Skip to main content

Regional Strut Update: April Turkey Forecasts Across the Country

As more states' seasons open in the week ahead, here's what to expect in the turkey woods near you.

Regional Strut Update: April Turkey Forecasts Across the Country

Turkey strutting activity in a field near Holmes, Miss. Turkey hunting in the Magnolia State is "on fire," according to the Regional Strut Update report. (Shutterstock image)

This is the second installment of the Regional Strut Update, our weekly report on turkey activity and hunter successes across the country (see last week's report). This week's report includes:

  • In the South, Josh Honeycutt reports turkey activity has cooled a bit in Florida after a fast start, but is picking up in many states and on fire in Mississippi. Early success has been mixed throughout the region.
  • In the Midwest, Brandon Butler says anticipation is high as more states open their seasons, especially with reports of more gobblers being seen this year than last in many locales. Toms are gobbling all over Missouri and Kentucky.
  • In the West, Andrew McKean says strong turkey population reports fuel positive outlooks in the region. Check out the impact grasshoppers have had on poult survival in Montana. California was the first state in the region to open; others to follow soon.
  • In the East, turkey seasons are yet to open. East activity reports begin next week. See each state's season-opening dates below.
Slade Preist, Mississippi turkey hero
Mississippi's Slade Priest has already tagged out, and says the turkey hunting there is currently in high gear.

SOUTH REPORT

Some Turkeys are Talking, Others are Tight-Lipped
  • Current gobbler activity varies greatly across the South.

By Josh Honeycutt

A quick check with sources throughout the region reconfirmed one thing this week: Turkeys are fickle creatures. Conditions impact them greatly and the hunting can be top-notch in one spot and completely dead just minutes down the road.

The turkey action in Florida seems to be tapering off. Champion turkey caller Scott Ellis killed a bird there on Saturday, but there wasn’t much gobbling occurring anywhere. Overall, he says the hunting is tough right now.

Hal Abbott, a pioneer of tungsten super shot (TSS) turkey ammunition, has been hunting in Florida, too. He says that full-day hunts are unfolding without hearing a single gobble.

In east-central Alabama, Ron Jolly, co-founder of Turkeys for Tomorrow, has been around the birds almost every day this spring.

“The big winter flocks started dispersing about 10 days ago, and now the hens are starting to separate into singles and exploring nest and brooding sites,” he says. “Gobbling is great where we photograph, and gobblers are spreading out following hens or looking for some.”

Avid turkey hunter Chris Cain has been hunting the area near Selma. He says the birds have been gobbling well on the roost the past couple days. Both gobblers and hens are breaking off on their own, too. Not much action is occurring midday, but turkey activity gets going again as the birds head back to roost.

Georgia’s private-land season is now open and Heath Thompson with Hayden Outdoors says he watched a gobbler fall this week. He also guided a guy who had a good shot but missed. Overall, Thompson says things have turned on, but that longbeards are staying with their hens.



“They still aren’t perfect,” he says. “There are lots of hens still hanging around, so I’ve been calling a bit more than usual with clucks, purrs and some cutting to pull hens in.”

Josh Raley, with the “How to Hunt Deer” podcast, is hunting in the Peach State, as well. “I hunted with my kids for youth season, and birds were responsive and vocal on the limb, but all had plenty of hens and were pretty grouped up,” he says.

Raley confirms that the midday action was better than it was off the roost, however. “Several came our way midday, but we just couldn’t get them to break away and commit. My daughter had one strutting at 50 yards but it held off.”

Recommended


Slade Priest, a hunting land real estate agent in Mississippi, has been in the field almost every day since turkey season opened there. He has tagged out and has seen several other hunters bag birds, too. In short, Priest says turkey hunting is red hot in the Magnolia State right now.

In Texas, HuntStand’s Will Cooper has been gearing up to bag his first tom of the season. Unfortunately, the birds there haven’t been cooperating.

“It’s like watching freshmen in college,” Cooper says. “The jakes are acting like they’re the big dogs and most birds weren’t really receptive after hitting the ground.”

