There are plenty of places to get your gobbler-chasing fix after the first snowflakes fly
Winter turkey seasons are a sweet tease toward the more traditional spring hunts. State depending, the weather might be bug-dope balmy. Or downright neck-gaiter bitter. Filling tags can be incidental to hunting whitetail deer, a byproduct of it — or may be road-trip intentional for the year-round hardcore turkey hunter who never gets their fill.
“How’d you boys do on the turkeys?” the ringleader at a Nebraska diner table asked our camo-clad group. “Oh, pretty good,” one of us answered. He grinned, beaming: “Want some more?” You see, some Cornhusker farmers are at war with the gamebird we love to hunt. And many are willing to offer access to their land.
Nebraska Game and Parks boasts about turkey numbers, with a little bit of tongue-in-cheek, saying, “It’s not just that Nebraska’s got an awful lot of turkeys — including the highly sought-after Merriam’s — though it certainly does.” Farmers agree.
Inclusive fall archery and shotgun dates are Sept. 15, 2020, to Jan. 31, 2021.
Whether you call it late season, or an early taste of things to come, the Sunshine State staggers its fall turkey seasons across four hunting zones, all running into the first month of the new year.
In Zones A and C, the opportunity goes through Jan. 3, 2021. In Zone B, Jan. 31 is the last day, whereas in Zone D — except for Holmes County where no fall harvest is allowed — Jan. 17 concludes that season. All areas have a season/possession limit of two gobblers and bearded turkeys only (some hens sport beards, of course). Shotguns, rifles, pre-charged pneumatic air guns, pistols, muzzleloaders, crossbows, or bows may all be used.
Nope, it’s not long, but three days can cure the winter blues.
Tick off the calendar dates of Jan. 21-23, 2021. Maryland will hold a statewide turkey hunt then. The combined bag limit for the 2021 winter and 2020 fall seasons is one turkey of either sex. Shotguns (No. 4 shot or smaller), crossbows, vertical bows, or air guns that shoot arrows or bolts are all legal.
Birds are abundant in western and central Wisconsin, but also in some eastern sections. As with Nebraska, landowners sometimes take the view that the flocks are a challenge to operations, which can result in access permission for us turkey hunters.
Zones 1 through 5 are open turkey hunting from Sept. 12, 2020, to Jan. 3, 2021. As of this writing, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources reports 3,437 birds have been registered this season.
"Winter turkey seasons are a sweet tease toward the more traditional spring hunts. State depending, the weather might be bug-dope balmy. Or downright neck-gaiter bitter. Filling tags can be incidental to hunting whitetail deer, a byproduct of it — or may be road-trip intentional for the year-round hardcore turkey hunter who never gets their fill."
Old Dominion is a state rich in the fall turkey hunting tradition.
The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (VDWR) spreads fall firearms seasons across four regions but prohibits it in another. Two are now closed. In two others — county specific mind you, and too many to list here (see the VDWR website) — you can chase flocks from Jan. 9-23, 2021.
Modern guns, even so-called arrow guns, bows, and muzzleloaders are legal, and so are dogs to find and scatter winter flocks before you settle that canine for the call-back session.
As with Missouri, the Sooner State offers archery-only turkey/deer seasons running from Oct. 1 to Jan. 15.
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation has made changes to wild turkey bag limits. The reason? A recent decline in turkey numbers, particularly in southwestern Oklahoma.
Starting this fall, gun hunters could kill only one tom in the 14 counties that previously permitted either sex harvest (that season ended Nov. 20). Archery hunters can still arrow one turkey of either sex statewide in the fall.
Man, I love Kentucky turkey hunting, and I’ve done it a bunch of times over the past 25 years.
As of this blog posting, the Bluegrass State shotgun season for fall turkeys just ended (Dec. 11), while crossbow (last day, Dec. 31, 2020) and archery season (runs until Jan. 18, 2021) are still underway.
Bag limits are detailed, as follows: four birds total, no more than two of which may be taken with a shotgun. No more than one bird may have a beard length of 3 inches or longer. No more than one bird may be taken per day.
That’s still a lot of turkey action for the crossbow or bowhunter.
As a two-season turkey hunter, I usually don’t hear much from my buds who only chase antlers in the fall (they know I don’t) — unless they’ve killed a nice gobbler somewhere on a deer hunt. And often enough, Texas is the location.
The extended Lone Star State fall turkey season is split multiple ways. In the north zone, it runs until Jan. 3, 2021, while the south zone allows it through Jan. 17, 2021 (and even longer for youth hunters, from Jan. 18-31, 2021). Four counties, including Brooks, Kenedy, Kleberg, and Willacy, permit turkey hunting through Feb. 28, 2021, which dang near puts you on the doorstep of Texas spring turkey hunting.
Realtree turkey hunting editor Steve Hickoff has chased gobblers all over the United States and Mexico. He was born and raised in northcentral Pennsylvania, and now makes his home in Maine. Hickoff was named the NWTF Tom Kelly Communicator of the Year for 2019, a prestigious award reflecting his longtime work promoting hunting and conservation as a turkey hunting writer, editor and book author.