The 2020 Spring Turkey Hunting State-by-State Forecast

The inside word from biologists across the country on where to get your gobbler this spring

A limit of Florida Osceola turkey hunting.
Florida’s Osceola season is one of the first spring hunts of the year. The 2020 forecast indicates a stable population of birds statewide.Gerry Bethge

Pity the poor turkey hunter. Even the most avid vagabond gobbler geek can only chase his spring passion for about 13 weeks (assuming an early start in Florida and a June finish in Maine).

To the uninitiated, that might seem like a ridiculously long season. But then you begin to realize the broad range of turkey hunting opportunities across the country: cagey Southern longbeards on crisp March mornings, hard-gobbling late-April Easterns in the Midwest, loud-mouthed Merriam’s on open early-May landscapes and last-minute longbeards in the Heartland and New England. Suddenly, 13 weeks doesn’t seem like enough.

Make the most of your limited time. Sleep can wait. Don’t tell your boss, but work can take a back seat, too. Turkey season will be here and gone before you know it. Here’s a quick guide to start planning your Spring 2020 hunts.

Scroll through, or use the links below to jump to your state:

Alabama

Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 368,000

Spring 2019 harvest: 25,652 (estimate from Responsive Management Survey); 10,948 reported through Game Check.

Overall outlook: “We have observed statewide declines in wild turkey population growth, but the number of jake observations increased during the 2019 Avid Turkey Hunter Survey,” says Steven Mitchell, upland game-bird coordinator for the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. “Hopefully those jake numbers will translate into hard gobbling 2-year-olds this spring. Turkey populations on many large private properties that are directly managing for turkey habitat have reported stable to increased numbers.”

Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: Mitchell said the Ridge, Valley and Southwestern Appalachian regions of northeastern Alabama are historically prime areas, but hunters can find good opportunities throughout the state where landowners manage turkey habitat.

Quick tip: “It is recommended that hunters who plan to travel from out of state to hunt wildlife management areas contact regional offices to get pertinent information from WMA wildlife biologists regarding gobbling activity, hunting pressure, habitat types, terrain features and recommended dates of hunting,” says Mitchell.

Season dates/bag limits: outdooralabama.com/turkey-season

Arizona

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

Estimated population: Merriam’s, 25,000 to 30,000; Gould’s, 1,500; Rio Grande, 500

Spring 2019 harvest: estimated at 1,006

Overall outlook: Rick Langley, Region 1 game specialist with the Arizona Game and Fish Department, says prospects for spring 2020 look good based on poult recruitment from 2019.

Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: Langley recommends units 1 and 27 in eastern Arizona and Unit 12A in northern Arizona.

Quick tip: Hunters must apply in October for spring permits, as all tags are issued via a limited permit draw, except in some units with over-the-counter archery and youth permits. Draw permits are only valid for specific dates in a specific unit.

Season dates/bag limits: azgfd.com/hunting/regulations

Arkansas

Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 100,000

Spring 2019 harvest: 8,240

Overall outlook: Overall turkey populations appear to be stable, albeit still considerably lower than in the early 2000s, according to Jeremy Wood, turkey program coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

“Harvest increased slightly in 2019, and anecdotal observations suggest reproduction in 2018 may have been better than estimated by the annual summer brood survey,” he says. “I expect harvest rates to be similar to 2019 levels.”

Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: The summer 2018 brood survey indicated that the Ouachita eco-region in central and western Arkansas experienced better-than-average reproduction compared to the rest of the state.

“This should lead to slightly higher harvest rates in this area this year, with potential for more 2-year-old gobblers on the landscape,” says Wood.

Quick tip: “Arkansas’ turkey season is short, and turkeys are heavily pressured in the state,” says Wood. “Being patient and calling sparingly in areas known to hold turkeys will likely improve your odds of success.”

California

Subspecies: Mostly Rio Grandes, with some Merriam’s, Easterns and Eastern/Rio Grande hybrids.

“While three subspecies of wild turkey have been successfully introduced to California since the early 20th century, today the most commonly encountered subspecies are the Rio Grande and the Merriam’s,” says Matt Meshriy, environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Upland Game Program. “Eastern/Rio Grande hybrids have also been released, and hybridization between subspecies has likely also occurred in the wild.”

Estimated population: 250,000

Spring 2019 harvest: CDFW did not conduct a 2019 harvest survey, but recent harvest estimates indicate hunters take about 16,000 to 19,000 birds annually.

Overall outlook: Meshriy says the overall outlook is very good. California is experiencing its third consecutive year of average or better-than-average precipitation after an extended drought. “We anticipate that the spring breeding season should be as action-packed as any in recent years,” he says.

Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: Counties with the consistently highest spring turkey harvests include El Dorado, Placer and Shasta. Tehama, Sonoma and Yolo counties have also seen good harvests in recent years.

Quick tip: “Focus your scouting efforts within two weeks of the opener, and plan out at least three promising spots based on your observations,” says Meshriy. “Having contingencies will greatly improve your chances and still allow you to intercept birds if your flydown spots are compromised.”

Two turkey hunters standing over a turkey.
Often, spring gobbler success depends upon a healthy population of two-year-old toms, which typically gobble best.Gerry Bethge

Colorado

Subspecies: Merriam’s, Rio Grandes

Estimated population: 30,000 to 35,000

Spring 2019 harvest: 5,200

Overall outlook: Ed T. Gorman, small-game manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, says the Spring 2020 prospects look positive.

