Turkey numbers are trending down in much of the region due to poor poult production, but the hunting tradition remains strong
Traditionally, South Carolina has a deep turkey hunting tradition and good numbers of birds in the right habitat areas.
Unfortunately, estimates of South Carolina’s turkey population are down 20,000 birds from just a year ago, to 100,000 statewide. Numbers, officials say, have declined due to poor hatches over recent years.
In 2020, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission documented a record high turkey kill during the five-week hunting season. The statewide take increased by 28% and the youth harvest increased by 110% compared with the average of the three previous years.
The increase, the commission says, is likely due to North Carolinians spending more time outdoors due to COVID-19.
That said, the 2020 pandemic season saw 23,431 birds taken; last year, the take dropped just a bit to 21,974 turkeys.
Though 95% of the state is privately owned, there are some good wildlife management areas and public spots where you can turkey hunt, including Land Between the Lakes in the west and Daniel Boone National Forest in the east.
And some of the best turkey hunters in the country call the state home.
Biologists and veteran hunters alike will tell you that West Virginia’s turkey population is lower than it was a little over a decade ago. That said, poult production is on the upswing, with some reserved caution.
Public-land access is limited, but satisfactory if you can find it. And there’s the lottery process for those public-land tags.
Also, all first-time turkey hunters in Delaware are required by law to attend and successfully complete an agency-sponsored turkey hunting safety class. Tricky for the traveling turkey hunter from afar, but doable.
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.