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Top 20 U.S. Counties for Turkey Hunting

We pick the 5 best counties in each region for punching a turkey tag this spring.

Top 20 U.S. Counties for Turkey Hunting

What's the best county in your state for bagging a gobbler? (Photo by Josh Honeycutt)

  • Coming Soon: The Game & Fish Regional Strut Update, our weekly field reports on gobbler activity across the country, begins the week of March 25. Find it all here.

Gobbling turkeys are echoing through the woods all across the country this spring. With turkey-hunting seasons already open in some places and just about to open in most others, we wondered: What are the best turkey-hunting counties in the U.S.?

Our experts in the East, South, Midwest and West broke down data from hunter harvests, local guides, turkey populations and big-tom reports to determined the top 5 counties for each region.

What are the best counties for spring turkey hunting in your neck of the woods?

Map of US
The top turkey-hunting counties in the nation. (mapchart.net map)

EAST

Hope springs eternal, and in spring, hope itself is eternal for turkey hunters. With pleasant spring mornings not that far away, most of us who chase the endless spring have begun to think about where we might like to fill our turkey tags this season. For most of us, it will be close to home. But did you ever wonder where the top hunting spots are in your state or in neighboring states? Here are five of the top counties in the East as determined by harvest.

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Top turkey-hunting counties in the East. (mapchart.net map)

Armstrong County, Pennsylvania

Forming the heart of Wildlife Management Unit 2D, which for decades has consistently produced the most turkeys harvested in the Keystone State, Armstrong County is the site of a lot of flopping birds each spring. Parts of Westmoreland, Indiana, Jefferson, Clarion and Butler counties also fall within 2D, so Armstrong can’t lay claim to all 3,497 turkeys taken in the unit last spring. The next closest WMU in terms of harvest is 2C, just south of 2D, where roughly 500 birds fell in the 2023 spring season. In fact, WMU 2D accounted for more than twice the birds taken in most of the state’s other WMUs.

With stable turkey populations, low bag limits and a heavily rural and private-land-heavy landscape, the unit, with Armstrong County at its center, allows birds to thrive and grow as much as anywhere in the state. There are some public lands, too, though. State Game Land (SGL) 259 has 351 acres, which is not much by turkey-hunting standards, but it’s something if you can get there first. SGL 287 has 2,008 acres, which is a little better.

Steuben County, New York

In typical Northeastern bureaucratic fashion, the latest numbers available for turkey harvests in New York are from 2021. (Come on, New York, get with the program. Three-year-old data is the best you can do?) That said, Steuben County was the top county in New York that year, as it has been in pretty much every year for which data is available. In fact, it may well be the top county in the Northeast.

Steuben is located along the Pennsylvania border in the south-central part of the Empire State and has several tiny wildlife management areas of less than 200 acres each, plus the Erwin WMA, which boasts roughly 2,500 acres. There is also roughly 3,000 acres of state park land available for hunting, plus some outfitters in the area if you don’t mind paying for the privilege to hunt less trafficked private land.

Worcester County, Massachusetts

This one surprised me too, but this central-Massachusetts county saw 735 birds taken last spring. It is the largest county by size in the state, which no doubt helps account for its numbers. Much of the land is private, but for the most part, if it isn’t posted it’s fair game for hunting. I hunted there years ago, and while it was weird setting up on gobblers with scattergun in hand in the shadows of McMansions, my hunting buddies and I stayed in birds the entire three days we were hunting.

Bedford County, Virginia

The top county for deer in the Old Dominion is also the top county for wild turkeys. Located in the mountains of Virginia and bordering large parts of Smith Mountain and Leesville lakes, much of the county is private, though there is some public land. Parts of the Washington and Jefferson National Forests, as well as part of the Smith Mountain Cooperative, which borders the lake of the same name and comprises more than 4,600 acres, are within Bedford County.

