Best State to Hunt Eastern Turkeys?

Best Turkey Sate | Statistically Speaking

Keegan Ziemer
“Where’s the Best State to Hunt Eastern Turkeys?”

Depending on who you ask, you may be surprised by the number of answers you get. Georgia, Kentucky, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio; the list goes on. If you know me, you know I like data and believe more times than not, it tells the story. So when personally asked the question “Where’s the Best State to Hunt Eastern Turkeys?”, I fired up Excel, pulled data from the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) website and got to splicing.

Eastern turkey population and harvest data
The Data:

I pulled the following figures from the NWTF 2021 Spring Hunt Guide on Eastern Turkeys (See Figure 1).

  • Population (Estimated)
  • Harvest (2020)

From the Population and Total Harvest data, I used a couple formulas to calculate the Harvest Percentage based on the states total estimated population (I know this isn’t 100% accurate). Once complete, I listed them in descending order and looked for states that appeared in the Top 10 within each category: Population, Total Harvest, and Harvest Percentage (See Figure 2).

A couple things to consider that may impact these rankings:

  • Total number of turkeys allowed by state to be harvested in a single spring season
  • Overall season length
  • Total number of tags awarded to hunters

For example, in some states like Wisconsin a hunter can harvest up to 3 birds during their 6 week-long spring seasons, whereas a state like Michigan you may be able to hunt the entire season but it’s one bird and you’re done.

Analytical Conclusion:

With all of the above in mind, only 4 states appeared in the top 10 within Population, Total Harvest, and Harvest Percentage. I took their rank within each category and calculated an average to come up with an order (See Figure 3).

(Note: Lower # equals higher overall ranking).

  • Wisconsin (3.33)
  • Kentucky (4.33)
  • Pennsylvania (5.67)
  • Michigan (6.33)

Based on the data, estimated population and 2020 harvest figures – if you’re looking for the best state to hunt an eastern turkey, you should be looking at one of these 4 – statistically speaking.

My Conclusion:

When making your decision this season, I recommend taking a hybrid approach. Study the data, figure out when you can take a trip, how much time you have to hunt, how long each season runs, if you can pull over-the-counter tags and check into public land access/opportunities within each state. Depending on your availability and if you’ve got the time it might make more sense to hunt a state with a longer season so you can go back if needed. All that being said, I grew up in Wisconsin and have hunted Michigan the past two years and don’t think you could go wrong with either. But after seeing the estimated population data, I will be taking a trip to Missouri in the future.

Good luck, shoot straight.