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State-by-State 2019 Spring Turkey Hunting Forecast

Submitted by:  Backcountry Press Outdoor News 
Posted on: 02/06/19

Disclaimer:  The views expressed on this site are that of the authors and not necessarily that of TBC Press
News # -12239
2019 North America Sportshows
Attention turkey bums: Your job has become substantially more difficult. With great spring hunting opportunities available coast to coast from March through early June, you’ll probably have to pick and choose your adventures. 

For many folks, that means southern Florida Osceolas in early March—or, for the eager crowd, maybe Hawaiian Rio Grandes even earlier. 

Your choices expand as seasons for hard-gobbling Easterns open throughout the Southeast and Midwest. And then there’s that quick jaunt to Texas for loud-mouthed Rios — or maybe north to the prairies for last-chance Merriam’s.
Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: Unavailable. Steve Barnett, district wildlife supervisor/wild turkey project leader for the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, says the state is working to develop methodology through continuing research to better estimate the population in light of recent population declines.

Spring 2018 harvest: About 27,000, based on a Responsive Management telephone survey (the state’s mandatory reporting system, Game Check, indicated a harvest of 9,645 gobblers).

Overall outlook: “Reproduction population growth declines have been noted in recent years, with just under two poults per hen in our annual brood survey,” Barnett says. “Conditions improved in the 2018 survey, which will hopefully correspond to more two-year-old gobbling turkeys in 2020.”

Potential 2019 hotspots: Barnett recommends Barbour, Skyline, Oakmulgee, and Sam Murphy wildlife management areas.

Quick tip: “As always, preseason scouting and listening for gobbling activity is recommended,” says Barnett. “Study aerial images and maps of planned hunting destinations. Most WMAs get a lot of pressure on weekends, so plan weekday hunts where possible. Based on observational data, gobbling intensity peaks in early April, so planning an out-of-state trip is probably better in April.”

Season dates/bag limits: March 16 through April 30 (varies by zone). Limit: five gobblers combined during fall and spring seasons.

Subspecies: Merriam’s, Gould’s, Rio Grande

Estimated population: Merriam’s: 25,000; Gould’s: 1,500; Rio Grande: 250

Spring 2018 harvest: About 1,100

Overall outlook: “There should be good numbers of two-plus-year-old birds, as we have had several mild winters in a row and good overwinter survival,” says Rick Langley, Region 1 game specialist with the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “The dry spring and summer in 2018 affected poult survival and recruitment negatively.”

Potential 2019 hotspots: Langley says Merriam’s hotspots include eastern units (1 and 27) and the North Kaibab (Unit 12A). Gould’s hunts typically see high success rates, but permit numbers are limited. Rio Grande hunts are similar to those for Gould’s.

Quick tip: Turkey habitat in Arizona occurs almost exclusively on U.S. Forest Service land, so scouting is critical.

Season dates/bag limits: Youth-only: April 19 through 25, May 10 through 23. First hunt: April 26 through May 2 and May 10 through 23; second hunt: May 3 through May 23. Archery-only: May 10 through 23 (in limited units, this is an over-the-counter tag). The annual bag limit is one turkey.

Subspecies: Eastern

Estimated population: 80,000 to 100,000

Spring 2018 harvest: 7,884

Overall outlook: As in many Southeastern states, turkey reproduction in Arkansas has been declining since the early 2000s. However, prospects aren’t entirely gloomy.

“The state saw record-low reproduction in 2017, which will likely limit available birds in the two-year-old age class in 2019,” says Jeremy Wood, turkey program coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. “On the flip side, inclement weather during the 2018 season was likely partially to blame for reduced harvest last spring, which might have aided gobbler carryover in some areas of the state. Overall, I suspect 2019 will be another tough spring for turkey hunters in Arkansas, but I won’t be surprised if there is a slight uptick in harvest if weather cooperates.”

Potential 2019 hotspots: “For hunters hunting public land, there is ample opportunity on the Ozark-St. Francis and Ouachita national forests and the WMAs contained therein,” Wood says. “These areas are consistently in the top reported public-land harvest in the state due to the large acreage available to hunt. There is also quality hunting available on some lease-land WMAs, such as Cherokee, Jack Mountain and Casey Jones WMAs. As for hunters on private lands, the eastern Ozark counties — including Baxter, Izard and Stone counties — consistently see some of the largest harvests in the state, and I have no reason to suspect 2019 will be any different.”

Quick tip: “If you want to be successful in the woods this spring, take the time and start looking for sign in late February and March, as birds start to gear up for the breeding season,” Wood says. “Leave the calls at home, and just listen and observe. You don’t want to educate every bird in the woods to what your calling sounds like before the season even starts.”

Season dates/bag limits: Youth season: April 6 and 7. Regular season: April 8 through 23, zones 1, 2, 3, 4B, 5, 5B, 6, 7, 7A, 8, 9, 10 and 17; limit, two legal turkeys. April 8 through 16, zones 1A, 4, 4A, 5A and 9A; limit, one legal turkey. (Youths 6 to 15 can kill one jake as part of their two-bird season limit, including the youth hunt.)

Rough duty waits. Really, it might depend on your motivation, vacation time and need for sleep. Then again, you can snooze during summer. Here’s a quick guide to start planning your spring hunts.

Scroll through below to your state:

State-by-State 2019 Spring Turkey Hunting Forecast