Cooper adds that recent cold fronts have also had the turkeys acting dull. “But we’ve finally had some warm weather, so I’m hoping to see them fire up,” he says.

Mike Stroff, another Texas turkey chaser, says the landscape is very green due to heavy spring rains. “It has the birds more spread out than usual,” he explains. “They have been talking pretty good and are finally starting to hen up.”

Hunting guide and outdoor writer Miles Fedinec has been hunting in Texas, too. He killed one earlier this week, but says gobbler activity has been sporadic. “Some are working well and some are staying henned-up.”

TAGGED OUT

Tim Andrus, Texas turkey hero photo
Tim Andrus with “Rush Outdoors TV” had a thrilling morning on March 30th in the Texas Pandandle.
Early Success on a Lone Star Longbeard 
  • Hunter: Tim Andrus
  • Dates: March 30
  • Location: Texas Panhandle
  • Method: .410 Shotgun
  • Stats: 9 1/2-inch beard, 1-inch spurs, 21 pounds

Tim Andrus with “Rush Outdoors TV” reported recent success in the Texas Panhandle near the Oklahoma border. The owner of the ranch he was hunting had been getting photos regularly, but a cold front shut the birds down about a week ago. While scouting the day before his first hunt, Andrus spotted six gobblers grouped up. He roosted some longbeards and went back to camp.

The next day, March 30, he enjoyed a thrilling hunt. The morning kicked off with a nearby gobble and a light breeze rustling the blind. Shortly after daylight, Andrus’ box call got some distant turkeys fired up. A lone, silent gobbler came in first but hung up. Minutes later, two more came in gobbling, but coyotes spooked them away.

After waiting patiently, the quiet bird returned. Andrus settled the bead and sent a payload downrange that took down the Lone Star longbeard.

VIDEO

First Morning: Father-Son Iowa Turkey Double

Thomas and Tommy Allen head to Iowa to hunt a familiar and very productive farm that has been the site of numerous family memories for many years. The duo only had one full day to make it happen, and things came together in spectacular fashion.


MIDWEST REPORT

Birds Flocked Up; Boss Toms Establishing Pecking Order
  • Sources report seeing more birds than last year across much of the Midwest. Many of them are still in flocks, but mature gobblers are vying for dominance.

By Brandon Butler

Here in central Missouri, it’s dangerous driving country roads right now because so many drivers are distracted by puffed-up gobblers strutting within view of the road. Turkeys are in big flocks and can be witnessed out in the open any time of day in pastures and picked agricultural fields. It’s not going to be like that much longer. Boss gobblers are busy establishing dominance.

As seasons in the Midwest start opening this week, hunters appear to be in for a good run. Reports of seeing more turkeys this past winter and early spring than in the last couple years are common throughout much of the Midwest. A strong hatch is welcome news for turkey hunters.

Biologists are forever working to understand widespread turkey population trends, and some states have implemented new rules and regulations accordingly. Always check your state’s regulations for any new changes. In Missouri, for example, hunting now ends at sunset on private land but still ends at 1 p.m. on public land. Missouri turkey madness kicks off with youth season April 6 and 7.

Bill Konway, a staff photographer at Realtree, has been sitting on his eastern Kentucky porch listening to gobblers at sunrise for the last two weeks. “It’s fun to listen to the progression,” he says. “You get excited when you hear one. Then the next morning it’s two. Then the next day four. Soon the entire holler is filled with gobbles. They’re going good now.”

Kentucky’s youth season is April 6 and 7, and from what Konway is experiencing, and from what I’m hearing around the region, there are a lot of jakes running around. Youth hunters might be in for a very good season. In 2023, Kentucky youth hunters harvested 1,889 turkeys—a 30-percent increase over 2022. It’ll be interesting to see if the trend continues.

Nebraska was the first state to open its turkey season in the Midwest, with archery hunters given the greenlight on March 25. Youth hunting begins April 6 and regular firearms season opens April 13. The season closes statewide on May 31. I’m holding a Nebraska tag and looking forward to seeing the Sandhills again.

