. In 2015, turkey brood observations in the state’s Southern Region exceeded the five-year average by 14 percent, and every area except the Mountain Region saw an increase in brood observations from 2014. “So on a statewide basis, there should be more 2-year-old birds available this year compared to last,” Krantz said. “Further, the appearance of the periodical cicadas in the Western Region significantly increased the numbers of broods seen — 46 percent higher than the five-year average. This will mean that in those counties that had cicadas, jakes will be abundant this year.”

Potential Spring 2017 hotspots: The aforementioned Southern Region — Mason County to Nicholas, south to Monroe County and then following the state border back to Mason County — had high brood observations in 2015, and Krantz anticipates that hunters in that area should encounter more gobblers this spring. “Counties within the Mountain Region (Tucker, Randolph, Webster, Pocahontas and Greenbrier) saw their brood reporting decline again in 2015, indicating fewer 2-year-old gobblers on the landscape there,” he said.

Quick tip: “You can’t kill a turkey from the couch,” Krantz said.

Season dates/bag limits: April 17 through May 13. Youth: April 15. Limit: one bearded bird per day, two per season.


Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: Not available

Spring 2016 harvest: 45,501.

Overall outlook: Mark Witecha, upland wildlife ecologist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, said the state’s substantial turkey population has stabilized after decades of continuous growth, and now experiences slight annual fluctuations based on nesting success, brood-rearing conditions and other factors. Production appeared to be down somewhat in 2016, so there might be fewer young turkeys. However, strong hatches in 2014 and 2015 should equate to plenty of adult gobblers (and hens) on the landscape.

Potential Spring 2017 hotspots: Witecha pointed to the southern and central areas of the state, which have abundant agriculture. Northern Wisconsin is heavily forested, and turkey densities aren’t as high in that region.

Quick tip: “Hunters should expect leftover permits (those not given out during the January application draw) to go on sale sometime in late March,” Witecha said.

Season dates/bag limits: One turkey per permit; six seven-day seasons, April 19 through May 30.


Subspecies: Merriam’s; some Rio Grandes and hybrids

Estimated population: State biologists don’t estimate turkey numbers. Spring gobbler harvest provides a good mirror of population trends, and data suggests Wyoming turkey numbers increased from 2005 to 2010, and then declined somewhat but improved during 2015 and 2016.

Spring 2016 harvest: 2,548

Overall outlook: Poult production was average to good throughout most of Wyoming in 2014 and 2015, so biologists anticipate that harvest will increase in Spring 2017. “There will be enhanced opportunity to harvest a mature tom, and we are also expecting to see a return of more turkey hunters to the field. The overall outlook is for fair to good spring wild turkey hunting in most locations,” Joe Sandrini, wildlife biologist with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, wrote in a 2016 report.

Potential Spring 2017 hotspots: The Black Hills. Observations noted a 25 percent increase in turkey numbers there in 2015 and 2016. “The Black Hills and the Black Hills National Forest host the largest Merriam’s population in Wyoming and most publicly accessible hunting, respectively,” Sandrini said.

Quick tip: “Accessing early-season birds can be difficult due to snow and road conditions and travel restrictions,” Sandrini said. “While birds are very call vulnerable in early to mid-April, vulnerability increases again after about May 10, as most hens are on the nest by then in a typical year. Plus, the weather is more predictable.”

Season dates/bag limits: April 1 or April 8 through May 20 (varies by hunt region). Limited-quota and general spring wild turkey licenses available. Limit: one male turkey or bird with a visible beard.