May 12, 2014
By Tony J. Peterson
After all of the seriousness of the fall big game seasons, it's nice to come into spring with plans for a low-key turkey trip or two. This transition is somewhat like finally finishing Tolstoy's Anna Karenina and then opening up a book in the Choose Your Own Adventure children's series.
Not that turkey hunting can't be serious, it can. Just as the pea-brained birds can make even seasoned bowhunters look foolish by exercising their built-in, no-nonsense instincts that don't give in a whit to curiosity.
That stated, turkey hunting is a somewhat more relaxing affair than whitetail or elk hunting, especially considering that sitting in a hub-style blind is far and away the best option for running an arrow through the softball-sized vitals of a gobbler. If that sounds like something you're interested in, especially if you're looking to expand your hunting opportunities beyond your home state, then there are plenty of options available.
Unlike many big game species, turkey licenses for nonresidents are relatively easy to come by and often inexpensive. Couple that with perfect-for-camping spring weather and there really isn't a good reason to not cut out of work for a few days and load the blinds in the truck. Following are 10 states you should definitely consider if the lure of distant gobbling is too much to take.
True to its western location and subsequent western-hunting regulations, Colorado's turkey hunting
regulations can be a bit difficult to understand at first. Fortunately, as you wade through the regs you'll see that the state offers plenty of unlimited, over-the-counter tags to nonresidents, all for the reasonable fee of $104.
Colorado is a sleeper state for turkeys, largely because most folks consider driving to the state only when they've got an elk or mule deer tag in their pockets. This is good news for the public land hunter
looking to tag out on a Colorado gobbler, especially if that same hunter is interested in chasing turkeys through some of the most beautiful country available.
Known more for inches of antler than lengths of beards, Kansas offers very reasonably priced licenses to both adult and youth nonresidents
. Finding turkey hunting spots in Kansas can be easy, unlike securing a spot to bowhunt deer. For starters, check out the 2014 Spring Hunting Atlas
page at the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism website.
Contained on the page is a map with dozens of public hunting areas marked for convenience. Kansas is also home to plenty of ranchers who will gladly offer turkey hunting permission if you ask nice enough. A nice bonus of hunting this state is the fact that it contains populations of Rio Grande and Eastern subspecies, along with a hybrid mix of the two.
My home state of Minnesota is not exactly a destination for most traveling hunters due to mediocre deer hunting throughout much of the state, however one overlooked opportunity the Gopher State offers is excellent turkey hunting
. This year marks the first time that Minnesota offers bowhunters the chance to buy an over-the-counter archery-only license that is good for the entire month of May.
Previously, the tag was only good for the last two weeks of May, meaning that 2014 hunters have the option to bowhunt through some of the best parts of turkey season. Knocking on doors can still result in turkey hunting permission, and Minnesota also offers quality opportunities on public hunting land
. For less than $100, this is a no-brainer.
Missouri was once the Mecca of turkey hunting
, and while populations have dropped from all-time highs, that doesn't mean you shouldn't put it on your short list of possible turkey states. I started hunting Missouri while in high school, and still travel there frequently to try my hand at tagging a gobbler with huge spurs and a paintbrush beard. Nonresidents can show up and buy a license over the counter, which allows for the taking of two bearded birds with some restriction
The entire state boasts turkeys which benefit geographically from easy winters and plenty of ag-friendly soil. Personal efforts to secure private land permission have been dismal. However, I've hunted public land in several counties and killed my biggest birds there. Don't shy away from Uncle Sam's ground
in this state.
More states than ever are incentivizing hunters to introduce youngsters to the world of hunting, and leading the pack might just be Nebraska. Liberal limits and $6 nonresident youth tags
offer an awesome spring option for the traveling turkey hunter
. Adults will pay $91 for their tag, and no matter what corner of the state you stake out, you'll encounter birds. Lots of birds. They might be Easterns, they might be Merriam's, or they just might be a hybrid between the two.
Either way, they'll gobble their heads off and commit to your decoy spread unlike birds in any other state. Nebraska is a goldmine for turkeys, especially if you're used to fighting crowds or matching wits with hard-hunted, tight-lipped birds. This state will make you feel like Ray Eye
ain't got nothin' on you in the turkey calling department.
True Merriam's greet visiting turkey hunters in New Mexico
, as does some of the most rugged and beautiful turkey country. Appearing more favorably as a home to mountain lions than longbeards, New Mexico is an oft-overlooked resource for adventurous bowhunters who want to get a back-country turkey fix.
Spots like the Gila Wilderness Area
feature healthy turkey populations and the ability to burn enough boot leather to leave behind all of the competition. Don't be afraid to wail away on a box call while punching coordinates into your GPS so you can not only get canyon birds to sound off, but also so that you can make it back to camp at the day's end.
When people think of New York, they often envision just the sprawling city by the same name. Fortunately, there's much more to New York state, and if you're enterprising enough, you might just find some high-quality turkey hunting. Licenses
are easy to come by, and the eastern birds that inhabit the state will certainly offer a serious challenge to the traveling gobbler chaser.
The good news is that if you're willing to work at it, there is a decent chance a trip to this state will result in a shot opportunity. Big woods, plenty of public land
, and gobblers fat from last fall's acorn crop await those willing to sling a blind on their backs
and try to fool some New York toms.
An Oklahoma nonresident tag
is good for multiple birds but be sure to pay attention to the county you're hunting and the regulations. Beyond that, it only takes one visit to the Sooner State before you realize how friendly the state is to outsiders.
Littered with quality public land
, this is maybe the best sleeper state outside of Nebraska for the traveling turkey hunter. Varied terrain from north to south and east to west will greet the visiting hunter, however a little time spent on Google Earth
before ever loading the truck will help you identify potential hotspots.
Few states attract as much attention from turkey hunters as South Dakota does, and for good reason. From the wide-open prairie units to the Black Hills lining the western edge of the state, the turkey hunting is top notch. South Dakota recently implemented a spring archery season that opens on April 1, but be warned — you can't walk into any random Wal-Mart and buy a tag, you either need to apply online
ahead of your hunt or swing into the office in Pierre to buy your tag on site.
Once you've got your tag in hand, you'll notice that South Dakota boasts hundreds of thousands of acres of public land including some dynamite walk-in areas
, as well as plenty of private places willing to let a wayward hunter on to thin out the flocks. This state is a must-hunt for anyone hooked on spring turkeys and is also one of the best options for adding a Merriam's to your wall.
Every turkey hunter — but especially those hailing from the east coast and the deep south states like Mississippi and Alabama — needs to hunt turkeys in Texas just once. The reason? Texas turkeys
are extremely abundant, garrulous, and quite frankly, some of the easiest-to-kill birds out there. Some folks don't want a gimme and that's OK, but once-in-a-while it's nice to hunt somewhere that offers a great chance of success for a reasonable amount of work.
Turkey hunting opportunities are everywhere in the Lone Star State, although you'll probably have to part with a few Benjamins
to find a place to tag out on a Rio. After a single morning in the mesquite flats going deaf from all of the gobbling, you'll forget all about the extra expense of a Texas turkey hunt and realize that you've got a goofy, perma-grin plastered on your face.