The guys up in northern Michigan aren’t too fired up about turkeys yet. Kevin Morlock with Indigo Guide Service says steelhead fishing is still top of mind, but he’s seeing a lot of turkeys while he’s driving around and floating the Pere Marquette River.

“I’m not a turkey hunter,” he says. “But if I was, I’d be excited about this upcoming season because it just seems like there are quite a few more turkeys running around.” Michigan’s season opens April 20, and the latest seasons run through the first week of June.

GOBBLER GEAR

Top Vest Options for Turkey Hunters
Turkey hunting vest
ALPS OutdoorZ Impact Pro Turkey Vest.

For most spring hunters, a turkey vest to carry all of our gear as we run and gun through the woods is not really a luxury anymore. It’s a necessity. Here's a look at all the great new turkey vest options for 2024. —Lynn Burkhead

Click to read "Gobbler Gear: Top Turkey Vests"

WEST REPORT

First Seasons Begin to Open; Access Should Be Good
  • Minimal snow across coastal and interior West should spark early activity.

By Andrew McKean

This time last year, there were plenty of snowed-in roads in the higher elevations of the West, from the Coast and Cascade ranges to the interior Rockies. Wild turkeys stayed in winter flocks for weeks longer than usual, and hunters had difficulty accessing mid-elevation public land in pursuit of them.

In places with the heaviest and most enduring snowpack, biologists reported significant turkey mortality. This includes parts of Arizona’s Mogollon Rim, mid-elevation benches in the Sierra Nevada and western slopes of Colorado and Utah.

This year is widely different, say sources, and consequently the spring turkey openers could offer decent hunting, though most state upland bird coordinators confess that they take vacation for their own hunting in May, when gobblers are a little hotter and the weather is a little more consistent than in turbulent mid-April.

California, per usual, hosted the earliest spring opener in the West. The Golden State’s general season opened March 30, though youth hunters took to the field the weekend of March 23-24. The Central Valley will be a hot spot this season, but don’t discount the suburban interface in the North Bay and Sacramento areas. Timely winter moisture should benefit both turkey survival and hunting conditions, though the Sierra Nevada foothills could see some lingering snow.

If you’re looking for reliable gobbling activity, work the Paso Robles area and some of the sunnier areas of the Central Valley, where spring routinely comes early. California’s spring season ends May 5.

Up the coast in Oregon, winter conditions “are looking good from a food/water/cover standpoint,” says Mikal Cline, upland game bird coordinator for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“Oregon has not experienced the downslide in turkeys that seems to be progressing from east to west,” says Cline. “Our flocks are experiencing good production and adult survival, making Oregon a good bet for turkey hunting year to year. Our biggest challenge may be the migration of wild turkey flocks into the easy life found on small rural and suburban properties.”

Cline notes that the state’s Hunt by Reservation program tries to target those properties that are huntable by connecting hunters and landowners.

She says reliably good spots are in the Blue Mountains and the fringes of the Coast and Cascade ranges.

“Southwestern Oregon is still the core of our turkey populations, offering scattered oak savannah habitats perfect for turkeys,” says Cline.

Of special note, the agency just expanded its Minam River Wildlife Area in northeastern Oregon, between Enterprise and La Grande, by more than 15,000 acres.

“We expect this to be a great backcountry turkey hunting opportunity,” says Cline. Oregon’s spring season opens April 15 and runs through the end of May.

Arizona, which can experience extremes of snow and drought, is looking pretty good from a turkey hunter’s standpoint, says Rick Langley, wildlife program manager for Arizona Game and Fish Department.

“We had a fairly mild winter and we saw good numbers of poults going into the winter,” says Langley. “There are good mast crops, and lighter snowpack should result in good over-winter survival,” which is a welcome change from last year’s whopper snow cover in the central highlands.

“Roads that are sometimes still locked up or restricted by snowpack should have better access this year,” he says.

Arizona doesn’t have any significant regulation changes for this spring. The spring shotgun season opens April 26 and runs through May 2, though a second season runs May 10 to 23, and the state’s three-week stratified hunts run from May 3 to 23. Youth hunters can take to the field April 19 to 25.