Garrett County, Maryland

The westernmost county of Maryland borders Pennsylvania and West Virginia in the Appalachian Mountains and accounted for 579 birds taken last spring, the most of any county in the state. There is also a decent amount of public hunting land, with the bulk found in the 8,000-plus acres of the Garrett State Forest. — Doug Howlett

SOUTH

Turkey-hunting heritage is strong throughout the South, where every state has a rich tradition of chasing thunder every spring. But some states boast areas that afford better opportunities for hunters than most. Here are five counties that stand out.

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Top turkey-hunting counties in the South. (mapchart.net map)

Barbour County, Alabama

Alabama has a lot of public lands and a bunch of turkeys to chase—between 360,00 to 370,000, in fact. While the counties of Autauga, Bullock, Clarke, Conecuh, Coosa, Covington, Dale, Dallas, Jackson, Macon, Montgomery, Pickens, Shelby, Sumter, Tallapoosa, Tuscaloosa, Walker, Washington, Wilcox, and Winston promise excellent chances to bag a turkey, Barbour County, in the northeastern part of the state, often leads the way in terms of harvest numbers, according to recent hunting survey reports.

Turkey hunting is so good throughout the Yellowhammer State that hunters often have a difficult time agreeing on the best county in which to try to tag out. But Barbour, which boasts incredible habitat, great turkey populations and moderate hunting pressure, belongs atop the list in Alabama. In fact, the Barbour Wildlife Management Area offers a superb public-land hunting experience.

If you’d rather plan a private-land hunt, check out outfitters like White Oak Creek Hunting Lodge and Hawkins Ridge Lodge, both of which specialize in turkey- and deer-hunting adventures.

Polk County, Georgia

Though Georgia’s statewide turkey population is unknown, the fact that hunters in the Peach State usually bag between 17,000 and 18,000 turkeys per season is a clear indication of its potential.

According to 2023 harvest data by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GDNR), several counties—mainly in the central and northwestern regions—routinely rank in the top tier. Polk is one of those counties, and in 2023 it was among the three best in terms of harvest per square mile.

Polk County is teeming with gobblers, and its proximity to a major metropolis (Atlanta) adds myriad eateries and lodging options to the equation, making it easy to organize a memorable junket, no matter your budget.

For top public-land hunting opportunities in Polk County, look no further than the Paulding Forest WMA and its 25,707 acres, Treat Mountain WMA offering 5,087 acres and the more intimate J.L. Lester WMA with 477 acres.

Duplin County, North Carolina

North Carolina has a whopping 2 million acres of public land open to hunting, and state officials estimate the gobbler population to be 270,000 to 280,000 strong, with 20,000 to 25,000 birds bagged each year. That makes the Tarheel State a true paradise for turkey chasers in the South.

Harvest statistics for 2023 show that hunters bagged more birds in Duplin County than any of the other 99 counties in North Carolina. Duplin even beat the others in the top-10 harvest list by a long shot.

Indeed, Duplin County offers solid numbers of turkeys per square mile, terrific habitat with great brood range and grain fields, and only moderate hunting pressure. All told, an excellent recipe for success.

If you’re thinking about hunting in Duplin County or anywhere else in North Carolina, visit the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission website to find a nearby tract of public land or a local outfitter.

Williamsburg County, South Carolina

The Palmetto State is home to bewtween 90,000 and 100,000 turkeys, and its turkey hunters—tallying somewhere in the neighborhood of 50,000—took down some 13,000 birds last year. Despite that ratio, there are some prime pockets where those intent on bagging a gobbler can expect good chances for success.

As many as 800 tagged birds are reported in a handful of counties annually, primarily in the southeastern portion of the state. One of them is Williamsburg, which last season produced the highest harvest total in all of South Carolina.

If you’re wondering about public-land hunting opportunities in Williamsburg County, Wee Tee State Forest is the top choice. It primarily consists of bottomland hardwood forest within the Santee River floodplain and has 12 miles of riverfront and a 200-acre lake, as well as several ponds and oxbows.

Maury County, Tennessee

With a thriving gobbler population and abundant public land for birds to roam, one could make the case that the Volunteer State offers the best statewide turkey hunting in the South.

Of Tennessee’s four management regions, 2 and 1 (in that order) lead all others in harvested turkeys, with the respective totals of 11,662 and 7,832 reported in 2023.

