2018 Southern Turkey Hunting Outlook

2018 Southern Turkey Hunting Outlook

Southern Turkey Outlook Lead In

Spring has just about sprung and turkey hunters across the country are thinking about bagging a trophy tom this season. We're here to help. Game & Fish wants you get the most out of your season with our deep library of turkey hunting articles with expert advice, field reports and previews. Check out the 2018 Turkey Outlook for your state below:

AL Turkey Hunting Outlook Header

 The status of the Alabama wild turkey population remains largely unchanged as the season opens, with overall turkey numbers being relatively stable compared with the past few years, along with localized areas of high turkey density and other spots with fewer birds.

"I think we're still in good shape in terms of hunting," said Steve Barnett, Wild Turkey Project leader for Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) and supervising biologist for District V in southwest Alabama.

The key is proper management, particularly practices that enhance nesting and poult rearing in the late spring and summer months. Properly managed tracts will likely house good numbers of turkeys. Acreage that is not managed with turkeys in mind will likely have fewer birds.

Growing statistical data suggests an increasing number of adult birds entering the population for the 2018 season. Jake numbers derived from the Avid Turkey Hunter Survey reached a peak last year with a substantial increase over counts from previous... Click To Read Whole Outlook 

FL Turkey Hunting Outlook Header

If you're investing in Arkansas turkey hunting futures, diminishing returns suggest you should "Hold."  By every measure, hunters should have killed more turkeys last year than in 2016, and the fact that it didn't happen is cause for concern.

For many years, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has prescribed a 16-day spring turkey season that opened in late April and ended in early May. To the consternation of many hunters, the framework was designed to reduce the harvest of gobblers because it opened the season after most breeding activity was believed to have occurred. Consequently, hunters believed that gobblers were less vocal in late April.

Before he retired, former AGFC director Mike Knoedl persuaded the commission to open the season....Click To Read Whole Outlook

FL Turkey Hunting Outlook Header

Nothing stirs the soul like the gobble of a tom echoing through the springtime swamps. But, not all gobblers triumphantly announce their presence. Florida's wild turkeys are well known for their tight-lipped demeanor, creeping through palmetto flats and oak hammocks upon unsuspecting hunters who thought their calling was in vain.

One Osceola longbeard pulled that maneuver on me last year at Avon Park Air Force Range. The gobbling had ceased after the birds flew down. I was prepared to abandon my set-up when I heard just the softest cluck emanate from behind a patch of gallberries. I soon noticed a golf-ball white head bounce through the gaps of the underbrush, right before he broke into a strut. After a period of time, he slowly dropped strut and offered the shot I never thought....Click To Read Whole Outlook


Every turkey hunter greets the sunrise of a new turkey season with the anticipation of thundering gobbles and bagging a tom. However, since turkey numbers are highly cyclic, some years are much better than others. In fact, most seasons are predicted using hatch and retention numbers from two years previous.

After several years of hunter and harvest numbers trending downward in Georgia, there was a small uptick in last season. In 2017, 50,694 hunters harvested 25,702 gobblers. The 25,702 gobblers killed in 2017 represent a 60 percent increase from the previous season, which was historically low. After several years of poor reproduction, the last two seasons had improved results.

"Long term, we have had several years of bad reproduction since 2012, and that has resulted in less gobblers to hunt," said Kevin Lowrey, Georgia Wildlife Resources Division biologist. "The 2016 harvest was the lowest we have seen in 17 years. In 2017, the harvest has....Click To Read Whole Outlook


Even though the weather is still pretty cold, many hunters are already gearing up for turkey season, gathering equipment and scouting to find birds. Thankfully, the Bluegrass State has a good population of North America's largest game bird, as well as numerous locations where folks can hunt.

Last season, hunters took more than 33,000 birds in the commonwealth, which was a little higher than the previous two seasons of 31,000 and 30,800, respectively.

More hunters taking birds the last few seasons is certainly an indicator that the flock continues to be doing well as a whole.

Factors that directly affect the health of the population, such as spring weather conditions, fall mast production and hunting pressure were all normal in 2017, so poult production and winter survival was again good, according to....Click To Read Whole Outlook


 Although the Mississippi turkey population declined recently, thousands of gobblers still roam the Magnolia State.

   "Unfortunately, the Mississippi turkey flock has been on a downward slide for most of the last decade," lamented Adam Butler, Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries & Parks Wild Turkey Program coordinator. "For example, the 2015 spring harvest estimate was the lowest since the late 1970s. The good news, things have seemingly bumped up over the last couple of years. Hopefully, we'll continue heading in a positive direction."

   The best habitat historically occurs in east-central Mississippi and bottomlands along the Mississippi River. Unfortunately, the river frequently floods in the spring, inundating turkey nests and breeding....Click To Read Whole Outlook


One of the absolute pleasures of spring turkey hunting is sharing the hunting experience with friends and family. Unlike deer hunting, which is almost always a solo sport, turkey hunting with a buddy makes the hunt even more enjoyable.

