Best Turkey Hunting States for 2021

The history of turkey hunting and its related conservation efforts in the US dates back to the 1800s. When settlers arrived in North America, the wild turkey population was generous and they were a staple food source for the settlers, being hunted all over the East Coast. But by the turn of the 20th century, overhunting and deforestation caused wild turkey populations to decline drastically. By 1920, turkeys were no longer found in 18 of the original 39 states, and they hit a historic low of less than 30,000 by the 1930s.

To turn things around, states began implementing hunting regulations, and the funds from hunting license fees supported both enforcement of seasons and regulations and the biological staff to manage populations. Today, thanks in large part to the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) we have an estimated 6.2 million wild turkeys. This abundance of birds allowed us to partner with NWTF in 2018 and offer an exclusive NWTF Wild Turkey Records Layer, which shows subspecies distribution and record scores for the areas you hunt. 

With lots of birds to go after in so many places, we put together this list to highlight the best states for turkey hunting this year, with on-the-ground support from our onX Ambassadors who pursue big toms with fervor. 

Top Turkey Hunting States - onX Hunt

Alabama: Best State for Turkey Population and Shooting Multiple Birds

Alabama is arguably at the heart of turkey hunting in the US. It’s where turkey hunting legend Colonel Tom Kelly spent eight decades of his life stalking and calling toms, and where Ben Rodgers Lee, an Alabama native, was considered “one the greatest turkey hunters who ever lived.” 

What makes Alabama a standout for turkey hunting is really two things: it has the largest turkey population (except Texas in some years), and hunters can harvest up to five turkeys over the fall and spring seasons, at a limit of one per day. 

The Eastern turkey population in the Yellowhammer state is so well-established that it has one of the highest numbers of turkey hunters per capita. With the state’s relatively long season (42 days) and 2.1 million acres of public hunting land, finding a place to turkey hunt in Alabama isn’t often challenging. It can be challenging in a fun way, however, because these southern turkeys have seen it all when it comes to calls, decoys (spring only, no mechanical), or any form of hunting superstition. 

The Hunting Public’s Zach Ferenbaugh is a fan of Alabama. He says, “The cool part about hunting turkeys is that they can take you to some pretty cool places and teach you a lot about hunting in general. One state I feel has been a standout for opportunity has been Alabama. The southern turkeys are challenging, but the population typically is pretty good and there is plenty of public land to stretch your legs. With a long season and the ability to hunt all day, there is no shortage of time to be in the field.”

Take a closer look at Alabama:

Georgia: Best State for Longest Turkey Hunting Season

In Georgia time slows down, at least for diehard turkey hunters. The Peach State has a sweet 56 days of turkey season (March 20 – May 15, 2021) and allows every hunter up to three gobblers per season. The week prior to Opening Day is reserved for youth hunters on private land only. 

Georgia also has over 3.6 million acres of public land open for hunting, and the Eastern turkey population is a full 335,000. Georgia also stands out because in a handful of southern states the turkey population has been dropping slightly, but here the poult production over the previous two years has been slightly above the five-year average, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources

Take a closer look at Georgia:

Kansas: Best State for Hunting Multiple Turkey Species

Kansas is the center of a lot of things. It’s the geographic center of the US for one (Lebanon, Kan.). It’s also the center of turkey diversity. The Sunflower State has three huntable subspecies of wild turkey, including Easterns, Rios, and hybrids. It also has a reputation for having some of the easiest birds to hunt — and a lot of them. 

Hunters can bag two gobblers per season and the cost of a non-resident turkey license is one of the lowest in the US at $87.50, making Kansas a great destination for the traveling turkey hunter. With just under 1.3 million acres of public land, the state can easily accommodate these out-of-state hunters too.

“There are few places that rival Kansas in my mind for chasing turkeys,” says onX Hunt Midwest Manager Ben B. “The sheer amount of birds and ample amounts of public land make it a perennial favorite. You have the ability to shoot both Rios and Easterns, and it’s easy to hop across the border and continue your hunt in neighboring Nebraska.”

