Wild turkeys are iconic birds of the United States and have been a part of the country's cultural heritage for centuries. They are known for their stunning plumage, impressive size, and unique vocalizations. The United States is home to five distinct subspecies of wild turkeys, each with its own unique characteristics and range. There is an estimated population of over 7 million wild turkeys in the United States.
- Eastern Turkey - The Eastern Turkey is the most widespread and abundant subspecies of wild turkey in the United States. They are found in the eastern part of the country, from Maine to Florida and as far west as Texas. These turkeys have a dark, iridescent plumage, with a coppery sheen on their wings and tail feathers. They prefer hardwood forests with open meadows or clearings, where they can find food and roost at night.
- Osceola Turkey - The Osceola Turkey is also known as the Florida Wild Turkey and is found only in the state of Florida. They are smaller and darker than the Eastern Wild Turkey, with a more distinct white band on their wings. Osceola turkeys prefer the palmetto and cypress swamps of central and southern Florida, where they feed on acorns, berries, and insects.
- Rio Grande Turkey - The Rio Grande Turkey is found in the central and western part of the United States, from Nebraska to Texas and as far west as California. They have a lighter, brownish-gray plumage with a greenish sheen on their wings and tail feathers. Rio Grande turkeys prefer open woodlands and grasslands, where they can forage for insects, seeds, and small animals.
- Merriam's Turkey – The Merriam's Turkey is found in the mountainous regions of the western United States, from Arizona to South Dakota and as far west as California. They have a striking white band on their tail feathers and a bluish-gray head with a red throat. Merriam's turkeys prefer coniferous forests and mountain meadows, where they can find a variety of nuts, berries, and insects.
- Gould's Turkey – The Gould's Turkey is the largest and most distinctive subspecies of wild turkey, with a dark, iridescent plumage and long, pointed tail feathers. They are found only in the mountainous regions of northern Mexico and the southwestern United States, including Arizona and New Mexico. Gould's turkeys prefer mixed coniferous and oak forests, where they can find a variety of nuts, berries, and insects.
But where do you go to hunt these birds?
Well, you can hunt them pretty much across most of the United States but here are three states that tend to produce a lot of successful hunts:
- Texas is considered the number one state for turkey hunting in the United States, and for good reason. With an estimated population of over 600,000 wild turkeys, Texas offers a diverse range of hunting opportunities across the state. In addition, the state has a long turkey hunting season, which runs from March 20th through May 2nd for the spring season and from October 30th through November 14th for the fall season. Check the regulations for specific dates by zone as they vary across the state. Texas also offers special youth-only hunting weekends and an abundance of public lands for hunting. Moreover, the state's mild climate and diverse terrain, which ranges from dense pine forests to open grasslands, make it an ideal location for turkey hunting.
- Kansas is another great state for turkey hunting, with an estimated population of over 30,000 wild turkeys. The state has a long hunting season, which runs from the middle of April through the end of May. Kansas is known for its high-quality turkey hunting opportunities, particularly in the eastern part of the state. The state's fertile farmland and woodland areas provide an ideal habitat for wild turkeys, and hunters have reported high success rates in recent years.
- Missouri is a great state for turkey hunting, with an estimated population of over 300,000 wild turkeys. The state has a long hunting season, which runs from April 17th through May 7th for the spring season. Missouri has a reputation for producing large, trophy-sized turkeys, and the state's public lands offer a range of hunting opportunities for both experienced and novice hunters. Additionally, the state's mild climate and diverse landscape, which includes hardwood forests, grasslands, and river valleys, make it an ideal location for turkey hunting.
While there are many states in the United States that offer turkey hunting opportunities, Texas, Kansas, and Missouri stand out as the top three states for a successful harvest. These states offer a combination of abundant wild turkey populations, long hunting seasons, diverse hunting terrain, and low hunting pressure that make them attractive destinations for turkey hunters. As always, hunters should follow all applicable hunting regulations and practice ethical and responsible hunting practices.