In the turkey-rich southeastern quarter of Montana, populations should be strong, says Justin Hughes, upland game bird habitat specialist for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Decent moisture has kept birds spread out across the landscape, though turkey flocks will be on lower-elevation landscapes through mid-April and commonly associated with cattle feeding operations.

A huge dose of drought-fueled grasshoppers apparently boosted poult survival and even flock size, so hunters should see plenty of jakes and 2-year-old gobblers when the season opens April 15. Montana’s spring season extends through May 31.

Top 20 U.S. Counties for Turkey Hunting

EAST REPORT

Maine's Turkey Success Story
  • Live activity reports from the East are coming the week of April 8 to Regional Strut Update.

Once thought to be virtually gone from Maine’s woods, the Eastern wild turkey has made an amazing comeback in the Pine Tree state. Turkeys had historically thrived in the southern part of the state, mostly in York and Cumberland counties, until the 1800s, when the reduction in forest land (to farmland) and over-hunting contributed to the extirpation of native wild turkeys. Starting with transplants of small groups of birds, and continuing with habitat improvements and additonal transplants from other states like Vermont and Connecticut, the state’s turkey population tops 70,000 birds, according to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife. The turkey hot spots in Maine continue to be York and Cumberland counties.

EAST TURKEY SEASON OPENERS

Connecticut, April 24; Delaware, April 13; Maine, April 29; Maryland, April 18; Massachusetts, April 29; New Hampshire, May 1; New Jersey, April 22; New York, May 1; Pennsylvania, May 4; Rhode Island, April 25; Vermont, May 1; Virginia, April 13; West Virginia, April 15.

WHEN TO HUNT TURKEYS THIS SPRING

Game & Fish Best Hunt Times
two turkeys
Shutterstock image
  • This free interactive Solunar calendar offers the best turkey hunting times based on your exact date and location. Click to access before planning your next trip.

Search for the Best Hunting Times in Your Zip Code

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Recent Videos

Making sure you select the correct set of tires for off-roading is extremely important. There are three types suited for...
Fishing

Advantage: Catamaran

Making sure you select the correct set of tires for off-roading is extremely important. There are three types suited for...
Fishing

Fly a Kite

Making sure you select the correct set of tires for off-roading is extremely important. There are three types suited for...
Fishing

Bumping Along

Making sure you select the correct set of tires for off-roading is extremely important. There are three types suited for...
Fishing

Bass Crash Course: Offshore Cranking

Making sure you select the correct set of tires for off-roading is extremely important. There are three types suited for...
Gear

Trika Rods

Making sure you select the correct set of tires for off-roading is extremely important. There are three types suited for...
Gear

New Shimano Baitcasters

Making sure you select the correct set of tires for off-roading is extremely important. There are three types suited for...
Hunting

Incredible Turkey Audio: Tommy Allen Punches his Minnesota Tag IN THE SNOW

Making sure you select the correct set of tires for off-roading is extremely important. There are three types suited for...
Destinations

First Turkey Ever: Perfect Conditions Make for a Short Hunt

Making sure you select the correct set of tires for off-roading is extremely important. There are three types suited for...
Fishing

Bass Crash Course: Bass Froggin' Game Plan

Making sure you select the correct set of tires for off-roading is extremely important. There are three types suited for...
Videos

What to Know Before Going Off-Road

Making sure you select the correct set of tires for off-roading is extremely important. There are three types suited for...
Learn

Off-Road Safety Tips and Techniques

Making sure you select the correct set of tires for off-roading is extremely important. There are three types suited for...
Gear

The Right Tires for Off-Roading

Game & Fish Magazine Covers Print and Tablet Versions

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

Buy Digital Single Issues

Magazine App Logo

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Game & Fish App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Game & Fish stories delivered right to your inbox every week.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Enjoying What You're Reading?

Get a Full Year
of Guns & Ammo
& Digital Access.

Offer only for new subscribers.

Subscribe Now

Never Miss a Thing.

Get the Newsletter

Get the top Game & Fish stories delivered right to your inbox every week.

By signing up, I acknowledge that my email address is valid, and have read and accept the Terms of Use