   My turkey hunting buddy is my son Tony III. He and I have shared many spring mornings together chasing Missouri gobblers, and the opening day of the 2017 season was no exception.

"Come on, Dad, they're already gobbling!" my son pleaded excitedly to me as I was making my way out the cabin door.

As we made our way up the logging road through the Ozark timber, the gobblers were indeed already sounding off from their roosts in the dawn's early light. We worked our way to an adjacent point from where the nearest bird....Click To Read Whole Outlook


North Carolina's 60,000 wild turkey hunters harvested 18,819 birds in the spring season of 2017. It was a new harvest record, beating the former harvest record of 18,409 birds set in 2013. It was also an increase of 5 percent over the 2016 harvest of 17,932 turkeys. 

However, turkey densities have changed over the years, with some areas benefitting from a larger number of gobblers and while some other areas have had flat populations or even suffered through population downturns. Many factors come into play with respect to turkey numbers and hunter success, which are themselves of course intertwined. Habitat is one factor, as human beings change the landscape for the better or worse through urbanization, agricultural and forestry....Click To Read Whole Outlook


Thousands of Sooner State hunters will soon be donning camouflage and heading for the woods and pastures to fill their turkey tags.

The prolonged drought that reduced turkey numbers in many parts of the state has finally lessened, and turkey flocks seem to be recovering in most counties, especially our Rio Grande birds, which inhabit about 80 percent of the state.

The population of eastern turkeys, which occupies eight or nine southeastern counties, is reported as "somewhat stable," yet significantly reduced from the bountiful years back in the 1970s and early 1980s.

The shorter season and single-bird bag limit will continue in the group of southeastern counties where eastern birds are found, but more liberal rules apply in many other counties....Click To Read Whole Outlook


Turkey hunters across South Carolina have weathered a long-term decline in the overall population of turkeys for the past 15 years. When compared to many other southeastern states, however, we still have a respectable population of turkeys and enjoy ample opportunities to hunt and harvest gobblers. 

While no return to the turkey populations we enjoyed 15 to 20 years ago is in the short-term forecast, some optimism does exist for the potential for the 2018 turkey hunting season. The overall outlook appears to include some bright spots blended into the conversation for a change.

Charles Ruth, Big Game Coordinator for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) says based on the data he has available, the 2018 season should be similar or slightly better than what hunters experienced in the....Click To Read Whole Outlook


The pre-dawn sun was beginning to make the woods come to life, as the trees became more than silhouettes against the morning sky. I could finally make out individual limbs against the glowing backdrop, and I strained for any sound that might give up the presence of roosting turkeys. 

I was standing high atop a skyscraping ridge in the South Cherokee portion of the Cherokee National Forest, and a hit on my crow call drew a response from a gobbler on the ridge directly in front. My box call drew another response, a thunderous gobble that let me know this guy was more than interested in a meeting. The sound of flapping wings coming off the roost started my heart into overdrive, and each call I made was met with a response....Click To Read Whole Outlook


Gobble, gobble, gobble, gobble! Hear that?

   If it's close enough to make your ears ring, then your heart is most likely thumping like crazy as you know a tom turkey is within your immediate vicinity. If a gobble far off, you realize it is time to start working your call a bit more to try and lure him closer. In between, perhaps he is headed your way in hopes of engaging the hen he keeps hearing. Or maybe he has a live mate and may not move an inch.

It is springtime in Texas and the annual mating ritual of wild turkeys is under way. If you are fortunate enough to be in the woods, brush, a river or creek bottom, or wherever, then you are in the right spot. Success should not depend on tagging a turkey but rather on simply being able to enjoy an outdoor adventure. But what are your chances for success during the spring of 2018 in the....Click To Read whole Outlook


 Last year, the some 1.7-million acres of the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest accounted for 837 bearded birds, which was 4.4 percent of the statewide turkey kill. Of the national forest land total, the GW portion accounted for 386 birds, the JNF for 951. Dave Steffen, coordinatingscientist, terrestrialscience team for the VDGIF, has been going afield in the GWJNF for some 30 years. He explains why he relishes his spring days afield there.

"The national forest gives me room to roam either by walking or biking into the backcountry," he said. "The hunting pressure is not that bad; in fact, there's less pressure now than it used to be. The past few years I've been doing more and more biking to get to....Click To Read Whole Outlook


For many West Virginian's, the gobble of a tom turkey issuing from a 'holler' is an annual announcement of spring, one much more welcome than the dandelions that magically appear in the lawn around the same time. There's plenty of reasons to be excited, as this spring's turkey season is likely to be another good one. 

According to Mike Peters, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources' recently appointed game bird biologist, the overall wild turkey population across the state has been on a general upswing the past several years. Last spring's season was particularly productive.

"2017 saw the largest spring harvest in the past 11 years," noted Peters. "17-year cicadas were available, and there was lots of added protein, which impacted the spring season in....Click To Read Whole Outlook

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