Take a closer look at Kansas:

Spring Turkey Hunting - onX Hunt

Kentucky: Best State for Hunting Different Terrain

Kentucky is deserving of a spot on our list because it has a lot of little things going for it that add up to an excellent turkey hunting state. The Bluegrass State has a solid population of 325,000 birds and allows up to two gobblers per hunter. It’s centrally located, so you can easily tack on a few days to hunt here from almost anywhere. 

The turkey season is short and sweet, only 23 days, and about 95% of the land in Kentucky is privately owned. However, knocking on the doors of a few private landowners might yield some incredible hunts. This doesn’t mean there’s no public land in Kentucky. In fact, the public land is terrific for holding turkeys. Routinely, over a half-dozen Wildlife Management Areas in the state net over 40 harvests in a season. 

What really sets Kentucky apart from other places is how diverse the terrain is, so you might be calling after mountain birds hidden in the Cumberlands or crossing your fingers a gobbler strutting on agricultural plots moseys your way. 

Take a closer look at Kentucky:

Maine: Best State for Late-Season Turkey Hunting and Low Pressure

Maine may not be top-of-mind for a lot of turkey hunters, but that might change once you realize why it stands out. The Pine Tree State is one of the last in the US to close out its spring turkey season, ending in early June. Secondly, only about 18,000 licenses are sold annually (compare that to Alabama’s) in a state with 1.9 million acres of public land. That’s a recipe for long, quiet hunts in the woods. 

Primos Hunting’s Lake Pickle is adamantly on the “Maine train.” He says, “The state of Maine has everything I want in a turkey destination. There are different habitat types to hunt; big timber, open fields, creek bottoms, and rolling topography. It has some of the most hard-gobbling turkeys I’ve ever encountered, and with the amount of public ground and hunting-accessible areas, there is plenty of room to roam without having to worry too much about hunting pressure. Not to mention, their season stays open into early June so it’s perfect for the ones chasing that last taste of spring.” 

Take a closer look at Maine:

Montana: Best State for Resident Turkey Hunters

Montana is fortunate to have wide open spaces, ample public land, and not a lot of people. The Treasure State is certainly treasured for its turkey hunting opportunities. Like Maine, there are relatively few licenses sold, about 25,000 annually. Unlike any other turkey-holding state, Montana has over 44 million acres of public land. Put that together and you have space to chase toms and never see or hear another hunter. 

We picked Montana because it caters to the resident hunter, offering so much that rarely do hunters need to look elsewhere. The resident license fee is only $6.50, and hunters can get up to five turkey tags that are valid in different regions throughout the state. 

It’s particularly appealing to onX Hunt’s Marketing Specialist Jared L., who shares his tips for finding spring turkeys: “With a healthy turkey population across the state, you can find the hunt that most interests you. If that is chasing a true mountain turkey, the central and western portions of the state will be where you want to focus. If open country with river bottoms and junipers is what you are after, the east and southeast portions of the state hold great bird numbers and thousands of acres of public lands.”

Take a closer look at Montana:

Turkey Hunting Success - onX Hunt

Nebraska: Best State for Archery Hunting

Nebraska gets a jumpstart on turkey season in the midwest. Often opening in mid-March for spring hunting, the Cornhusker State features the first three weeks as archery-only for gobblers. Between the spring and fall seasons, hunters can take up to three turkeys. 

Nebraska is also known for having a variety of subspecies, including three of the five we have in North America: Merriams, Rios, and Easterns. 

“When I hear the word ‘Nebraska’ my mind immediately goes to chasing gobblers in late March or early April with a bow in my hand,” says onX Hunt’s Jared L. “The early opening date alone makes it a great destination to chase longbeards. Add to that excellent bird numbers and Nebraska is a must for the avid turkey hunter. The fact they also have reasonably priced tags and you can harvest multiple birds is just icing on the cake.”