Drilling down to specific counties, Maury frequently sits near the top of the totem pole. Last season, hunters harvested more than 1,000 birds there, and Yanahli WMA, with its 12,800 acres of cedar glades and oak-hickory hardwood forests, with some cropland mixed in, offers one of the state’s most fertile and diverse habitats for a healthy resident turkey population. Josh Honeycutt

MIDWEST

It’s almost impossible to suggest five counties above all others for turkey hunting in the Midwest. There are so many factors to consider before picking a destination. These include things like turkey population numbers, harvest data, license availability, the amount of public land, distance from home and so much more.

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Top turkey-hunting counties in the Midwest. (mapchart.net map)

One thing is certain, though: When it comes to wrapping tags on turkeys, the Midwest stands out. Each year, Wisconsin and Missouri are among the top states in the country for turkeys harvested, but the rest of the region puts up respectable numbers, too.

Most states offer over-the-counter licenses, or at least very good draw odds. If you’re looking for a leg up on where to try your hand in the turkey woods this spring, these five destinations can’t miss.

Cherokee County, Kansas

Kansas offers multiple subspecies of turkeys across vastly different landscapes. The entire state is enticing to turkey hunters, but for Easterns, focus on the southeast corner—specifically Cherokee County near Galena.

The Mined Land Wildlife Area includes 46 tracts of land totaling 14,500 acres. Much of this land is wooded and surrounding small strip pits that are full of fish, so consider bringing your fishing rod along, too.

It’s important to note that Kansas has adopted a draw for non-resident turkey tags. Those lucky enough to have been awarded a tag for 2024 can get started early during archery season, which opens April 8. The regular season runs April 17 to May 31.

Muhlenberg County, Kentucky

Peabody Wildlife Management Area offers more than 40,000 acres of huntable land, with tracts in three different counties. Some of the larger portions fall within Muhlenberg County. This public-land gem is reason enough to descend on the Green River region during turkey season.

Muhlenberg County was number-two in the state for spring harvest in 2022, with 525 turkeys tagged. Proximity to the Land Between the Lakes and Pennyrile State Forest also make this county desirable, because if you do end up struggling to find turkeys at Peabody WMA, it’s nice to know there a couple additional large swaths of public land nearby. Kentucky offers over-the-counter licenses, and the season runs April 13 to May 5.

Shannon County, Missouri

Missouri has long been recognized as a top turkey-hunting destination. The state offers over-the-counter licenses, and hunters take advantage of them. In 2023, 41,970 turkeys were killed in the Show-Me State.

Hunters find success statewide, but the Ozarks are special. The region is steeped in turkey hunting lore, especially Shannon County, where many old-time box call makers have come from for generations. Box calls cut across wide valleys and carry down the long hollers of this sparsely populated county and are a good choice for traveling hunters.

When you add up the state, federal and private acres open to public hunting, Shannon County offers well over 100,000 acres of public hunting. Special areas to check out are the Pioneer Forest and the Ozark National Scenic Riverways.

Cherry County, Nebraska

Valentine is in the heart of Nebraska’s Sandhills region and is the county seat of Cherry County, which boasts a population of 5,455 people. It’s likely there are more Merriam’s turkeys in the county than there are people. The Niobrara River flows through the county, and turkeys thrive in the woodland bottoms.

There are more than 200,000 acres of public lands countywide, but hunters may do better by accessing private lands through the state’s public access program. A Nebraska Public Access Atlas highlights private lands hunters can access, and many of those in Cherry County hold turkeys. Be sure to have a steak at the Peppermill when in town.

Grant County, Wisconsin

Wisconsin’s spring turkey season has six periods across seven turkey management zones, so “when” has as much to do with top turkey hunting destinations in the Badger State as “where,” but if you’re able to choose one county to hunt, it would be hard to argue against Grant.

Zone 1 boasts the top harvest, and Grant is a leading county in the zone. It borders the Mississippi River and offers public land one can access from the water. There isn’t much public land elsewhere in the county, so public hunters should focus on the river bottoms. — Brandon Butler

WEST

What are the hottest turkey-hunting spots in the West? It’s arbitrary, in some cases, and in others, both harvest data and long-term population monitoring guide our focus to a dozen counties that are worth your attention.

