Overall outlook: “We have observed statewide declines in wild turkey population growth, but the number of jake observations increased during the 2019 Avid Turkey Hunter Survey,” says Steven Mitchell, upland game-bird coordinator for the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. “Hopefully those jake numbers will translate into hard gobbling 2-year-olds this spring. Turkey populations on many large private properties that are directly managing for turkey habitat have reported stable to increased numbers.”
Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: Mitchell said the Ridge, Valley and Southwestern Appalachian regions of northeastern Alabama are historically prime areas, but hunters can find good opportunities throughout the state where landowners manage turkey habitat.
Quick tip: “It is recommended that hunters who plan to travel from out of state to hunt wildlife management areas contact regional offices to get pertinent information from WMA wildlife biologists regarding gobbling activity, hunting pressure, habitat types, terrain features and recommended dates of hunting,” says Mitchell.
Subspecies: Merriam’s, Gould’s, Rio Grande
Overall outlook: Rick Langley, Region 1 game specialist with the Arizona Game and Fish Department, says prospects for spring 2020 look good based on poult recruitment from 2019.
Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: Langley recommends units 1 and 27 in eastern Arizona and Unit 12A in northern Arizona.
Quick tip: Hunters must apply in October for spring permits, as all tags are issued via a limited permit draw, except in some units with over-the-counter archery and youth permits. Draw permits are only valid for specific dates in a specific unit.
Overall outlook: Overall turkey populations appear to be stable, albeit still considerably lower than in the early 2000s, according to Jeremy Wood, turkey program coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
“Harvest increased slightly in 2019, and anecdotal observations suggest reproduction in 2018 may have been better than estimated by the annual summer brood survey,” he says. “I expect harvest rates to be similar to 2019 levels.”
Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: The summer 2018 brood survey indicated that the Ouachita eco-region in central and western Arkansas experienced better-than-average reproduction compared to the rest of the state.
“This should lead to slightly higher harvest rates in this area this year, with potential for more 2-year-old gobblers on the landscape,” says Wood.
Quick tip: “Arkansas’ turkey season is short, and turkeys are heavily pressured in the state,” says Wood. “Being patient and calling sparingly in areas known to hold turkeys will likely improve your odds of success.”
Subspecies: Mostly Rio Grandes, with some Merriam’s, Easterns and Eastern/Rio Grande hybrids.
Overall outlook: Meshriy says the overall outlook is very good. California is experiencing its third consecutive year of average or better-than-average precipitation after an extended drought. “We anticipate that the spring breeding season should be as action-packed as any in recent years,” he says.
Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: Counties with the consistently highest spring turkey harvests include El Dorado, Placer and Shasta. Tehama, Sonoma and Yolo counties have also seen good harvests in recent years.
Quick tip: “Focus your scouting efforts within two weeks of the opener, and plan out at least three promising spots based on your observations,” says Meshriy. “Having contingencies will greatly improve your chances and still allow you to intercept birds if your flydown spots are compromised.”
Overall outlook: “The 2020 spring season outlook is fair,” says Michael Gregonis, a certified wildlife biologist with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. “The 2019 brood survey information indicated that annual productivity was poor, and the 2018 productivity was only a bit better.”
Potential Spring 2020 hotspots: Gregonis said the 25,000-plus-acre Pachaug State Forest in southeastern Connecticut is annually among the top three harvest properties.
Quick tip: “This spring, due to the lack of acorns in the majority of the state, turkeys will likely be spending more time in cornfields,” says Gregonis.