turkey hunting forecast 2018

The modern age of seemingly unlimited turkey hunting opportunity creates a wonderful problem: We must decide how many trips to cram into one spring.

Do you concentrate on a few gobbler-rich areas or embark on a frenzied multi-state journey? Will it be wary Easterns in big timber, long-spurred Osceolas in a sunny pasture, hard-gobbling Rios across a mesquite flat or snow-white-tipped Merriam’s in the mountains or prairies — or all of the above? Turkey bums face tough decisions. Here’s some state-by-state information to help you this spring.

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

Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming


Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 350,000 to 450,000 (based only on observational trends) Spring 2017 harvest: 29,893 (2016 harvest)

Overall outlook: “Observational brood survey data has shown a statewide reduction of poults per hen in recent years, but hens with broods remain good,” says Steve Barnett, district wildlife supervisor/wild turkey project leader for the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. “The Avid Turkey Hunter Survey in 2017 showed an increase in numbers of jakes observed, which should reflect more two-year-old gobblers in the population.”

Potential Spring 2018 hotspots: Barnett said west-central and northeastern Alabama are the best areas. For wildlife-management areas, he suggested Choccolocco WMA, in Calhoun and Cleburne counties; and Oakmulgee WMA, in Bibb, Hale, Perry and Tuscaloosa counties.

Quick tip: Public-land hunting and wildlife management area information is available at: Outdoor Alabama

Season dates/bag limits: March 15 through April 30 (varies by zone). One gobbler per day, five per season. Turkey harvests must be recorded through Game Check.


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

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

Spring 2017 harvest:** Merriam’s: 942; Gould’s: 65; Rio Grande: 3

Overall outlook: “Overall, we have had several mild winters in a row, and the last three year classes should show strong representation,” says Rick Langley, Region 1 game specialist with the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

Potential Spring 2018 hotspots: Merriam’s hotspots include Unit 12A (North Kaibab), and units 1 and 27 (the White Mountains). Gould’s hotspots are any of the open units, if you can draw a permit. The lone Rio Grande hotspot is Unit 13B, the only one where permits are available.

Quick tip: “Turkey habitat in Arizona is almost exclusively U.S. Forest Service land, so access is easy,” says Langley. “But that means that everybody has equal access to the birds. Scouting can be very important, so you don’t waste valuable hunting time trying to locate birds. Azaccessmap.com is an online map program that shows land status, game waters, roads and many other valuable pieces of information.”

Season dates/bag limits: One turkey per year (can be killed in spring or fall). Youth-only: April 20 through 26 and May 11 through 24. Permits are limited in some units (draw only) and over the counter in some units (unlimited). Shotgun: Permits are limited in all units, and the draw deadline was October 2017. First hunt: April 27 through May 3 and May 11 through 24. Second hunt: May 4 through 24. Archery: available over the counter (unlimited in some units). May 11 through 24.


Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 110,000 to 120,000

Spring 2017 harvest: 10,066

Overall outlook: Jason Honey, turkey program coordinator with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, says brood survey information indicates that 2017 gobbler carryover and 2016 poult production was similar to that of previous years. That probably indicates a 2018 harvest similar to that of the past few seasons. “One thing that can have a significant impact is weather,” he says. “Cold and rainy days usually mean less time for hunters to be in the woods. Heavily hunted areas are also usually harder to hunt with the added hunter pressure. This can cause gobblers to become less vocal.”

Potential Spring 2018 hotspots: Honey said the top public spots for 2017 turkey harvest were the Ozark National Forest, and Sylamore, Winona, Muddy Creek and Piney Creeks wildlife management areas. “I would also add Bear Cat Hollow to the list, as extensive habitat work has been completed,” he said.

Quick tip: “Scout a few different locations to have a backup plan if there are already hunters in the area,” Honey said. “Arkansas Game and Fish WMA maps are available at agfc.com, and U.S. Forest Service maps can be obtained by contacting the local ranger districts.

Season dates/bag limits: Zones 1, 2, 3, 4B, 5, 5B, 6, 7, 7A, 8, 9, 10 and 17: April 9 through 24. Zones 1A, 4, 4A, 5A and 9A: April 9 through 17. Special youth turkey hunt: zones 1, 1A, 2, 3, 4, 4A, 4B, 5, 5A, 5B, 6, 7, 7A, 8, 9, 9A, 10 and 17: April 7 and 8. No more than one legal turkey can be taken per day. The statewide bag limit is two legal turkeys; no jakes. Hunters 6 to 15 years old can harvest one jake as part of their two-bird limit (including the youth hunt). Hunters cannot exceed any zone harvest limits. Zones 1, 2, 3, 4B, 5, 5B, 6, 7, 7A, 8, 9, 10 and 17: two legal turkeys, no jakes. Zones 1A, 4, 4A, 5A and 9A: one legal turkey, no jakes. Hunters who kill a turkey in one of these zones must travel to another zone (including other one-bird-limit zones) to harvest a second turkey.

california turkey hunting forecast
A California strutter. Wiki


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

Estimated population: 250,000

Spring 2017 harvest: 15,770 (2016)

Overall outlook: “Good precipitation in the winter of 2016 and 2017 helped produce a good hatch,” says Scott Gardner, senior environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Game‘s Upland/Small Game Program. “Turkey populations are up in California.”

Potential Spring 2018 hotspots: Gardner said the Coast Ranges, Central Valley and Sierra Nevada foothills regions might be potential spring hotspots.

Season dates/bag limits: General season: March 31 through May 6. Archery-only: May 7 through 20. Additional junior: March 24 and 25, May 7 through 20. Spring limit: three.


Subspecies: Merriam’s, Rio Grandes

Estimated population: 35,000

Spring 2017 harvest: about 6,400 (plus or minus 400)

Overall outlook: Ed T. Gorman, small-game manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, says Colorado’s turkey population is stable or increasing.

Potential Spring 2018 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: “Each season is different,” says Gorman. “The best hunting does not always occur at the beginning of the season. Weather can play a huge role in where and at what elevation (if applicable) turkeys will be. Hunters that consider monthly trends in weather should have a good idea of whether birds will be concentrated at lower-elevation winter-type habitat or have begun to disperse into breeding habitat.”

Season dates/bag limits: April 14 through May 27. Some units have split seasons. Bag limit: two bearded turkeys in spring. One must be taken with a limited license; the other must be taken with an over-the-counter license.


Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: not available

Spring 2017 harvest: 1,584 (1,094 gobblers, 494 jakes, 6 bearded hens)

Overall outlook: “Although Connecticut has experienced some long-term declines in statewide populations, hunters should find fair numbers of jakes and two-year-old birds, indicated by fair productivity during the last two springs,” says Michael Gregonis, wildlife biologist II with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

Potential Spring 2018 hotspots: Gregonis said the northeastern part of Connecticut consistently posts the highest harvest rate.

Quick tip: “Since Connecticut is nearly 60 percent forested, forest openings are limited,” Gregonis said. “Therefore, hunters that seek out these open areas often are more successful than those that do not.”

Season dates/bag limits: April 25 through May 26. Bag limits: private land, three bearded birds; state land, two bearded birds.


Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 5,000 to 6,000

Spring 2017 harvest: 652

Overall outlook: Justyn R. Foth, waterfowl, turkey and upland game-bird biologist for the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife, said Delaware’s turkey population is stable, but productivity was low in 2017 because of bad weather.

Potential Spring 2018 hotspots: The top turkey zones in 2017 harvest were 4, 6, 7, 11 and 12.

Quick tip: “If (you’re) interested in hunting public lands, the draw for the 2018 season has already occurred, and all permits have been issued,” Foth said. “If interested in the 2019 season, please apply for our annual public lands turkey lottery by Jan. 4, 2019.”

Season dates/bag limits: April 14 through May 12. No Sunday hunting. Youth day: April 7. One bird per season.

florida turkey hunting forecast
Packing out an Osceola tom in Florida. Brian Lovett


Subspecies: Osceola, Eastern, intergrade

Estimated population: not available

Spring 2017 harvest: 22,307

Overall outlook: “Based on harvest metrics, the population seems to be on the increase,” says Roger Shields, wild turkey program coordinator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “Given what seemed to be a couple of really good years of productivity back in 2015 and 2016, the 2.5- and 3.5-year age classes should be pretty strong this year.”

Potential Spring 2018 hotspots: “Not a hotspot, but the opposite, rather,” Shields says. “Given potential impacts from Hurricane Irma this past summer, even late as it occurred, there may still be some hits to this year’s productivity in the far southwest of Florida where this powerful Category 5 hurricane came ashore. Don’t be surprised if you see few jakes running around the woods this spring down there.”

Quick tip: Shields said hunters should check this website to find areas to hunt without a quota permit: https://myfwc.com/hunting/by-species/turkey/hunt-without-quota-permit/.

Season dates/bag limits: Youth hunt weekend: Feb. 24 and 25, south of State Road 70. March 10 and 11 north of State Road 70. Regular season: March 3 through April 8 south of State Road 70; March 17 through April 22 north of State Road 70. Bag limit: two per season. Daily bag limit: two per day on private land, one per day at wildlife management areas.


Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 300,000

Spring 2017 harvest: 25,702

Overall outlook: “With better reproduction in 2015 and 2016, much of the state will see a good 2018 season, with a good supply of two-year-old gobblers,” said Kevin Lowrey, wild turkey project coordinator for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

Potential Spring 2018 hotspots: Lowrey said the Piedmont, Blue Ridge and Upper Coastal Plain regions might see the best success rates this season.

Quick tip: “Patience kills turkeys,” Lowrey said. “With hunting allowed all day, stay with it and outlast the pressure on public lands, and you may go home a happy hunter.”

Season dates/bag limits: March 24 through May 15. Season limit: three gobblers.

hawaii turkey hunting forecast 2018
Two toms down in Hawaii. Outdoor Life


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 2017 harvest: not available

Overall outlook: “The overall outlook on the turkey numbers in the public hunting areas, in my opinion, is fair due to previous rain conditions the past two years during the hatch,” says guide and longtime NWTF volunteer Jon Sabati. “Hatch survival was low, resulting in a slump in the population. However, there are a few honey holes if you know where to go.”

Potential Spring 2017 hotspots: “Of course, private property or guided hunts are always great,” Sabati says. “I prefer to hunt on public land because I love the challenge, and if you know where to go, you can harvest a huge Rio (weight and beard). Mauna Kea is the go-to place. It is a huge volcano with a lot of ground to hunt. Elevations from 6,000 to 10,000 feet are where you can find turkeys.”

Quick tip: “Hunt during the week to avoid the weekend warriors,” Sabati said. “Leave your crow and coyote calls home. Turkeys may shock gobble to it, but it is not a natural sound here and may cause the turkeys to go the other way. It gets very cold in the morning. Bring a jacket. You may have to deal with foggy conditions, so bring your GPS.”

Sabati also said visiting hunters should rent a four-wheel drive vehicle.

“You need a hunter safety certificate to buy a license,” he said. “It’s best to check with the Hawaii Hunter Education Program way ahead of a scheduled trip to see if your card is acceptable.

“In Hawaii, you will need to register your gun at our local police station. While traveling in the hunting area, your shotgun must be unloaded and in a case.”

Season dates/bag limits: March 1 through April 15. Limit: three bearded turkeys.


Subspecies: Primarily Merriam’s; Easterns; some pure-strain Rios in riparian areas by the Snake, Boise, Payette and Weiser rivers; a small population of Easterns near the Dworshak Reservoir; hybrids occur in many areas of the state.

Estimated population: not available

Spring 2017 harvest: about 3,500

Overall outlook: “Idaho is experiencing a very mild winter, and wild turkeys should have fared well,” said Jeff Knetter, biologist with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. “I expect populations to be up from Spring 2017 levels.”

Potential Spring 2018 hotspots: “The Panhandle and Clearwater regions are consistently hotspots; lots of public land and turkeys available,” Knetter said. “The Southeast Region also provides excellent over-the-counter opportunity.”

Quick tip: “Turkeys will follow the snow line in spring, taking advantage of fresh green-up,” Mikal Moore, NWTF district biologist for the Pacific Northwest, said in 2017. “If you are hunting an elevation gradient, follow the snow melt, and look for turkey sign.”

Season dates/bag limits: Youth seasons: April 8 through 14. Regular seasons: April 15 through May 25 (varies by unit). Limit: two turkeys, both of which can be taken the same day with a general and extra tag available to hunters.


Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: not available

Spring 2017 harvest: 15,720

Overall outlook: “While spring turkey hunters can always anticipate quality turkey hunting in Illinois, they are expected to harvest fewer birds statewide than the previous two spring seasons,” says Luke Garver, wild turkey project manager with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. “Production estimates were the lowest on record this summer; likely because of torrential rain experienced across much of the state in early spring. The timing of these rains could have wiped out many first nest attempts or possibly even some early-hatched poults. As a result, there will be fewer jakes on the landscape and, as a result of poor production last year, fewer two-year-old birds, as well.”

Potential Spring 2018 hotspots: Garver said perennial spring hotspots include more heavily forested counties in southern Illinois, the driftless area in the northwestern part of the state, and the Mississippi and Illinois river corridors in western Illinois. The top five 2017 harvest counties were Jo Daviess, Jefferson, Pike, Adams and Fulton.

Quick tip: “If hunters are interested in Illinois’ top-tier public sites for turkey hunting, they should be sure to set their calendars for Dec. 1, which is the deadline for the first lottery,” Garver said. “Most of the best sites allocate 100 percent of their permit quota in that lottery. Turkey hunters looking for more access to places to hunt should check out IDNR’s Illinois Recreational Access Program. Through this program, hunters can apply for access to private land to hunt. In exchange, landowners receive help with managing wildlife habitat on their property. More information can be found at: Illinois Recreational Access Program.

Season dates/bag limits: Youth season: March 31 through April 1, and April 7 through 8. Regular season, North Zone: five segments running April 16 through May 17. Regular season, South Zone: five segments running April 9 through May 10. Bag limit: one bearded turkey per valid permit; maximum of three permits per hunter.


Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 120,000 to 130,000

Spring 2017 harvest: 13,069

Overall outlook: Steven E. Backs, wildlife research biologist and wild turkey statewide project leader for the Indiana Division of Fish and Wildlife, says jakes comprised about 13 percent of the Spring 2017 harvest, which indicates that a decade of generally subpar production will result in fewer two-year-olds for Spring 2018. In turn, he said, that will likely result in lower gobbling activity, increased hunter frustration and probably a decrease in harvest from 2017.

Potential Spring 2018 hotspots: “The harvest in the northern third of the state appears to holding up much better than the historically strong southeastern and south-central regions of the state,” Backs says. “There has been some localized rebound in turkey populations in some of west-central and southwestern regions from a few years ago, when severe flooding during the nesting and brood-rearing periods severely impacted production along river drainages and lowlands.”

Quick tip: “As is always the case, pre-season preparations can pay big dividends early in the season, while patience, perseverance and experience rule once the season gets underway,” Backs said.

Season dates/bag limits: April 25 through May 13. Youth weekend: April 21 and 22. Spring limit: one bearded or male turkey.

iowa turkey hunting forecast 2018
A Hawkeye-state tom. Alex Robinson


Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 110,000 to 150,000

Spring 2017 harvest: 11,779

Overall outlook: “The statewide population will remain stable,” says Jim Coffey forest wildlife research biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. He added that biologists have seen population increases in the northwestern and north-central regions, but limited habitat in those areas can make hunting a challenge.

Potential Spring 2018 hotspots: “Northeastern Iowa continues to have good turkey numbers and provides a lot of turkey habitat,” Coffey said.

Quick tip: “Always check the Iowa DNR Atlas for public lands open to hunting,” Coffey said. “Permission is needed on private lands.”

Season dates/bag limits: Resident youth season: April 7 through 15. First season, April 16 through 19; second season, April 20 through 24; third season, April 25 through May 1; fourth season, May 2 through 20; bow season, April 16 through May 20. Limit: one bearded or male wild turkey per permit. Residents can have up to two spring permits. Nonresidents are allowed one by lottery.


Subspecies: Eastern, Rio Grande, hybrid

Estimated population: not available

Spring 2017 harvest: 30,441

Overall outlook: “Production has declined across much of the state in recent years, and numbers of adult birds have declined from all-time highs of 10 to 15 years ago,” says Kent Fricke, small-game coordinator for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. “However, those declines may be stabilizing. Overall, populations remain relatively strong. 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 2018 hotspots: Fricke said the northern and south-central regions should again provide quality hunting opportunities.

Quick tip: “With about 600,000 acres of publicly accessible hunting ground in public lands and Walk-In Hunting Access 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 says.

Season dates/bag limits: Youth/disabled, April 1 through 17; archery, April 9 through 17; regular firearms/archery, April 18 through May 31. Spring 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: 330,000 to 440,000

Spring 2017 harvest: 33,061

Overall outlook: “Last spring’s excellent harvest (essentially tied with 2012’s 33,067 birds harvested) was no doubt a product of a good hatch and brood production in 2015 relative to recent years,” says Zak Danks, turkey program coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “Unfortunately, spring and summer of 2016 saw our second lowest production year of the past decade. Thus, I wouldn’t expect to top Spring 2017. But keep in mind, our statewide harvest has remained strong for several years. There should be plenty of gobblers for Kentucky hunters this spring.”

Potential Spring 2018 hotspots: Danks said the entire state offers good opportunities, from the mixed crop/pasture country in the western two-thirds of the state to mountain birds in the Cumberland Plateau of eastern Kentucky.

Quick tip: “Utilize aerial imagery available on Google Earth (and others) to find spots to hunt to make scouting more productive,” Danks says.

Season dates/bag limits: Youth: April 7 and 8. General season: April 14 through May 6. Limit: two bearded birds; one per day.


Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 50,000 to 60,000

Spring 2017 harvest estimate: 5,700

Overall outlook: “Like many other states, we are experiencing long-term declines in production and harvest, which are indicative of declining populations,” says Cody Cedotal, small-game and wild turkey program manager with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. “In more recent years, wild turkey production has been suppressed, though harvests have remained somewhat stable. We are hopeful for favorable conditions this year and an increase in production.”

Potential Spring 2018 hotspots: Counties in western Louisiana have some of the strongest turkey populations, Cedotal said. Kisatchie National Forest and Fort Polk and Peason Ridge wildlife management areas provide quality turkey habitat and are popular destinations.

Quick tip: “Get acquainted with any new areas you may be traveling to,” Cedotal said. “Acquire maps and any on-the-ground knowledge you can well in advance of your travel.”

Season dates and bag limits: One gobbler per day, two per season. Youth season: March 30 through April 1. Area A: April 7 through May 6; Area B: April 7 through 29; Area C: April 7 through 22.


Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 60,000

Spring 2017 harvest: 5,600

Overall outlook: Kelsey Sullivan, wildlife biologist with the Game Bird Program for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, says Maine’s turkey population is stable, and that hunters should see lots of two-year-olds in 2018, thanks to a productive Spring 2016.

Potential Spring 2018 hotspots: Sullivan mentioned Waldo, Penobscot, and Cumberland counties. Northern Maine, she added, has very low turkey numbers, and birds are concentrated in small areas.

Quick tip: “Landowner access is generally favorable,” Sullivan says. “Knock on doors, and folks generally allow hunting access. Our public lands away from population centers tend to have lower use and can have good turkey numbers in the three counties I noted.”

Season dates/bag limits: Youth: April 28. Regular season: April 30 through June 2. Bag limits: two bearded birds per season in wildlife management districts 7 and 9 through 29; one bearded bird in WMDs 1 through 6 and 8.


Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 40,000

Spring 2016 harvest: 4,175

Overall outlook: “The statewide population is at a record high level,” says Bob Long, wild turkey and upland game-bird project manager with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife and Heritage Service. “Populations have increased significantly recently. The Eastern Shore and Western region numbers may be down somewhat from previous highs due to poor reproduction the last few years.”

Potential Spring 2018 hotspots: Long said turkey populations are especially strong and growing in the southern and central portions of the state.

Quick tip: “Wildlife management areas are popular, but hunters should not overlook state forests, such as Savage River State Forest, Pocomoke State Forest and Chesapeake Forestlands,” Long said. “They all hold good numbers of turkeys, and hunters may encounter less hunting pressure.”

Season dates/bag limits: Junior turkey hunting days: April 14 (statewide), April 15 in some counties. General season: April 18 through May 23. Limit: one bearded turkey per day, two per season.


Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: No estimate. Turkeys are abundant throughout the state except Nantucket.

Spring 2017 harvest: About 3,000

Overall outlook: Good. The state’s turkey harvests have been high and stable since 2009, according to David Scarpitti, wildlife biologist with the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.

Potential Spring 2018 hotspots: “Each area of the state is different, presenting locally unique challenges with abundant turkey populations,” Scarpitti said. “But generally, areas in the western portion of the state have good turkey numbers, with lots of space to hunt and relatively fewer competing hunters.”

Quick tip: “Scout, be respectful of private landowners, hunt safely and be considerate of other hunters and non-hunters in the woods,” Scarpitti says.

Season dates/bag limits: Youth day: April 28. Regular season: April 30 through May 26. One bird per day, two total.


Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: not available

Spring 2017 harvest: more than 30,000

Overall outlook: As with other areas in the Upper Midwest, turkeys continue to thrive in Michigan.

Potential Spring 2018 hotspots: Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources manages more than 4.5 million acres open to hunting.

Season dates/bag limits: April 23 through May 31 (varies by unit). Limit: one bearded turkey.


Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: not available

Spring 2017 harvest: 11,854

Overall outlook: Minnesota’s turkey population is expanding north and west, and the birds seem to be doing well overall.

Potential Spring 2018 hotspots: Southeastern Minnesota holds the highest turkey concentrations.

Season dates/bag limits: One male or bearded turkey per spring. Season: six time periods, April 18 through May 31.


Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 250,000 to 300,000

Spring 2017 harvest: 27,456

Overall outlook: “Overall, based on all available datasets, we expect the 2018 spring season to be a replay of the 2017 season,” says Adam B. Butler, Wild Turkey Program coordinator with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. “Jake observations have been on an increasing trend for three straight years, and gobbler carryover from last season appeared strong. I expect an above-average two-year-old cohort across much of the central portion of the state. Last summer’s hatch was marginal at best for most of the state, but this shouldn’t impact things too bad for this season, since jakes are not legal for harvest by hunters over the age of 16 in Mississippi. Based on the most recent field reports, I am pretty optimistic about the majority of Mississippi.”

Potential Spring 2018 hotspots: Butler says northern and east-central Mississippi will likely offer the best hunting this spring. “The exceptions to the optimism are large swaths of southeastern Mississippi (areas east of Highway 35 and south of Highway 84), plus pretty much the entire Delta (the northwestern region of the state),” he said. “Both of these areas will probably offer pretty tough hunting.”

Quick tip: “For out-of-state hunters, don’t feel hurried to get here,” Butler said. “Gobbling activity for most of the state does not peak until the first or second week of April, which is the third or fourth week of our season. If you come for the opener, you run a greater chance of being stuck with silence at daybreak, especially in the northern portions of the state if we have a late spring.”

Season dates/bag limits: Youth: March 8 through 14. Regular season: March 15 through May 1. One adult gobbler or one gobbler with a 6-inch or longer beard per day, three per spring season. Hunters 15 or younger can harvest one gobbler of choice (any age) per day, three per spring season.

missouri turkey forecast 2018
Waiting for a gobbler in Missouri. Brian Lovett


Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 300,000

Spring 2017 harvest: 43,343

Overall outlook: “In most of the state, turkey numbers are not as high as they were several years ago, following improved production,” says Jason Isabelle, resource scientist with the Missouri Department of Conservation. “Although Missouri’s turkey population remains strong, the effects of poor production in recent years will likely be evident during this year’s spring season. In addition to fewer two-year-old gobblers caused by a poor hatch in 2016, poor production in 2017 will result in fewer jakes this year. However, because of a favorable climate and good habitat, Missouri’s landscape is capable of supporting high turkey densities. Therefore, even when turkey numbers are down, Missouri still offers some great turkey hunting. Each year, the spring turkey harvest continues to be among the highest in the nation, and despite poor production the last two years, the 2018 season should be no exception.”

Potential Spring 2018 hotspots: “In recent years, the highest spring turkey harvest has occurred in portions of west-central and southwestern Missouri, from St. Clair and Benton Counties south to Christian County,” Isabelle says. “Another area of the state that consistently ranks among the best in the state includes portions of central and southeastern Missouri along the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, from Osage County east to Jefferson County and south to Cape Girardeau County. Counties located in portions of the northern Ozarks also consistently rank among the highest in spring turkey harvest in the state — specifically, from Miller and Maries counties south to Texas County.”

