As a turkey hunter, one of the questions I get asked the most is, “When is turkey season?”
Because of the traditions associated with Thanksgiving, a lot of people assume that turkey season is around Thanksgiving. While many states have a fall season, a vast majority of turkey hunting is done during the spring.
There are several reasons for this including turkey seasonal patterns and behaviors. Additionally, unlike the fall, there are very few hunting season for other game animals during the spring.
If you want to learn more about the differences in the spring and fall seasons, continue reading.
If you just want to find the specific season dates for your state, scroll to the bottom of the page and find the link for your state.
49 states have a spring turkey hunting season. Alaska is the only state without a huntable population of turkeys. While state regulations vary widely, most spring turkey seasons begin in March or April and end in May.
Spring is the breeding season for turkeys. It is the “turkey rut.” For this reason, it is the most popular time of the year to hunt them. Turkeys are active and noisy. Toms are fired up, gobbling at every crow, thunder strike, and backfiring semi-truck within earshot of them.
During the spring, turkeys will be alone or in small groups. Toms will compete with each other for the love of hens in the area. They will feed on green grass and other vegetation. As it begins to warm up, they will feed begin to feed on insects.
The most popular strategy during the spring is to imitate a hen ready to breed with calling and/or decoys. The hope is that a rowdy gobbler will come looking for this hen and into the range of the hunter’s shotgun, bow, or crossbow. Most states only allow male turkeys to be harvested in the spring.
There are few things as exhilarating as calling to a turkey and having him sound off close by to you. Spring turkey is a time for rejuvenation for both nature and the hunter. However, fall turkey hunting can be a lot of fun too. Read on to find out why fall hunting can be a completely different ball game.
Though some states do not have a fall season, there are still more than 40 states that allow it. Starting dates vary from as early as September to as late as January.
In the fall, turkeys are in large flocks segregated by sex. Toms and hens rarely interact at this time of year. Early autumn, turkeys will still be feeding on insects, fruit, and berries. Turkeys will migrate to the mature hardwood forest and feed primarily on hard mast such as acorns as the season progresses. A turkey’s range is much greater in the fall than in the spring covering up to 400 acres.
Because turkeys are not breeding in the fall, tactics to take a tom are a bit different. A lot of turkeys are incidentally killed by deer hunters who happen to have a turkey tag in their pocket. In fact, sit-and-wait tactics can be very effective. The key is good scouting. Check agricultural fields and game cameras for turkey and turkey sign. This will give you a good idea of where to set up for a fall turkey ambush. Bow hunters will find this to be their best fall method of hunting.
Another strategy is to break up the flock and then call birds back to you. Yes, this seems a bit crazy at first, but it works if done correctly.
Many states allow the use of trained turkey dogs to break up the flocks. Breeds such as Boykin spaniels and Appalachian Turkey Dogs are used to send the turkeys in all different directions. The hunter then sets up and appeals to the turkey’s social instinct trying to call the band back together. Yelps and kee kees are the most commonly used calls this time of year.
Fall season can be a great opportunity to put a turkey on your table. The fact that you can kill hens and use dogs (where legal) add completely new aspects to the turkey hunting tradition. Read on to find out if your state offers a fall hunting season.
When is Turkey Season in your State?
Because turkey season dates, bag limits, and regulations differ from state to state, I have compiled links to each states regulations. Click each state below to be taken to the website with the exact dates of each states turkey seasons.
Once you figure out when turkey season is, read my article on the only three things you MUST have to start to turkey hunting. You will then be well on your way to becoming a turkey hunter!
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia