Turkey Hunting in North Dakota

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  • C
  • 22,000

    Wild Turkey Population

  • Merriam's, Easterns, hybrids

    Turkey Subspecies

  • 5,930 (state residents; spring turkey)

    Number of Licenses Sold Annually

  • Varies (check regulations)

    Cost of Resident License and Permit

  • Residents only (spring)

    Nonresidents may hunt fall turkeys.

    Cost of Non-Resident License and Permit

Turkey hunting North Dakota can be a challenge for nonresidents.

Fact is, it's only open to residents in the spring. A lottery system is in place for folks living there, and distinguished by a specific number of turkey licenses per designated unit. 

Nonresidents can hunt fall turkeys, by the way, so there's that to think about as an option. That said, there is one other possibility for visitors interested in spring gobblers ...

If an individual hunts exclusively on Indian lands within an Indian reservation, North Dakota Game and Fish (NDGF) states, a tribal license is required and a state hunting license is not. However, hunting on nontribal lands within an Indian reservation requires a state hunting license.

Game taken legally with a tribal license within an Indian reservation may be possessed and transported anywhere in North Dakota.

Trends and Where to Hunt

According to the NDGF, wild turkeys aren't native to North Dakota. The first introduction took place in the early 1950s along the Missouri, Knife and Heart rivers.

The state's birds are often listed as Merriam's, Easterns, with widespread hybridization biologists will tell you, some 22,000 gobblers and hens — and increasing, the National Wild Turkey Federation says.

And the most recent harvest data available, as I write this in early 2022, lists 2,795 turkeys taken for the 2020 spring season.

For the best hunting, look to the counties adjoining the Missouri and Little Missouri Rivers in central and western North Dakota. Any river corridor with timber can possibly produce birds.

The state does offer a variety of public lands, including wildlife management areas. The Bureau of Land Management manages nearly 70,000 acres here, largely in the western part of the state. Much of this land is leased for agricultural use, but it is open to public access.

Specific turkey hunting units define options. Also, the state emphasizes that while public land provides varied opportunities for hunters (and anglers) in North Dakota, much of it is on private land.

Permission is always required to hunt private land that is posted. Then again, with the right contacts, as anywhere across the country, you might find yourself hunting fresh birds. Alone. 

— Steve Hickoff

Turkey Hunting in North Dakota (© GizmoPhoto-Shutterstock)

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