Quick tip: “Although it can be intimidating for some hunters, access to private land can still be achieved with time and effort,” Isabelle says. “Visit with local landowners during the off-season. Although many residents hunt their land or have friends or relatives that do, there are many that do not. Having permission on multiple properties can help hunters be consistently successful.

Isabelle added that although the highest hunter success typically occurs on private land, hunters should not overlook opportunities on public land in Missouri. The Department of Conservation, USDA Forest Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manage extensive tracts of land. Many see considerable pressure during spring, but there’s less usage during weekdays and after the season’s first week.

Season dates/bag limits: Youth: April 7 and 8. Regular season: April 16 through May 6. Limit: Hunters can take two male turkeys or turkeys with a visible beard during spring. Only one can be taken April 16 through 22. If hunters don’t take a turkey during the first week, they can take two April 23 through May 6, but not on the same day.


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

Estimated population: not available

Spring 2017 harvest: not available

Overall outlook: John Vore, game management bureau chief for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, says 2018 prospects are very good, as state turkey populations are robust and increasing in most areas.

Potential Spring 2018 hotspots: Most areas should be good, with exceptions in central and north-central Montana.

Quick tip: “Call the local Fish, Wildlife and Parks biologist or wildlife manager for the area you are thinking of hunting,” Vore said. “He or she will have the best on-the-ground info. Most turkeys are on private land, and hunters must get landowner permission to hunt.”

Season dates/bag limits: Proposed dates: April 14 through May 20. Bag limits not yet finalized.

nebraska turkey hunting forecast 2018
A successful hunt in Nebraska. Brian Lovett


Subspecies: Mostly hybrids (Merriam’s/game-farm turkeys), but biologists suspect there are some pure Merriam’s in the extreme northwestern corner of the Panhandle.

Estimated population: not available

Spring 2017 harvest: 20,431

Overall outlook: Good. Jeff Lusk, upland game program manager for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, says the state hasn’t experienced any significant weather events that would signal a problem going into breeding season.

Potential Spring 2018 hotspots: Generally, Lusk says, the western third of the state — especially the Panhandle and southwestern Nebraska — are the top harvest spots.

Quick tip: “Check our turkey page for the latest survey results and reports to help direct where in the state to focus efforts,” Lusk says. Outdoornebraska.org/wildturkey.

Season dates/bag limits: Youth and regular archery season: March 25 through May 31. Youth shotgun season: April 7 through May 31. Regular shotgun season: April 14 through May 31. Limit: one male or bearded hen turkey per permit; maximum three permits per season.


Subspecies: Rio Grande, Merriam’s

Estimated population: 1,800

Spring 2017 harvest: 76 gobblers, 15 jakes

Overall outlook: “Success in 2017 was 75 percent, and average beard length was 7.4 inches,” says Shawn Espinosa, upland-game staff specialist with the Nevada Department of Wildlife. “We are expecting turkey population to continue to grow in many areas of the state, and we have also conducted two translocations (one in Lander County and one in Lincoln County) that should help expand and augment population of turkeys.”

Potential Spring 2018 hotspots: “The Merriam’s turkey population in Hunt Unit 115 is doing very well,” Espinosa says. “The Paradise Valley private-lands hunt in north central Nevada should provide a great experience for Rio Grande turkeys.”

Quick tip: “Keep applying,” Kevin Vella, NWTF district biologist for California and Nevada, said in 2017. “It’s a fun experience once you get drawn.”

Season dates/bag limits: Generally March 31 through May 6 (varies).

New Hampshire

Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 40,000

Spring 2017 harvest: 4,482

Overall outlook: “The Summer 2017 Public Internet Turkey Brood Survey statewide averaged a fairly good 3.32 poults per hen for the month of August,” says Ted Walski, turkey project biologist with New Hampshire Fish and Game. “Winter 2018 has not been hard on turkey flocks. The thawing periods during January and February created some bare-ground sites, and the abundant fall acorn crop was still being used. Numerous winter turkey flocks are being reported on the Winter 2018 Public Internet Turkey Flock Survey. All wildlife management units showed an increase in turkey harvest from May 2016 to May 2017. It’s probable that May 2018 may also show an increase.”

Potential Spring 2018 hotspots: The southern half of the state has better turkey habitat and generally sees higher harvest, Walski says. Wildlife units with harvests of at least one gobbler per square mile include J2, L and M in southeastern New Hampshire and K, H1 and H2 in the southwestern portion of the state.

Quick tip: “Since most New Hampshire towns are approximately 90 percent forested, scout and hunt areas near fields and farmland, which are the best brood habitat and near where hens want to nest,” Walski said.

Season dates/bag limits: Youth hunt: April 28 and 29. Regular season: May 3 through 31. Limit: one bearded turkey per spring.

New Jersey

Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 20,000 to 25,000

Spring 2017 harvest: 3,011

Overall outlook: Tony McBride, supervising biologist for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Division of Fish and Wildlife, says the state’s last good hatch occurred in 2015, so the three-year-old gobbler class should be strong. 2016 and 2017 hatches were fair.

Potential Spring 2018 hotspots: “Areas of Salem and Cumberland counties (turkey hunting areas 20 and 21) have the highest bird densities,” McBride says. “Densities are lowest in the heavily forested parts of Sussex, Morris and Passaic counties (turkey hunting areas 6 and 7).”

Quick tip: Check the New Jersey Department of Fish and Wildlife website for information about public-land opportunities and upcoming turkey hunting seminars.

Season dates/bag limits: Youth day: April 21. Regular season: Period A: April 23 through 27; Period B: April 30 through May 4; Period C: May 7 through May 11; Period D: May 14 through May 18, and May 21 through 25; Period E: all Saturdays — April 28, May 5, May 12 and May 19.

New Mexico

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

Estimated population: 25,000

Spring 2017 harvest: not available

Overall outlook: “Anecdotal reports of turkey populations have been positive over the last few years,” says Casey Cardinal, resident game-bird biologist, Wildlife Management Division, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. “Due to the extremely mild winter, overwinter survival is predicted to be good. There are concerns about reproduction and survival into the coming year due to the lack of winter precipitation.”

