“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.
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.
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.
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.