“Colorado has good numbers of birds everywhere there is habitat for them,” he says. “Some areas may be reduced a bit from 2019 due to weather conditions.”

Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: Gorman said it’s difficult to pinpoint promising areas until biologists can assess the effects of winter weather on turkey populations. However, he adds that Colorado has abundant public hunting opportunities, many of which offer good turkey hunting.

Quick tip: “Studying turkey behavior is a valuable tactic for hunters, particularly those that are hunting Merriam’s wild turkeys, which tend to be very nomadic during the spring season,” says Gorman. “While not an option generally for non-resident hunters, hunters who have a chance to scout and find birds before the season tend to be more successful, as are those hunters that can recognize what good turkey habitat looks like and how birds are going to use those areas throughout the spring season.”

Connecticut

Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: no estimate

Spring 2019 harvest: 1,324

Overall outlook: “The 2020 spring season outlook is fair,” says Michael Gregonis, a certified wildlife biologist with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. “The 2019 brood survey information indicated that annual productivity was poor, and the 2018 productivity was only a bit better.”

Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: Gregonis said the 25,000-plus-acre Pachaug State Forest in southeastern Connecticut is annually among the top three harvest properties.

Quick tip: “This spring, due to the lack of acorns in the majority of the state, turkeys will likely be spending more time in cornfields,” says Gregonis.

Delaware

Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 6,000

Spring 2019 harvest: 565

Overall outlook: Justyn R. Foth, waterfowl, turkey and upland-game-bird biologist with the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s Division of Fish and Wildlife, says there’s no indication of a turkey population decline from 2019. Wet springs the past couple of years might indicate slow to stable population growth.

“The majority of our harvest — 86 percent — occurs on private lands,” he says. “Last year on public lands, 82 birds were harvested.”

Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: Foth says Norman G. Wilder Wildlife Area in western Kent County featured the highest Spring 2019 harvest of any state wildlife property. Hunters in wildlife management zones 4, 6, 7, 8, 11 and 12 take the most birds.

Quick tip: Foth reminds hunters to take their turkey hunter safety course in person, through the department’s Hunter Education Department or online through a third-party source before going afield. All turkey hunters must take the course and have proof they completed it.

Dave Hawkey with a long-spurred Osceola.
Dave Hawkey with a long-spurred Osceola.Gerry Bethge

Florida

Subspecies: Osceola, Eastern, intergrade

Estimated population: not available

Spring 2019 harvest: 20,312

Overall outlook: Buddy Welch, Wild Turkey Management Program coordinator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Division of Hunting and Game Management, says hunters should expect the Spring 2020 season to be similar season to Spring 2019.

Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: Welch says many state wildlife management areas have undergone turkey habitat improvement work.

Quick tip: “Osceolas tend to be less vocal than other subspecies,” says Welch. “Resisting the urge to overcall often pays off.”

Season dates/bag limits: myfwc.com/hunting/season-dates

Turkey hunters sitting on a porch while turkeys hang from the porch.
Although turkey populations in several southern states have been trending downward for several years, most reported that birds are rebounding solidly.Brian Lovett

Georgia

Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 250,000 to 300,000

Spring 2019 harvest: 17,073

Overall outlook: “The overall outlook is fair — maybe slightly better than the past few years,” says Emily Rushton, turkey project coordinator for Georgia Department of Natural Resources. “Poult production for the past two years has been slightly above the five-year average, so hunters may see an uptick in birds on the landscape. Additionally, jake harvest was up last year, which can indicate a high number of jakes in last year’s spring population, which would translate to a higher number of 2-year-old gobblers available this spring.”

Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: Rushton says the Ridge and Valley region in northwestern Georgia is typically a stronghold for turkeys. The area experienced great poult production in 2018, which could mean a boost in 2-year-old gobblers this spring.

Quick tip: Rushton says hunters can find lots of information on the Outdoors Georgia App. “Beyond hunting licenses and Game Check, it has season dates, online WMA sign-in, interactive WMA maps and even solar and lunar phases,” she says.

Hawaii

Subspecies: Rio Grande

Estimated population: no estimate

Spring 2019 harvest: 79 (public land only)

Overall outlook: A.J. McWhorter, communications specialist with the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, says the best turkey hunting is on the island of Hawaii. Turkey populations are not stable on public hunting areas on Maui.

Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: McWhorter says traveling hunters should check out Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano on Hawaii that offers good public opportunities.

Quick tip: Even in Hawaii, morning temperatures will be cold. Hunters might also have to deal with fog, so bring a GPS.

Idaho

Subspecies: Primarily Merriam’s, with some Easterns and Rio Grandes.

“However, due to mixing, and trapping and translocation efforts statewide, there are likely no pure subspecies in Idaho,” says Jeffrey M. Knetter, upland-game and migratory game-bird coordinator for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. “In some places, a given bird may display characteristics of each subspecies. I like to refer to them as Idaho mountain turkeys.”

Estimated population: no estimate

Spring 2019 harvest: 5,250

Overall outlook: Turkey populations looked strong going into winter, says Knetter. Unless areas suffer deep snow events with extended cold temperatures, turkey populations should go into nesting season in good shape.

Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: Knetter says Idaho’s Panhandle and Clearwater regions are turkey strongholds.

Quick tip: “Get a good access map or app, and look for general hunting opportunities in Idaho,” says Knetter. “Given the amount of public land, anyone willing to put in the effort has a chance for a bird.”

Season dates/bag limits: idfg.idaho.gov/rules

Illinois

Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: no estimate

Spring 2019 harvest: 15,190

Overall outlook: Luke Garver, wild turkey project manager for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, says the spring 2020 outlook is somewhat mixed. The spring 2019 harvest rebounded from a down year in 2018, mostly because of improved production. The summer 2018 brood survey indicted average poult production, which was reflected by a higher percentage of jakes in the Spring 2019 kill.

“Unfortunately, the 2019 brood survey resulted in a record-low number of poults per hen observed,” says Garver. “Those numbers were particularly low during early to midsummer, the result of widespread heavy rain and flooding. We saw numbers rebound somewhat in late summer, an indication there was success for late nesting hens as well as those that attempted second and third nests. The jury is out on how much those late broods will contribute to the 2020 harvest, but hunters should expect fewer jakes around and a lower overall harvest compared to last year.”

Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: Garver said the Shawnee National Forest is a great bet for traveling hunters. It spans 289,000 acres across nine counties, and much of the area is open for hunting. County-specific turkey permits can be used on any national forest lands within that county.

Quick tip: “Hunters searching for land access in addition to public lands should check out the Illinois Recreational Access Program,” says Garver. “The program grants hunters access to private lands. In turn, participating landowners can get assistance with wildlife habitat management on their land.” dnr.illinois.gov/conservation/IRAP/Pages/default.aspx

Indiana

Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: about 120,000

Spring 2019 harvest: 12,014

Overall outlook: Steven E. Backs, statewide project leader for the wild turkey and ruffed grouse project and the wild pig elimination effort with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, says biologists did not see improvement in summer 2019 poult production, so he hopes the spring 2020 harvest remains close to 12,000 birds

“Like many states in the East, Indiana has seen a leveling off in our spring harvests from the peak years in the early 2000s that followed the restoration era, but we have stabilized right around 12,000 the last five years, and this is very good compared to some of the more dramatic declines in other eastern states,” he says. “We have are somewhat blessed to have stabilized around 12,000 given the poor to below-normal summer production that has been a chronic issue with our turkey populations for over a decade in most regions of the state, especially in our primary range in the southern part of the state.”

Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: Backs says the Hoosier National Forest and several state forests and reservoir properties have good turkey hunting opportunities, and many have campgrounds for traveling hunters. Special reserve (draw) hunts are held for many state fish and wildlife areas and national wildlife refuges, with a Feb. 19 application deadline.

Quick tip: ““Probably the most overlooked aspect of spring turkey hunting is a thorough knowledge of the lay of the land where one plans to hunt,” says Backs. “Knowing the topography, potential travel corridors for gobblers, access points used by hunters and how the cover lays is generally more important than knowing how many gobblers are in an area. You only need to know how to beat one gobbler at his game on his turf.”

Iowa

Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 110,000 to 150,000

Spring 2019 harvest: 11,387

Overall outlook: “Iowa continues to have good numbers of turkeys in many areas of the state,” says Jim Coffey, forest wildlife biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. “2019 brood surveys indicate a continued downward trend in the southern one-third of the state. There should be good numbers of 2-year-old birds in most places. Jake numbers will most likely be down in central and southern Iowa.”

Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: Coffey says north-central and northeastern Iowa continue to hold good numbers of birds. North-central Iowa is not typical turkey habitat. Most of the timber is along rivers and streams and can be unpredictable with high water in spring. Northeastern Iowa is a perennial favorite, as mixed timber and farmlands create ideal turkey hunting conditions.

Quick tip: “Hunters should always be prepared for variable weather conditions,” says Coffey. “Temperatures can swing from snow to sweltering in just a short time, which can change gobbler behavior quickly. Persistence is the key to hunting turkeys in Iowa.”

Veteran hunter Steve Stoltz sets up on a Midwest field.
Veteran hunter Steve Stoltz sets up on a Midwest field.Brian Lovett

Kansas

Subspecies: Eastern, Rio Grande, hybrid

Estimated population: no estimate

Spring 2019 harvest: 23,296

Overall outlook: “Overall, turkey hunting should be fair to good in 2020,” says Kent A. Fricke, small-game coordinator for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. “Due to extensive precipitation and flooding in the eastern two-thirds of the state in 2019, production was very low, which will hamper the turkey population for the next two to three years. However, adult survival through the flooding appears to have been high, so carryover from previous years should be relatively good.”

Fricke reminded hunters that optional game tags, which allow the harvest of a second turkey, will not be valid in turkey hunting units 3, 5 and 6 (northeastern, south-central and southeastern Kansas, respectively) during 2020. Hunters can still take two turkeys (with the purchase of a permit and game tag) in units 1 and 2 (northwestern and north-central Kansas).

Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: Fricke says north-central and northeastern Kansas continue to support the most turkeys and also provide abundant opportunities for public hunting access.

Quick tip: “The later portion of the season is often overlooked but can provide quality opportunities with reduced hunting pressure,” Fricke said.

Kentucky

Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: about 250,000 to 400,000

Spring 2019 harvest: 29,500

Overall outlook: Zachary Danks, grouse and turkey program coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, is optimistic about spring 2020 prospects.

“I expect a higher proportion of gobblers in the harvest, as the jakes produced with 2018’s better hatch will be vocal 2-year-old birds,” he says. “The same should be true in 2021, as 2019’s hatch was better than 2018’s. This bump in production would be welcome news considering we had poor hatches (production) in 2016 and 2017.”

Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: Danks says 2018 production was consistent throughout Kentucky, so he expects the spring 2020 harvest to be fairly even across the state.

“The Daniel Boone National Forest offers a ton of room to move about in eastern Kentucky,” he says. “We had six or seven WMAs with harvests close to 40 birds.”

Quick tip: “Hunt the late season,” says Danks. “You can have success, even on public land, by sticking it out. Don’t expect a classic call-’em-in-on-a-string hunt every time. Pressured birds learn, and when hatches are poor, we end up hunting wily old birds for a few years, and they are definitely more call-shy.”

Louisiana

Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 40,000

Spring 2019 harvest: 3,200

Overall outlook: Cody Cedotal, small-game and wild turkey program manager with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, says overall turkey harvests and populations have been declining in recent years.

“We’re hopeful that the recent season delay and subsequent increased reproduction will help increase harvests and populations,” he says.

Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: “Kisatchie National Forest in western Louisiana has moderate to good populations, a result of well-managed habitat in many areas,” says Cedotal.

Quick tip: “Use caution when utilizing decoys — especially male decoys,” Cedotal said in 2019.

Season dates/bag limits: wlf.louisiana.gov/hunting/turkey

Maine

Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 70,000

Spring 2019 harvest: 6,612

Overall outlook: Kelsey M. Sullivan, wildlife biologist with the Bird Group of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, says the state experienced below-average production in summer 2019, so total numbers might be down. 2018 saw very good production, so there should be lots of 2-year-olds on the landscape.

Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: Sullivan suggests that hunters check out Cumberland and Waldo counties.

Quick tip: “Most farmers and large landowners are happy to open their land to turkey hunting,” says Sullivan. “Knock on the front door and introduce yourself, and you will likely get permission.”

Maryland

Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 40,000

Spring 2019 harvest: 4,002

Overall outlook: “Turkey populations remain strong throughout most of the state,” says Bob Long, wild turkey and upland game-bird project manager with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. “However, three summers of below-average reproduction (2015 through 2018) dampened the previous population growth and reduced numbers in some areas. Poult production was much improved in 2019 and should result in an abundance of jakes and increased populations throughout the state.”

Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: Long says turkey densities are generally highest in the western and eastern regions, and portions of the southern Region. Counties with the highest populations include Washington, Frederick, Kent, Caroline, Dorchester, Charles, Somerset, and Queen Anne’s.

Quick tip: “Conditions can vary significantly during the season in this diverse state,” says Long. “While hunters in the western Maryland mountains may encounter cold and even snow early in the season, hunters in the wet woods and marshes of the Eastern Shore will often deal with warm weather and mosquitoes.”

Young boy with a spring turkey in Massachusetts.
Ely Cormier with his first gobbler taken on Massachusetts’ youth day turkey hunt.Gerry Bethge

Massachusetts

Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 35,000

Spring 2019 harvest: 2,700

Overall outlook: David Scarpitti, wildlife biologist with the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, says he’s optimistic about the 2020 season. The Spring 2019 harvest was down a bit from 2018, but 2019 brood conditions seemed good.

Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: Scarpitti says traditional areas across Berkshire County and private property in Middlesex and Plymouth counties should be productive.

Quick tip: “Leave the calls at home (while scouting), and look for where the turkeys are setting up in late winter and early spring,” he says.

Michigan

Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 200,000

Spring 2019 harvest: about 30,000-plus

Overall outlook: Al Stewart, upland game-bird specialist and program leader with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, says the state experienced good production this past year, so bird numbers should be similar to or slightly higher than 2019 levels.

Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: Stewart says Allegan County should be a top area to hunt this spring. The Allegan State Game Area covers 50,656 acres and holds excellent turkey numbers.

Quick tip: “At pre-dawn, I like to listen for roosting gobblers along steep bluffs near creek bottoms,” says Stewart. “I set up my calling location in adjacent open hardwoods or fields close to these areas.”

Minnesota

Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: no estimate

Spring 2019 harvest: 10,699

Overall outlook: “Minnesota monitors wild turkeys through harvest and permit sales, which have been relatively stable over the past several years,” says Lindsey Messinger, wildlife research biologist with the Farmland Wildlife Populations and Research Group for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “Weather conditions early in the season often dictate hunter participation. Wet weather conditions in the core turkey range in the spring and summer of 2019 may have impacted nest initiation and nest survival, but overall, the outlook is favorable and similar to the past several spring seasons.

Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: Messinger says permit areas 501 and 507 — the state’s core turkey range — continue to be the best bets. The harvest in permit area 508 continues to increase, and that unit might offer good opportunities depending on winter weather conditions, which can limit turkey populations in that area.

Quick tip: “Many wildlife management areas offer excellent turkey hunting,” says Messinger. “Scouting of potential sites either on the ground or online via recreation compass (dnr.state.mn.us/maps/compass/index.html) is an excellent way to prepare for a turkey hunt. For a more private hunting experience, venturing further from roads and parking lots typically rewards those willing to put in a little extra walking effort.”

Mississippi

Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 225,000 to 275,000

Spring 2019 harvest: reported harvest, 12,627; estimated harvest about 25,000

Overall outlook: Adam B. Butler, wild turkey program coordinator with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, says 2020 should be a solid year statewide and could be one of the better seasons in almost a decade.

Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: “Honestly, the forecast looks good everywhere,” says Butler. “Lands in the Delta and immediately adjacent to the Mississippi River are a question mark due to flooding last spring and summer, but other than that, populations should be up almost everywhere.”

Quick tip: “Although Mississippi has one of the earliest opening days in the country, traveling hunters should not feel as if it’s imperative to take advantage,” says Butler. “Instead, gobbling activity usually peaks in early April, so those willing to postpone a trip for several weeks may actually experience better-quality hunting.”

Missouri

Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 390,000

Spring 2019 harvest: 38,795

Overall outlook: “Unfortunately, poor production during 2018 will result in fewer 2-year-old gobblers available for harvest this upcoming spring turkey season,” says Reina M. Tyl, resource scientist with the Missouri Department of Conservation. “Additionally, we’ve had four years of very poor production (2016 through 2019), so there will be fewer birds of all ages available for harvest this spring. Hunters should be prepared to put in more effort this year in order to be successful.”

Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: Tyl says portions of east-central and south-central Missouri have produced the highest spring turkey harvests in recent years. The top counties extend from Callaway and Franklin in east-central Missouri to Texas and Laclede in south-central Missouri.

Quick tip: “Due to the potentially challenging conditions during this upcoming spring turkey season, hunters should get out to their hunting areas as much as possible before the season begins to listen for birds gobbling at daybreak,” says Tyl. “Spotting turkeys feeding in open areas or looking for signs where turkeys have been feeding in timber can help hunters determine where the birds are spending most of their time after they fly down from the roost.”

Montana

Subspecies: Mostly Merriam’s but some Easterns and hybrids in northwestern Montana

Estimated population: not available

Spring 2019 harvest: not available, but the success rate for nonresident hunters it typically about 25 percent.

Overall outlook: Justin Hughes, upland-game-bird habitat specialist for Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks in Region 7 (southeastern Montana), says turkeys in his area are still rebounding from tough conditions in 2017. However, conditions were favorable in 2018 and 2019, which bodes well for Spring 2020. Thus far, Winter 2020 has been mild.

David Nikonow, with MFWP, says Region 2, in western Montana, had favorable poult production conditions during summer 2019, with good forb and grass growth and abundant insect populations. However, isolated populations seemed to be down because of 2019 winter conditions.

Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: “Turkeys are found all across Region 7, with the highest concentrations being found near optimal habitat such as creek/river riparian habitat, ponderosa pine forest and agricultural areas that have adjacent woody/brushy draw habitat,” says Hughes.

Nikonow recommends that hunters check out low-elevation ponderosa pine forests throughout the Bitterroot National Forest and similar habitat in the Lolo National Forest from St. Regis to Frenchtown.

“Look for areas that experienced prescribed fire or a mosaic wildfire in the last one to five years,” he says. “Wintering wild turkeys utilize agricultural areas, so the early season can be productive adjacent to private lands. As the spring season progresses, look for birds to be migrating higher in elevation as hens initiate nesting.”

Quick tip: “Turkeys in southeastern Montana can cover a lot of miles in a day and transition from different types of habitat based on their seasonal needs,” says Hughes. “Turkey density and habitat use can vary greatly from year to year due to factors such as hunting pressure, weather patterns, and habitat changes such as fires or logging. Hunters should also be ready to walk, as turkey hunting in southeastern Montana can mean long hikes across broken country to reach prime turkey habitat.”

Season dates/bag limits: fwp.mt.gov/hunting/seasons

Nebraska

Subspecies: Merriam’s, Rio Grandes, Easterns and hybrids of those subspecies

Estimated population: no estimate

Spring 2019 harvest: 18,131

Overall outlook: Luke Meduna, big-game program manager at the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, says the Spring 2020 season looks promising and should be similar to other recent campaigns.

Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: Meduna says turkeys are fairly evenly distributed throughout the state, but adds that the Pine Ridge, Loess Canyons and riparian public areas in the east are good public-land options.

Quick tip: “Scout and be mobile,” says Meduna.

Season dates/bag limits: outdoornebraska.gov/wildturkey

Nevada

Subspecies: Rio Grande, Merriam’s

Estimated population: 1,800 to 2,100

Spring 2019 harvest: 73

Overall outlook: Harvest figures suggest that Nevada turkey populations are doing well, according to recent Small Game Status publications.

Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: Shawn Espinosa, upland game staff specialist with the Nevada Department of Wildlife, says Lincoln County in southeastern Nevada should provide quality public hunting opportunities for people who receive a tag. Additionally, Unit 115 in White Pine County should offer quality opportunities for Merriam’s.

Quick tip: Espinosa says hunters should pay attention to units where turkeys primarily inhabit private land. It’s important to request permission to hunt from landowners before applying for a tag. The application period concludes Feb. 4.

New Hampshire

Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: more than 40,000

Spring 2019 harvest: not available; 4,203 in 2018

Overall outlook: New Hampshire experienced a good hatch in 2018, which should bode well for Spring 2020. Observers noted “flocks everywhere” in Fall 2018.

Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: Towns with the highest 2018 harvests were Gilmanton, 61; Weare, 55; Bath, 53; and Lyndeborough, 52.

New Jersey

Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 20,000 to 23,000

Spring 2019 harvest: annually about 3,000

Overall outlook: Tony McBride, supervising biologist for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Fish and Wildlife, says the outlook is bright because of good 2019 poult productivity.

Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: Turkey hunting areas 15, 20, 21 and 22 continue to produce higher turkey harvests than other areas of the state, McBride said.

Quick tip: Some turkey hunting areas and season segments sell out of permits early, so hunters should apply for permits in the lottery on the state’s online licensing system. The application deadline is Feb. 22.