Potential Spring 2018 hotspots: Cardinal suggested Lincoln National Forest (GMU 34 and GMU 36) and Gila National Forest (GMU 16 and GMU 21A).

Quick tip: “For Merriam’s, look for canyon bottoms with green grass relatively close to a water source and proper roosting trees (usually tall ponderosa pines),” Cardinal says. “New Mexico has a lot of public land available for hunters. The BLM and NMDGF have partnered to offer hunting maps through the CarryMap application.”

Season dates/bag limits: Youth hunt: April 6 through 8. Regular season: April 15 through May 10. Limit: two bearded turkeys.

New York

Subspecies: Eastern

Overall population: 180,000

Spring 2017 harvest: 17,492

Overall outlook: Benning W. Delamater, with the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, says state turkey populations are slowly recovering, spurred by two good production years (2014 and 2015) and two mild winters (2015 and 2016). However, poor production in 2017 and severe winter conditions might hinder population growth.

Potential Spring 2018 hotspots: “Despite poor production across the state in 2017, some regions of the state have had better reproductive success in 2016 and 2017 than others, including the Capital Region (DEC Region 4 in the eastern part of the state) and western New York (DEC Regions 8 and 9),” Delamater says.

Quick tip: Delamater said state forests and wildlife management areas throughout the state offer good hunting opportunities. “Don’t forget to check out New York City Department of Environmental Protection Watershed Lands,” he adds. “Many of these properties in upstate New York are open to public hunting.”

Season dates/bag limits: Youth hunt: April 21 and 22. Regular season: May 1 through 31. Limit: one bearded bird per day, two per season.

North Carolina

Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 265,000

Spring 2017 harvest: 18,919

Overall outlook: “At the statewide scale, the turkey population has increased considerably over much of the last decade and remains strong,” says Chris Kreh, upland game-bird biologist with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. “However, on a more local scale, turkey populations have declined in some counties in northern mountains and northern piedmont.”

Potential Spring 2018 hotspots: Kreh said some Game Lands properties offer excellent turkey hunting through a special permit system.

Season dates/bag limits: Youth season: April 7 through 13. Regular season: April 14 through May 12. Limit: one per day, two per season.

North Dakota

Subspecies: Eastern, Merriam’s

Estimated population: not available

Spring 2017 harvest: 1,952

Overall outlook: R.J. Gross, upland game biologist with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, says turkey numbers are increasing in the western part of the state but decreasing in the east.

Potential Spring 2018 hotspots: Gross suggested hunters look into the Badlands.

Season dates/bag limits: April 14 through May 20. Closed to nonresidents, tribal lands — such as the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation — offer opportunities.


Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 200,000

Spring 2017 harvest: 21,097

Overall outlook: “The reproductive index (poults per hen) was high in 2016, especially in eastern counties experiencing the periodical cicada emergence, but the 2017 reproductive index was below average,” says Mark Wiley, wildlife biologist with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. “In eastern Ohio, there should be a strong class of two-year-old birds available during the 2018 spring season, while most other areas of the state should expect birds numbers on par with recent years.”

Potential Spring 2018 hotspots: “Eastern counties should reap the benefits of good poult production during the 2016 Brood V cicada emergence,” Wiley says. “We saw a bump in turkey harvest in this region last spring, particularly in east-central counties.”

Quick tip: Contact an Ohio DNR office for information on resources, such as private-land permission slips.

Season dates/bag limits: Limit: one per day, two per season. Northeast Zone: April 30 through May 27. Southern Zone: April 23 through May 20.


Subspecies: Rio Grande, Eastern

Estimated population: Rio Grande, 107,000; Eastern, 7,000

Spring 2017 harvest: Rio Grande, 7,041; Eastern, 682

Overall outlook: Jack Waymire, senior biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, says Rio Grandes have a good, stable population, but Easterns are still declining.

Potential Spring 2018 hotspots: Most areas west of I-35 will be good for Rio Grandes, but the eight southeastern counties will be poor to fair for Easterns, Waymire said.

Quick tip: “Most private lands have hunting leases, and the wildlife management areas get a lot of hunting pressure,” Waymire says. “We now have the Oklahoma Land Access Program, where some landowners will permit turkey hunting.”

Season dates/bag limits: April 6 through May 6 for all counties, except eight Southeast Region counties. Limit: three toms statewide, but a hunter cannot exceed any county limit while pursuing the season limit). There’s a one-gobbler limit for the eight southeastern counties combined.


Subspecies: primarily Rio Grande

Estimated population: 40,000 to 45,000

Spring 2017 harvest: not available

Overall outlook: Overwinter survival should be good thanks to a mild winter, said Michelle Dennehy, with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Potential Spring 2018 hotspots: “Southwestern Oregon remains a hotspot, but lots of turkeys are on private land,” Dennehy says. “White River Wildlife Area (a few hours from Portland) gets a lot of hunting pressure but is also good spot for turkeys. Northeastern Oregon has many public-lands hunting opportunities. Northwestern Oregon (Willamette Valley) also has turkeys, but hunters need access to private land.”

Quick tip: Check oregonhuntingmap.com, which can assist hunters with locating turkey hunting areas.

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

Pennsylvania turkey hunting forecast 2018
A Pennsylvania long beard. Wiki


Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 216,807

Spring 2017 harvest: 38,100

Overall outlook: Overall, Pennsylvania’s turkey population is increasing from its most recent low in 2010, with increases in the one- and two-year-old age classes, says Mary Jo Casalena, wild turkey biologist with the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

Potential Spring 2018 hotspots: Casalena mentioned three areas in particular. WMU 2B is near suburban Pittsburgh, and finding a place to hunt there might not be difficult because Pennsylvania landowners are typically supportive of hunting, and municipalities typically allow the use of archery equipment (crossbows are legal). This WMU has maintained one of the highest harvest densities per square mile since 2013. Because of an above-average 2016 summer sighting index and two consecutive years of record recruitment (2016 and 2017), WMU 2D should also be good. The 2017 poult recruitment was 154 percent higher than the previous three-year average. Harvest density there in 2018 should remain well above the statewide average. This WMU maintains a high spring harvest density, but not as high as 2B and 3C. This spring might be an exception.