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Top turkey-hunting counties in the West. (mapchart.net map)

But in order to determine the five best counties—the tippy top—we considered things like publicly accessible hunting land, terrain and topography that makes hunting worthwhile during the majority of the spring season, liberal hunting regulations and an infrastructure that supports spring hunters.

Douglas County, Oregon

There’s an interesting tension between southwest Oregon and eastern Oregon. Both regions could stake a claim as the hottest turkey spot in Oregon. But Douglas County—the county seat is southwest Oregon’s Roseburg—has abundant birds along the Umpqua River and its forks, a good amount of public land and the highest turkey harvest in Oregon. Plus, it’s easy to get there via Interstate 5 between Eugene and Redding.

Because Douglas County is split into a couple different wildlife management units, there’s a little bit of overlap between jurisdictions. But the Melrose Unit produced 465 birds in 2022, the last year for which data is available. The number of birds per hunter was .61, among the highest in the state. Oregon Fish and Wildlife notes that 86 percent of gobblers were harvested on private land. The Dixon Unit, which covers a fair amount of the county, produced 133 gobblers in 2022, for a .51 bird-per-hunter average.

Other turkey units in the area that contain a portion of Douglas County include Evans Creek (304 birds, and a .60 bird-per-hunter average) and Powers (39 birds, .45 bird per hunter).

“Southwest Oregon continues to be the leading place to find turkeys,” reports Mikal Cline, Oregon’s upland bird coordinator. “The Melrose, Rogue and Applegate units have the highest turkey harvest in the state, respectively. The Rogue unit remains very popular with hunters, ranking second in hunter days only to the White River unit.”

Cline notes the relative lack of public access in the Melrose Unit. Especially early in Oregon’s season, which opens April 15 (the youth opener is April 13 to 14), birds can be low in elevation along the Umpqua and other larger streams. But by later in May, birds will be moving out of river valleys and onto mid-elevation benches. Umpqua National Forest and BLM lands, especially along the South Umpqua River drainage and on North Bank Habitat Management Area, can be very good spots to find birds.

Powder River County, Montana

The best public-land turkey hunting in Montana is in this southeast ranching county that contains thousands of acres of productive BLM lands, along with a good share of the Custer National Forest. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the word is out, and you’re going to share accessible public land with lots of other turkey hunters.

That dynamic puts a premium on both gumption—to get away from obvious access points—and creativity—to intercept gobblers where they actually are, not where you think they should be. Early in the season, most birds will be flocked up near ranches that winter cows, but every week into later April and May will see birds moving up in elevation and into smaller, more callable flocks.

The big, open country of this part of the state puts a premium on both mobility and optics. Run the roads that parallel larger drainages like the Powder and Tongue rivers and Otter and Pumpkin creeks. Park on a promontory and glass timbered ridges to find birds, then use a mapping app to define ownership and access details.

Clearwater County, Idaho

Thanks to a rich mix of federal ground and accessible private timberland, there’s abundant access in a recreation corridor that starts around Orofino and extends both north and west. Overlap distribution of spring turkeys—mainly Merriam’s but also a good number of Eastern-Rio hybrids—and you can hunt hundreds of thousands of acres of productive gobbler ground.

This dynamic is known well enough that there are few pockets of undisturbed birds, but if you plan a trip correctly, you can time a hunt with the breakup of big flocks and the melting of mid-elevation snow. And by later in May, when gobblers are running the ridges looking for unbred and unnested hens, you have much more country to hunt, largely because access opens with the receding snowline.

How much access? The PotlatchDeltic timber properties alone account for more than 500,000 acres of private land. Much of this land, along with specific usage rules and maps that show open roads and other details, are available by visiting Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s Large Tracts web page. Much of the Potlatch land is located in Clearwater County and covers much of the mid-elevation ground north of Dworshak Reservoir.

