- Chris Campanelli
Dreaming of a Spring Turkey Tour
Photo by October Greenfield/Audubon Photography Awards
If you had a completely open schedule, a nice truck with a full tank of gas, and the ability to go hunt as many states as you could during the spring turkey season, where would you go?
As a diehard turkey hunter, I have always dreamed of taking a spring turkey tour. Hitting multiple states and racking up a truckload of fresh turkey breasts, beards, and tail-fans. Something that you would see your favorite hunting pro embark upon.
Without further ramble, let's jump into a hypothetical dream tour for the American turkey hunter. Or at least this American turkey hunter...
Any spring turkey tour has to begin in the swamps of Florida. No state opens its turkey hunting season earlier than the state of Florida. The Sunshine State traditionally kicks off its spring turkey season in the first week of March below SR-70. Their Osceola subset of wild turkey is one of the more unique in America. For a Midwestern turkey hunter, the chance to chase swamp birds in early March would be a dream come true. Being first to begin the spring turkey hunting season would be reason alone to hit Florida.
Stop #2: Alabama
We're steering the truck due north and hitting sweet home Alabama all the way for stop number two. Bama is home to a season that opens relatively early in the month of March. More than the early factor, Alabama is home to some of the largest turkey populations in America. The Eastern birds of Alabama are known to be some of the hardest gobbling and hardest to kill turkeys in our country.
Stop #3: Georgia
The turkey tour heads one state east to Georgia for stop number three. Georgia is home to a top-five turkey population and some of the best turkey hunting ground in America. Plenty of pinewoods and farm country makes Georgia a lights-out turkey destination. Georgia birds are similar to those in Alabama in the fact that they are hard to kill but extremely vocal and aggressive during the prime periods of the season. Georgia also has a March opener and some solid length to their season.
Stop #4: Tennessee
Turkey hunting in Tennessee is a time honored tradition, and rightfully so. Tennessee has a top-five turkey population, a long season, and an incredible four-tom bag limit. If we are talking about bang-for-your-buck, Tennessee probably takes the cake. Not to mention that Tennessee is home to some of the most beautiful scenery in America. If I am on a turkey tour beginning in the South, I am definitely hitting rocky-top Tennessee.
Stop #5: Kentucky
Kentucky is a grade-A turkey hunting state for many reasons. Another state with a solid population of birds and very reasonable season dates. What sets Kentucky apart is their truly unique terrain. Rolling from mountain country birds in the eastern portion of the state, to countryside birds in the central part of the state, and river-bottom birds in the western and northern parts of the state. Kentucky is like three or four states in one. A true outdoorsman's paradise with big, aggressive turkeys.
Stop #6: Ohio
O-H! I could not forget my home state of Ohio on my dream turkey hunting tour. Ohio is one of the more underrated turkey hunting states. Everyone thinks of Ohio as a big deer machine, but the Buckeye State also holds solid turkey numbers. Some seasons are hit-or-miss and the season opener is too late for my liking, but Ohio birds are a lot like our deer. Typically large birds with a solid gobbling tendency. Ohio also has a ton of public hunting areas if you came in without a private spot solidified. Eastern Ohio looks a bit more like Pennsylvania with rolling hills and heavy woods, while Central and Western Ohio look more like the Midwestern farmland you would expect. Providing a good mix with solid turkey hunting.
Stop #7: Iowa
We're burning rubber and heading west to the big buck mecca of Iowa. If you are not aware, Iowa is home to more than just giant whitetails and a deer hunter's dream. Iowa also holds solid turkey numbers and some incredibly large, corn-fed gobblers. Iowa's only drawback is expense and difficulty in obtaining a non-resident license and tag. If you can secure some solid private ground and be legal in doing so, Iowa could be a magical place to turkey hunt. If nothing else, you can dream about deer hunting heaven as you await that big gobbler.
Stop #8: Missouri
Missouri is another state with a rich outdoor tradition. If we were ranking these states on quality of birds and numbers of them, Missouri may be right near the top. Missouri is home to some giant longbeards, especially along the Iowa border. With solid hunting season dates, good amounts of public land, and a ton of turkeys, Missouri would be a must on my tour.
Stop #9: Kansas
Kansas is one of those all-around great states for outdoorsmen. We all know about Kansas' big buck history, but the turkey hunting numbers are on the rise. Kansas is home to a definite top-10 turkey population. Kansas has a great mix of timber, river-bottoms, and beautiful hill country or prairie. They even have the Rio Grande subset of turkey in the western part of the state. With a great mix of habitat and birds alike, Kansas would be a great place to stop on the turkey tour.
Stop #10: Nebraska
The tenth and final stop of my dream turkey tour may be the most desired destination for me personally. Nebraska has been atop my wish list for a long, long time. The Merriam's subset found in western Nebraska is by far the most beautiful of the wild turkeys in America- in my opinion. I cannot get enough of those white-tipped tail feathers. Nebraska also has liberal bag limits, a season that stretches into late-May, and a ton of turkeys to chase. You can also find Eastern birds, Rios, and hybrids. Nebraska is one of those states where you can almost fill out your tag before you even hunt.
And there you have it. My dream turkey hunting tour across America.
I will mention that many, many states were left out of my list that I absolutely admire. Places like Pennsylvania, New York, Wyoming, and several other fantastic turkey hunting states. But if I had to keep it at just ten destinations on my turkey tour, those ten would make my list.
Just having the opportunity to see the beautiful landscape across our great nation would be good enough. Better yet enjoying the fellowship and tradition of hunting in each state. I would argue that you literally cannot go wrong with your dream turkey tour. Every state has something to offer.
Just thinking of the great hunting in many of these states makes me grateful that we are living in the golden age of turkey hunting. Taking a turkey tour would have been impossible just a couple of decades ago. But thanks to incredible conservation efforts led by hunters, wild turkey populations are booming.
Giving us all the hope to someday pursue our dream turkey hunting tour.
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