WMU 3C should also be good, according to an above-average 2016 summer sighting index. This WMU also has maintained one of the highest spring harvest densities since 2011.

Quick tip: “Please be considerate of private property,” Casalena says. “However, the Pennsylvania Game Commission partners with more than 13,000 private landowners in most counties to provide public hunting. Hunters with disabilities can obtain permits to access State Game Lands using their vehicle or an ATV on designated routes. Seek out Pennsylvania Game Commission State Game Lands where we have conducted prescribed fires during the past several years or areas scheduled to be burned this spring. These areas are magnets for turkeys.”

Season dates/bag limits: Youth: April 21. Regular season: April 28 through May 31. Limit: one bird per day. One bearded bird per regular hunting license. Hunters who purchase a special second license for spring gobbler hunting can take a second bearded bird.

Rhode Island

Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 5,000

Spring 2017 harvest: 154

Overall outlook: Josh Beuth, wildlife biologist with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management’s Division of Fish and Wildlife, said biologists have a positive outlook on Rhode Island turkeys, as the population continues to increase.

“Harvest has continued to rebound from 2012’s low harvest,” he said. “Poult production was low for 2017 but was slightly above 2016’s numbers, and late nest attempts — as evidenced by stronger poult production in August and September — made up for below-average production observed earlier in the season.”

Potential Spring 2018 hotspots: “Arcadia Management area in Exeter and West Greenwich is always a solid starting point for turkeys,” Beuth said. “Eight Rod Farm Wildlife Management Area in Tiverton, Rhode Island’s East Bay Region, should not be overlooked. The East Bay population continues to increase, as the birds have recolonized this area of the state, and harvest in this region continues to increase in response.”

Quick tip: A knock or two landowners’ doors could pay dividends, with access to private property and hunting birds that have seen less pressure than those found on state lands,” Beuth said. “Hunters should scout, scout, scout, as turkeys on state lands are always on the move. Where they were yesterday may not be where they are today and just because they weren’t in one location today doesn’t mean they won’t be there tomorrow. Continual and repetitive scouting prior to and during the season will increase the chance of finding success on state and private lands.”

Season dates/bag limits: Youth/disabled: April 21 and 22. Regular season: April 26 through May 20 Limit: one bearded bird per season.

South Carolina

Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 130,000

Spring 2017 harvest: 19,171

Overall outlook: “Although the harvest has increased 24 percent over the last two seasons, giving the appearance of an increasing population, the number of days in the season were increased by 50 percent during these two seasons, resulting in an increase of about 27 percent in man-days hunted,” says Charles Ruth, big-game program coordinator with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. “Based on this, it is difficult to tell whether the increase in harvest is a result of more turkeys on the landscape or simply from increased hunter effort.”

Potential Spring 2018 hotspots: Ruth said Piedmont and Lower Coastal Plain regions look good, with fewer birds in the Midlands.

Quick tip: “Recent research in the state shows a strong peak in gobbling near the end of the season,” Ruth says.

Season dates/bag limits: Private land in all game zones: March 20 through May 5. Public land in all game zones: April 1 through May 5. Three gobblers total; no more than two per day.

South Dakota

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

Estimated population: not available

Spring 2017 harvest: 3,328, prairie units; 1,701, Black Hills

Overall outlook: “Severe drought during the nesting and brood-rearing season might have reduced (prairie unit) reproductive success in 2017,” says Travis Runia, with the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks. “This may result in fewer turkeys, especially jakes. However, hunters success improved sharply in 2017 compared to 2016, so good opportunities should still be available during the spring 2018 prairie season.”

Chad P. Lehman, senior wildlife biologist with South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, says the Black Hills Merriam’s population is moderate. “We are in maintain mode for management of turkeys in the Black Hills,” he says. “Based on harvest data, our population appears to be increasing, particularly in the southern Black Hills, and is providing more opportunities for hunters.”

Potential Spring 2018 hotspots: Lehman said the southern part of the Black Hills is strong, but the central area is moderate, and the northern portion is declining, based on research data.

Quick tip: “The Black Hills is composed of mostly public land, but private in-holdings and ranches are also scattered throughout,” Lehman says. “Scout, staying high on ridgetops and listening for gobbles during early mornings and evenings when (birds are) just roosted.”

Season dates/bag limits: Archery: April 7 through May 20; shotgun/rifle: April 14 through May 20. Limit: Black Hills: one; prairie units: one per permit (see the application for unit-level license availability).


Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 225,000

Spring 2017 harvest: 31,400

Overall outlook: “Steady harvest trends statewide indicate a stable population,” says Joy Sweaney, wild turkey program leader for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. “We’re still seeing a drop in harvest in middle Tennessee. A five-year research project to be completed in 2021 … is in progress to assess the population dynamics there.”

Potential Spring 2018 hotspots: Dickson County, west of Nashville, had the highest harvest in 2017, with about 900 birds.

Quick tip: “Cumberland WMA in eastern Tennessee had the highest harvest of any WMA last year, and with 190,000 acres, you’re likely to find room to hunt,” Sweaney says.

Season dates/bag limits: Youth season: March 24 and 25. Regular season: March 31 through May 13. Limit: four bearded turkeys per season, one per day. (Turkeys taken on specially designated wildlife management areas might be bonus birds.)

texas turkey hunting forecast 2018
Texas double. Brian Lovett


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

Estimated population: 550,000 Rios, 7,500 Easterns, 500 Merriam’s. 2017 harvest: 22,545

Overall outlook: Jason Hardin, upland game-bird specialist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department says the state’s Rio Grande population is strong. Merriam’s are being bred out of existence by Rios. Easterns still inhabit traditional areas, and stocking continues in focal landscapes.

Potential Spring 2018 hotspots: “The Texas Hill Country and Cross Timbers regions are great places to hunt,” Hardin says. “The Rolling Plains and Coastal Sand Plains in southern Texas are all great areas to hunt as well. There’s not much public land in Texas.”

Season dates/bag limits: Rio Grande Northern Zone: March 31 through May 13 (four gobblers or bearded birds). Rio Grande Southern Zone: March 17 through April 29 (four gobblers or bearded birds). Rio Grande special one-turkey limit: April 1 through 30. Eastern Turkey: April 15 through May 14 (one gobbler or bearded bird).