New Mexico

Subspecies: Merriam’s, Rio Grande, Gould’s (special hunt only)

Estimated population: 25,000 to 35,000

Spring 2019 harvest: 2,789

Overall outlook: “Populations should be fair into 2020,” says Casey Cardinal, resident game-bird biologist with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. “Reports of reproduction were about average last year, so there were a fair number of birds going into the fall. We had moderate mast crops throughout most of the state, so there should be sufficient winter food for turkeys to make it through to breeding season.”

Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: Cardinal says the Gila National Forest and Smokey Bear and Sacramento ranger districts in the Lincoln National Forest had decent mast crops and could be good locations.

Quick tip: “Look for open, grassy bottoms, as the turkeys will tend to roost in pines toward the top of a hill and fly down into the bottoms in the morning,” says Cardinal. “Look for food sources such as new grass in canyon bottoms, acorns, pinon nuts or juniper berries on the forest ground.”

Western New York hunters Tony Williams and Mark Wenke
Western New York hunters Tony Williams and Mark Wenke with a pair of public land gobblers.Gerry Bethge

New York

Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 180,000

Spring 2019 harvest: 17,000

Overall outlook: “An improvement in reproductive success from summer 2017 to summer 2018 will mean improved prospects for spring 2020 compared to last year,” says Michael V. Schiavone, a certified wildlife biologist with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Division of Fish and Wildlife. “Unfortunately, gains made in 2018 may be offset by poor reproductive success in summer 2019.”

Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: Schiavone says reproductive success was above the statewide average the past two years in DEC regions 4 (Capital) and 8 (Finger Lakes).

Quick tip: “Set up and call birds to you,” Schiavone said. “Don’t stalk birds.”

Season dates/bag limits: dec.ny.gov/outdoor/29461.html

North Carolina

Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 265,000

Spring 2019 harvest: 18,730

Overall outlook: Christopher D. Kreh, upland game-bird biologist for grouse, quail and turkey with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, says prospects look good, as North Carolina’s spring harvest has been at or near record levels for several years.

Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: Kreh says the southeastern part of the state has experienced some of the highest harvest and reproduction levels in recent years.

Quick tip: “With approximately 2 million acres in the Game Land program, there is certainly plenty of opportunity,” Kreh says. “And for the most part, turkey populations and hunting opportunities on Game Lands are good.”

North Dakota

Subspecies: Eastern, Merriam’s

Estimated population: no estimate

Spring 2019 harvest: 1,876

Overall outlook: “(The) hatch was average in most of the state,” says Rodney A. Gross Jr., upland game biologist with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. “If we have a decent winter, numbers will be fine.”

Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: The Little Missouri National Grassland offers good public-land opportunity.

Quick tip: Spring turkey hunting is only open to North Dakota residents. However, out-of-state hunters can pursue turkeys on several tribal properties.

Season dates/bag limits: gf.nd.gov/hunting/turkey

Ohio

Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 190,000

Spring 2019 harvest: 19,088

Overall outlook: Mark Wiley, wildlife biologist with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife, says Ohio’s turkey reproductive index has been slightly below average each year since 2017. That suggests spring harvest totals might be down in coming years.

Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: “Southeastern and east-central Ohio counties have consistently reported the highest spring harvest totals in recent years,” says Wiley. “In 2019, Belmont, Monroe, Muskingum, Tuscarawas and Washington counties boasted the state’s largest spring harvest totals.”

Quick tip: Southeastern Ohio has lots of public land and strong turkey populations. You can find detailed information on state forests and wildlife areas at wildohio.gov.

Oklahoma

Subspecies: Rio Grande, Eastern

Estimated population: not available

Spring 2019 harvest: not available

Overall outlook: Rio Grandes have a strong, stable population, but Easterns (generally confined to the mountains of southeastern and far eastern Oklahoma) have declined somewhat in recent years.

Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: Most areas west of Interstate 35 should be good for Rio Grandes. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation estimates that 14 counties in the western part of the state have more than 2,000 turkeys.

Quick tip: State biologists enhance turkey habitat at wildlife management areas by planting winter food, such as wheat, alfalfa or rye grass, and renewing plant succession by burning or disking.

Oregon

Subspecies: primarily Rio Grande, some Rio/Merriam’s hybrids

Estimated population: 40,000

Spring 2019 harvest: not available; the spring 2018 harvest was 5,144 birds

Overall outlook: Mikal Cline, upland game-bird coordinator for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, describes the outlook for spring 2020 as “excellent.”

“Turkey populations are continuing to expand naturally while trap-and-transplant operations supplement existing populations on public land,” she says.

Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: Cline says southwestern Oregon holds the state’s core turkey population, but numbers in the Willamette Valley continue to increase, although hunters there must typically find access to private land. Turkeys are thriving throughout the Blue Mountains of eastern Oregon.

Quick tip: “Get out early for the best action,” says Cline. “Turkeys will quickly disperse to higher elevations as the spring warms up, so follow the snow line for fresh greenup.”

Season dates/bag limits: myodfw.com/game-bird-hunting/seasons

Pennsylvania

Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 212,170

Spring 2019 harvest: 37,286

Overall outlook: “Expect the total 2020 spring harvest to be slightly less than 2019 due to the lack of the most vocal and harvestable 2-year-old gobblers in the population,” says Mary Jo Casalena, wild turkey biologist with the Pennsylvania Game Commission. “However, due to excellent turkey hatches from 2015 through 2017, plenty of the older but more wary age-classes of gobblers remain. These experienced gobblers may test hunters’ experience, so patience and strategy may pay dividends for outsmarting the older gobblers.