The other detail that makes Clearwater County such a prime turkey hunting spot is its infrastructure. From a huge number of public campgrounds to some excellent sporting goods stores in Orofino (I’m looking at you, Clearwater Drifters) and Kamiah (Dale & Jill’s), to solid motels when the weather gets bad, there’s good support for spring hunters.

After you fill your spring gobbler tag, pick up your fishing rod. Not only is the stocker trout and smallmouth bite heating up in Dworshak, but the A-run of steelhead up the Clearwater River should be cooking.

Montrose County, Colorado

I’m going to get some push-back on this one, and that’s okay. I could just as easily have picked neighboring San Miguel, Mesa, Delta or Ouray counties, or even Dolores County to the south. All have good numbers of Merriam’s turkeys, abundant public land and liberal general-tag hunting regulations.

But Montrose County, whose county seat is the town of Montrose, has the benefit of better infrastructure and a richer mix of turkeys and turkey habitats, from town birds to river-bench birds to higher-elevation National Forest birds. Besides, Montrose is the hometown of Wayne Carlton, whose products and turkey-calling seminars pioneered the mouth-call revolution a generation ago. Carlton’s company is now called Native by Carlton. If you’re in town, look him up.

Montrose County is the hub of a number of general-tag turkey units, including units 62, 61, 64, 63, and a sliver of Unit 65. In 2022, the last year for which harvest information is available, Montrose County ranked 9th for spring harvest. Supporting those readers who might advocate for a neighboring county, Delta posted the third-highest harvest in the state, and Mesa and Montezuma were all in the running, confirming that southwest Colorado has it going when it comes to turkey abundance and success.

It’s also worth noting that these rim-country gobblers are true native Merriam’s, not hybrids of Rio Grande or Eastern birds. Their tail fans are bone-white and they gobble their heads off, just as Merriam’s should.

Stevens County, Washington

With a whopping 8,400 spring gobblers killed in 2021, the last year for which harvest information is available, the northeast corner of Washington State is the undisputed king of turkey hunting in the Evergreen State. It also has abundant public land, plenty of campsites and sporting goods stores and a rich turkey-hunting tradition.

The Colville National Forest and the timbered highlands between the Pend Oreille and Columbia rivers are the go-to turkey spots in this county, but birds are also widely distributed along both rivers and on the Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge. Just as in other Western units, birds will move up in elevation as the season progresses. Washington’s season opens April 15, when weather can dictate bird distribution and also hunter access. But by mid-May (the state’s season closes May 31) turkeys will be scattered through the middle and higher elevations.

These may not be pure Merriam’s birds. Instead, expect an indistinct mix of Merriam’s, Eastern and Rio Grande hybrids. But also expect plenty of gobbling activity and room to roam in this very productive corner of Washington State.

Honorable Mentions — Next-Best Turkey Counties

The five counties listed above have plenty of appeal for both resident and nonresident spring turkey hunters, but they’re hardly the only destinations around the West. Here are five additional counties to consider.

Asotin County, Washington: The appeal of this southeast Washington county is its abundance of Rio Grande birds, high percentage of public land and relatively lower hunting pressure compared to the Spokane and Colville areas.

Flathead County, Montana: Consider that, come fall, hunters can take up to four hen turkeys here, and that should tell you something about the crazy number of birds in Flathead County. Unfortunately, most are suburban and ranchette residents unavailable to hunters. But, if you can unlock access, there are birds here for days.

Butte County, California: This county, anchored by the Oroville Wildlife Area and the Upper Butte Basin Wildlife Area, has abundant turkeys and decent public access.

Mohave County, Arizona: The Kaibab Plateau has the highest number of turkeys in the state, which manages this as Unit 12A, better known to mule deer hunters as one of the West’s great trophy units. It also has great public access; in fact, nearly all the unit is public. Go later in the season and get yourself a white-feathered Merriam’s.

Wasco County, Oregon: The White River Unit (41) is one of the top turkey-harvest areas in the Beaver State, and thanks to the Hood National Forest and good access at the mouth of the Deschutes River, there’s plenty of ground to cover. Find an abundance of birds both in the Columbia River Gorge and in the benchlands above the river. Andrew McKean




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