Subspecies: Rio Grande, Merriam’s

Estimated population: 30,000 to 35,000

Spring 2017 harvest: 3,235

Overall outlook: Jason D. Robinson, upland game program coordinator with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, reports that the state’s turkey population is increasing.

Potential Spring 2018 hotspots: Robinson says potentially good areas include the Cache Valley and Iron County.

Quick tip: “Scouting is the key in Utah,” Robinson said. “Figure out where the birds are before the hunt opens.”

Season dates/bag limits: Limited-entry: April 14 through 26. General season over-the-counter: April 30 through May 31.


Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: more than 50,000

Spring 2017 harvest: 5,827 regular season, 743 youth season; 6,570 total

Overall outlook: Chris Bernier, wildlife biologist with the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, says Spring and Summer 2017 conditions were tough, resulting in brood production that was among the lowest ever recorded. Vermont had a very light fall harvest (366 birds, compared to a 10-year average of 922). However, thanks to a relatively easy winter and abundant hard and soft mast, spring hunting is anticipated to be good.

Potential Spring 2018 hotspots: “Based on 2017 brood observations, Orange, Caledonia and Orleans counties should be the most promising, followed by Windsor and Franklin counties,” Bernier says. “No part of the state seemed to be disproportionately hit by the hard spring weather or by particularly challenging winter conditions, so I would expect excellent hunting opportunities statewide.”

Quick tip: “Don’t let the lack of gobbling discourage you (particularly toward the end of the season),” Bernier says. “The toms are out there, and often, your patience pays off.”

Season dates/bag limits: Youth weekend: April 28 through 30. Regular season: May 1 through 31. Limit: two bearded turkeys.


Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 180,000 to 190,000

Spring 2017 harvest: 18,860

Overall outlook: Gary Norman, forest game-bird project leader for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, says the state’s turkey population is stable. Recruitment has been steady the past three years at average or slightly below-average levels.

Potential Spring 2018 hotspots: “Virginia’s Tidewater Region, specifically the Northern Neck (Westmoreland, Northumberland and Richmond counties) has the Virginia’s highest turkey densities,” Norman says. “However, reproduction there has been below average over the past two years. The region has limited public hunting, so hunters will need to work diligently to find lands there. Virginia’s South Piedmont and South Mountain regions also offer some very good spring gobbler hunting. Reproduction there has been moderate recently. There are considerable hunting opportunities on the Jefferson National Forest, and there are several WMAs with very good turkey populations. Considerable hunting opportunities in the North Mountain Region exist. However, turkey populations there are not as good, but they have been increasing.”

Quick tip: “Our Spring Gobbler Hunter Survey has shown hunter success rates are directly related to the number of days they spend scouting,” Norman said.

Season dates/bag limits: Youth season: April 7 and 8. Regular season: April 14 through May 19. Limit: three per year.


Subspecies: Eastern, Merriam’s, Rio Grande

Estimated population: not available

Spring 2017 harvest: not available

Overall outlook: Washington’s varied turkey population continues to thrive, and hunter success rates are generally very good.

Potential Spring 2018 hotspots: Merriam’s inhabit Ferry, Klickitat, Skamania, Stevens, Spokane, Okanogan, Chelan, Kittitas, Yakima and Pend Oreille counties. Rios inhabit Asotin, Columbia, Garfield, Lincoln, Whitman and Walla Walla counties. Easterns inhabit Cowlitz, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, Thurston, Wahkiakum and Grays Harbor counties.

Season dates/bag limits: Youth hunt: April 7 and 8. Regular season: April 15 through May 31. Limit: No more than three male or bearded turkeys (varies by county).

West Virginia

Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: not available

Spring 2017 harvest: not available

Overall outlook: Turkey numbers and harvests have decreased somewhat in recent years.

Potential Spring 2018 hotspots: The state owns more than 500,000 acres open to hunting, and the U.S. Forest Service manages about another 1 million open to hunters.

Season dates/bag limits: Youth hunt: April 14. Regular season: April 16 through May 12. Limit: two bearded per season.

Wisconsin turkey hunting forecast 2018
Strutters in Wisconsin. Wisconsin DNR


Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: not available

Spring 2017 harvest: 43,305

Overall outlook: “Overall harvest has been fairly stable the last eight years after decades of population growth and associated increased harvest,” says Mark Witecha, upland wildlife ecologist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. “For the past two years, Wisconsin has seen poor brood rearing conditions. Although this could impact the turkey population, annual fluctuations in the turkey population are normal, and we anticipate another great spring turkey hunt across the state.”

Potential Spring 2018 hotspots: The southern two-thirds of the state have the highest turkey populations.

Quick tip: “As the weather warms up, winter flocks break up, and toms head to open areas suitable for strutting displays,” Witecha said. “Hunters should look for toms in forest openings or fields and pastures with roosting habitat nearby.”

Season dates/bag limits: Youth hunt: April 14 and 15. Regular season: six seven-day periods; April 18 through May 29. Limit: one male or bearded turkey per harvest authorization. Harvest authorization permit availability varies by zone.


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

Estimated population: not available

Spring 2017 harvest: 938

Overall outlook: “Given the average to above-average poult production across most of the state since 2015, we are anticipating that the harvest will increase in most hunt areas again this spring,” says Joe Sandrini, wildlife biologist with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. “There should also be enhanced opportunity to harvest a mature tom, and we are also expecting to see a continued increase of turkey hunters in the field. The overall outlook is for good to very good spring hunting of wild turkeys in most locations.”

Potential Spring 2018 hotspots: Sandrini mentioned two potential hotspots: Hunt Area 1, outside of the Black Hills, and Hunt Area 2, in the Laramie Peak area.

Quick tip: “Weather and road conditions can inhibit access to higher elevations early in season,” Sandrini says. “Consider hunting during the second peak in gobbling, normally after about May 10. At this time, hunter numbers are usually down, toms are more call responsive and weather is more predictable.”

Season dates/bag limits: April 1 through May 20 but varies by area. Limit: one male or wild turkey with a visible beard per license. Hunters can only apply for and receive one license through the license draw. After the license draw, they can acquire up to three licenses, two of which must be a limited quota Type 3 license. Hunters can only purchase one general spring wild turkey license.