“Winter conditions have been mild through January, and food has not been in shortage. Therefore, turkeys are expected to come into the breeding season in good body condition, which helps keep gobblers and hens on track for staying on schedule for the breeding season. Of course, the weather in March and April will also dictate whether turkeys stay on schedule for breeding and egg laying seasons.

Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: Casalena says the best wildlife management units are 1A, 2A, 2B and 2D, in western Pennsylvania. State game lands are good bets for traveling hunters, as the Commission manages them for wildlife and creates openings, which turkeys use for strutting in spring. Turkeys also extensively use gated woods roads and trails. Hunters can also use those paths to quietly access setups.

Quick tip: “Don’t hang up your gun after the first week of the season,” says Casalena. “The second half of the season provides excellent opportunity, with much fewer hunters and renewed gobbling. Afternoon or evening hunting during the second half of the season provides a different type of hunt. If you know where gobblers like to spend their afternoon, hunting from a blind with decoys set out provides a nice relaxing type of hunt.

Rhode Island

Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: no estimate

Spring 2019 harvest: 270

Overall outlook: “Spring outlook for 2020 is good, with harvest numbers increasing between 2017 and 2019,” says Jennifer Kilburn, principal wildlife biologist for the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management’s Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Game Bird Program. “The spring bag limit increased from one to two birds (one of which may come from state land), and this has provided additional opportunity for spring turkey hunters in Rhode Island while still remaining conservative on our bag limits.”

Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: Kilburn says towns with the highest harvest during Spring 2019 were Burrillville, 28 birds; Scituate, 25; and Foster, 22.

Quick tip: “The majority of birds harvested in Rhode Island come from private land, so securing access to private land for turkey hunting is your best bet,” says Kilburn.

South Carolina

Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 120,000

Spring 2019 harvest: 17,374

Overall outlook: Charles Ruth, big-game program coordinator for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, says the Spring 2020 outlook season is only fair because of continuing poor turkey reproduction and recruitment.

Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: Ruth suggests that hunters check out Sumter National Forest in the piedmont and the James W. Webb Wildlife Center and Game Management Area in the coastal plain.

Quick tip: “Recent research in South Carolina shows that the average onset of incubation by hens is not until around April 20,” says Ruth. “Therefore, gobbling and responsiveness of gobblers to hunters’ calls can be good during the late season due to less competition from hens.”

South Dakota

Subspecies: Primarily Easterns east of the Missouri River and primarily Merriam’s west of the river

Estimated population: not available

Spring 2019 harvest: 5,350

Overall outlook: Chad P. Lehman, senior wildlife biologist with South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, says Spring 2020 prospects look moderate.

Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: Lehman suggests that hunters check out the Black Hills and Walk-In Program areas across South Dakota.

Quick tip: “Hunting early in the season can lead to hunting larger wintering flocks with difficult calling conditions,” Lehman said in 2019. “Hunting later — say early May — will allow for better calling conditions and dispersed turkey populations.”

Season dates/bag limits: gfp.sd.gov/turkey/

Tennessee

Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 300,000

Spring 2019 harvest: 31,193

Overall outlook: Roger Shields, Wild Turkey Program coordinator with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, says the 2019 harvest was up from 2018. Based on decent productivity during 2018, he expects the spring 2020 harvest to be on par with that of 2019.

Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: “Central Tennessee traditionally holds the most birds and should still offer the best hunting opportunities,” says Shields.

Quick tip: “Many of our WMAs are conducting active management of fields and timber stands through managed wildlife openings, prescribed burning and thinning,” says Shields. “Hunters should look for sites where recent work has opened up the area and enhanced habitat quality for turkey nesting and displaying.”

Texas

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

Estimated population: 500,000

Spring 2019 harvest: not available. The spring 2018 harvest was 18,004.

Overall outlook: Jason Hardin, turkey program leader for Texas Parks and Wildlife, says the state experienced poor production and recruitment in 2017 and 2018 but great production in 2019. Hunters should expect to encounter lots of jakes and some old toms in strongholds.

Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: The past five years, hunters in Coleman, Comanche, Kimble, Mason, McCulloch, Sutton, Tom Green and Zavala counties have recorded the highest harvest numbers.

“Focus on those properties with riparian habitat, as these serve as key habitats for wild turkeys in these counties,” says Hardin.

Quick tip: “Rio Grandes are found in large numbers across the central portion of Texas, primarily on private lands,” says Hardin. “Start looking now for landowners and outfitters offering hunts, as availability will fill up quickly.”

Utah

Subspecies: Rio Grande, Merriam’s

Estimated population: 25,000 to 35,000

Spring 2019 harvest: 3,067

Overall outlook: Utah’s turkey population was near a historic high in 2019.

Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: “The northern, central and southern regions have issues with nuisance turkeys and have multiple locations where fall turkey hunts are implemented to control these nuisance situations,” says Heather Talley, upland-game program coordinator with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. “Look for public lands with suitable habitat surrounding the private properties where fall turkey hunts have taken place for higher densities of turkeys.”

Quick tip: “Rio Grande turkeys are usually found at lower elevations,” Talley says. “River bottoms dotted with cottonwood trees and areas containing mostly oak and pinyon-juniper trees, are favorite spots. Merriam’s turkeys, on the other hand, are typically found in ponderosa pine forests at higher elevations. Birds will only utilize a few key areas within these prime habitat types.”