Take a closer look at Nebraska:

New Hampshire: Best State for A Passing-Through Hunt

New Hampshire isn’t new to turkey hunting. In fact, turkeys were hunted so hard there that in 1854 it was reported that only a single turkey was alive in the state, and then there were none. Today, the Granite State boasts over 40,000 birds, and though it’s a small state it’s close to other great turkey states like Maine and Pennsylvania. 

New Hampshire also has a unique tradition for land access that can benefit hunters. According to the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, “Based on long-standing tradition, nearly all lands in the state of New Hampshire are open to hunting. All state, federal, municipal, county, and private land is open to hunting unless it is posted against hunting. However, hunting is a privilege granted by the landowner—not a right granted to the hunter.”

Just Hunt Club’s Jon Lewis is not shy about his affection for hunting in New Hampshire. “If I had to choose just one state it would be New Hampshire,” he says. “Mostly because I have hunted it the most and have had some amazing hunts there. The birds are usually hard gobbling and very responsive to calling. With ample amounts of public access ground and high bird populations, it offers some phenomenal spring action. Tags are reasonably priced, and if you are fortunate enough to fill them you have multiple other states within a short distance that you can try your luck in!”

Take a closer look at New Hampshire:

Tennessee: Best State for ‘Turkeys in Every Field’

Tennessee is at the top of many turkey hunters’ lists, mostly because it’s a beautiful state with liberal limits, lots of public land, and accessible to most anyone in the eastern half of the US. Hunters get up to three turkey tags per season and there’s about a quarter of a million Easterns to chase. 

More than one onX Ambassador volunteered the Volunteer State as their favorite for turkey hunting, but it was Realtree’s Phillip Culpepper who made us all want to hunt the state this spring.

“Eddie Salter (aka. “The Turkey Man”) once told me the number one key to being a successful turkey hunter is that you’ve got to hunt where there’s turkeys,” says Culpepper. “It doesn’t matter how good you think you are, if they ain’t there it’s going to be a tough hunt. That is one reason I absolutely love Tennessee. Not only is it some of the most gorgeous landscapes, but tags for non-residents are affordable and over-the-counter, and there is a plethora of turkeys in most parts. 

“The first time I traveled there to hunt was about nine years ago, and I was in complete shock from what I was used to in Georgia. It seemed like there was a turkey strutting in every field!  Don’t get me wrong, it can be very tough hunting—big hills, big fields, and with that many turkeys there’s a lot of hens to battle. But being in the ballgame with that many turkeys is what makes it the most fun to me. It is a must-go every spring for me!”

Take a closer look at Tennessee:

Wisconsin: Best State for Getting in the ‘Turkey Zone’

Wisconsin is a win for turkey hunting for almost every reason we’ve outlined above. It has lots of birds, about 350,000 Easterns; it has public land, about 7.2 million acres; and it has liberal limits and affordable tags. But what really sets the Badger State apart is the way it has set up its season structure. 

Divided into seven Wisconsin Turkey Zones, hunters can dedicate a full week to bagging a gobbler in one zone before heading to another. This makes it a lot of fun for the turkey hunter who likes to travel. Sometimes you can snag a late-season surplus tag and double-up if you’re lucky. 

Wisconsin is a standout state for Calling All Turkey’s Shane Simpson, who was also the 2018 Minnesota State Turkey Calling Champion. Simpson says, “the obvious choice for me would be Wisconsin. That state has a healthy population of turkeys, vast amounts of publicly accessible lands, inexpensive non-resident tags, and liberal limits. Wisconsin has all of that and its turkey population is made up of Eastern wild turkeys, which is my favorite subspecies to pursue.”

Take a closer look at Wisconsin:

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Ryan Newhouse

Though raised hunting squirrels and whitetails in the South, Ryan Newhouse has spent nearly the last two decades chasing Western big game in Montana and writing professionally about his travels and the craft beers he’s consumed along the way. He loves camping, fishing, boating, and teaching his two kids the art of building campfires and playing the ukulele. And yes, he's related to Sewell Newhouse, inventor of the steel animal traps.