Vermont

Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 45,000

Spring 2019 harvest: 5,479

Overall outlook: “Despite the strong youth and spring season harvests in 2019, the inclement weather experienced in late spring and early summer resulted in the lowest turkey brood production recorded since 2005,” says Chris Bernier, wildlife biologist with the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department. “As would be expected with such poor brood production, the 2019 fall harvest was amongst the lowest ever recorded, at 351 birds. To counterbalance the poor brood production, however, the winter has been relatively mild thus far, and abundant mast is still readily available throughout the woods, so overwinter survival should be excellent, and birds should be in top physical condition coming into the spring season.”

Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: Bernier says productive turkey habitat exists throughout Vermont, and many landscapes offer an ideal mix of fields and forests. The Connecticut River (wildlife management units M and O), White River (wildlife management units J1 and J2) and Lake Champlain (wildlife management units F1, F2 and K) valleys are traditional turkey hunting hotspots.

Quick tip: “Given the abundance of mast produced last fall, particularly acorns, turkeys will likely still be in the woods this spring in close proximity to mast stands, so hunters should head for the hills,” Bernier says.

Virginia

Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 170,000 to 190,000

Spring 2019 harvest: 17,929

Overall outlook: “Reproduction was low in 2018, and those birds would be 2-year-olds this spring,” says Gary W. Norman, forest game-bird biologist with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. “That age class makes up a significant part of the spring harvest, so I’m not looking for an increase in our harvest this spring. Reproduction increased this past spring and summer of 2019, which means we’ll have more jakes around, but typically Virginia hunters pass on jakes, and they only make up a small percentage of our spring harvest at 10 to 15 percent. The good reproduction in 2019 will mean an improved spring harvest in 2021.”

Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: Norman says Virginia’s coastal counties have the highest turkey populations. Counties in the Northern Neck region have the highest densities. Hunters will have to knock on doors in the Northern Neck, as there are no public hunting areas. However, that could be worth the effort.

Quick tip: “Gobbling typically peaks in the second and third weeks of the season,” says Norman.

Washington

Subspecies: Merriam’s, Rio Grande and Eastern. Hunters can achieve the Washington slam by harvesting all the subspecies. See the spring regulation pamphlet for more details (wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations).

Estimated population: not available

Spring 2019 harvest: not available. Total 2018 harvest (spring and fall) was 7,332

Overall outlook: “District staff in eastern and south-central Washington are reporting an abundance of turkeys this year,” says Sarah Garrison, small-game and furbearer specialist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. “Based on observations during other field work, public reports and damage complaints, it appears to have been a very successful brood year. In the northeast, we’ve had a very mild winter so far, with little to no snow accumulation in the valleys. This could change, but if the last couple of years are any indication, hunting should be good.”

Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: Garrison says the Pend Oreille Valley in northeastern Washington is loaded with turkeys and doesn’t receive as much pressure as the Colville Valley. South, in District 2, Game Management Unit 124 (northern Spokane County) consistently records the highest harvest. Chattaroy north toward Blanchard Road is a hotspot, especially on private land. In south-central Washington, many turkeys live near populated areas in the White Salmon, Underwood, Klickitat and Goldendale areas, but it can be difficult to obtain access in those spots.

Quick tip: “Take someone new to hunting,” says Garrison. “Landowners seem to be more open to allow a first-time hunter, especially a youth. Weekdays are always less crowded than weekends.”

West Virginia

Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: about 112,100

Spring 2019 harvest: 11,210

Overall outlook: Michael L. Peters, game-bird and small-game project leader for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, said the state has experienced a mild winter and had good 2019 mast production. Considering average poult production two years ago, he believes the spring 2020 harvest should be about average.

Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: During Spring 2019, counties with the highest harvests were Mason, 464; Preston, 455; Jackson, 447; Wood, 362; and Harrison, 347.

Quick tip: “Most of our public lands provide a good opportunity to harvest a bird,” Peters said. “West Virginia’ public lands are not heavily used.”

Wisconsin

Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: no estimate

Spring 2019 harvest: 38,576

Overall outlook: “The outlook for spring 2020 is overall positive,” says Mark Witecha, upland wildlife ecologist and Farm Bill specialist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. “Statewide, nesting and brood-rearing conditions were about average. Winter conditions have been relatively mild in the southern part of the state, but northern Wisconsin has already received a fair amount of snow.”

Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: Witecha says farmland areas in southern Wisconsin have the highest turkey densities.

Quick tip: Wisconsin offers abundant public-land hunting opportunities. Hunters can use the DNR’s Public Access Lands online mapping application to plan their hunt.

Wyoming

Subspecies: Merriam’s; some Rio Grandes and hybrids, depending on location

Estimated population: no estimate

Spring 2019 harvest: 2,500

Overall outlook: “Overall, poult production and survival appeared to be about average or a little above in most areas during 2018 and 2019,” says Joe Sandrini, wildlife biologist with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. “As a result, statewide wild turkey numbers have increased or stabilized in most areas. Last winter was harsh in the Black Hills and resulted in elevated levels of mortality. As a result, spring harvest in Area 1 was down last year, and this population remains about 40 percent below peak numbers.”

Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: Sandrini says private land in the Sheridan area and south of Douglas should be good.

Quick tip: “Hunters in the Black Hills and on other public land areas should consider waiting until after May 1 to hunt, as the weather is typically more predictable, road conditions allow better access and the second peak of gobbling begins about May 10,” says Sandrini.