HomeOutdoorsRealtree’s Turkey Hunting Forecast For The Southeastern Region

Realtree’s Turkey Hunting Forecast For The Southeastern Region

by Brett Stayton
Tyler Jordan on Florida Turkey Hunt
Photo courtesy of Realtree

Our friends at Realtree have cataloged some of the very best and most comprehensive turkey hunting information on the internet. Their interactive Turkey Hunting Nation map is one of the most in-depth overviews of turkey hunting in America that you will find online. The information Realtree provides on turkey hunting goes even deeper than that thanks to in-depth regional forecasts as well. Outsider plans on taking you on an informational turkey hunting tour through the Northeast, Midwest, and West in the coming days. Let’s kick things off in the Southeast though.

The South is the unquestioned heart and soul of America’s turkey-hunting culture. However, there are growing concerns about declining turkey populations throughout the region. Wildlife agencies are proactively taking considerable steps to adjust harvest limits and season structures to slow down and stop those downward trends. It’s not all doom and gloom though. There are still plenty of damn good turkey hunting in the south.

Information for the state-by-state breakdowns below is pulled from the Realtree website. That is with the exception of the dates for turkey hunting seasons. That information was pulled from Outsider’s comprehensive spring turkey hunting calendar. Clicking on the name of the state below will navigate you to the Turkey Hunting Nation report. Those landing pages include more comprehensive info.


Tomorrow is the opening day for turkey hunters in Zone 1 of Alabama. Zone 2 doesn’t open up until April 1st though. According to Steven Mitchell, the upland game bird coordinator for the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, this year should be consistent with turkey hunting seasons in the past few years.

Reports indicate that Alabama hunters shot about 35,740 gobblers last spring. “Based on statewide brood surveys over the last several years, there is no reason to assume the state turkey population has grown,” Mitchell said. “2021 brood observation numbers were slightly better than in 2020, and jake observations from our annual Avid Turkey Hunter Survey were up in 2022, hopefully translating into a few more hard-gobbling 2-year-olds in 2023.”


Turkey hunting season in Arkansas doesn’t open up until April 17th throughout the state. Hunting there has been a little rough the last few years, but things are looking up. Jeremy Wood, the turkey program coordinator with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission shares his thoughts.

“The 2023 turkey season in Arkansas looks promising. Following poor reproductive years from 2015 through 2019, reproductive estimates have improved or been stable every year since. The summer of 2022 saw the highest reproductive index on record since 2012-2013. I suspect harvest should remain stable or slightly increase in these regions. And young birds should be observed across much of the state, providing some promise for the 2024 season and beyond.”


Turkey season in Florida is already in full swing. It’s the first state in the country to open up. The season started on March 4th in the southern part of the state. It started on March 18th in the rest of the state. The 2023 season in the Sunshine State is expected to be on par with previous seasons.

During the 2022 season, an estimated 12,866 gobblers were bagged in Florida. Buddy Welch is the wild turkey management program coordinator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “Wild turkey populations often fluctuate from one year to the next, and these changes are influenced by many factors including weather, habitat quality, predation, and hunting,” he said. He also reminds folks that his agency produces an interactive map that shows the quality of habitat and distribution of turkeys in the state, and it’s a great tool for initial scouting efforts. Welch said folks planning to hunt a wildlife management area might want to review WMA harvest reports, which are available from areas that operate check stations.


Turkey hunting season in Georgia opens up on April 1st on private land and April 8th on public land. During last year’s season, hunters in Georgia took about 10,970 wild turkeys. Poult production in the state is up though, so this year could be even better.

Emily Rushton is a turkey biologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. Here is what she had to say. “Every region of the state saw higher-than-average poult production in 2021, which should lead to a higher than usual number of 2-year-old gobblers on the landscape,” she said. “Though we are expecting a bump in harvest since last year, this is the second year that changes to season dates and bag limits are in effect, which will likely reduce harvest compared to historical levels. But in particular, the Northwest Ridge and Valley Region and Lower Coastal Plain had averages of over 2 poults per hen in 2021, so we expect those areas to have particularly high numbers of gobblers.”


As far as turkey hunting goes, it’s tough to beat Kentucky. The season opens up statewide on April 15th. In 2022, hunters whacked 26,862 birds. That was down about 8% from 2021 but those numbers could be set to rebound in 2023. Here’s why…

“In 2021, two summers ago, our hatch was the best it’s been in many years. It wasn’t as crazy good as the 2008 cicada year, but poult-per-hen figures were over 3. The central and western thirds of the state appeared to have better hatches — 3.6 poults per hen and 3.1 poults per hen, respectively — than in the east with 2.6 poults per hen, although those are aggregate figures and local situations might differ. Still, Danks said he expects a stronger harvest in the west and central regions of Kentucky.” said Zak Danks, wild turkey and ruffed grouse program coordinator with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.


The season starts on April 1st across Lousiana. Last year hunters bagged about 9,100 gobblers in the state. Forecasts for this year’s turkey season look good according to Cody Cedotal. He’s the small-game and wild turkey program manager with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. He said there has been increased poult production across the state in recent years.

“Turkey populations in management regions along the Mississippi River continue to struggle due to excessive rainfall and flooding,” he said. “However, we have seen better reproduction in the last three years in the southeastern and northwestern regions of the state, which should translate to increased sightings and encounters for turkey hunters in those areas.”


The turkey hunting season got rolling in Mississippi back on March 15th. During the 2022 season, hunters shot 28,390 birds which was a 30% spike from the previous year. According to Adam Butler, the wild turkey program coordinator with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks, bird numbers are on the upswing across the state. It’s encouraging to see Mississippi returning to its former glory as a gobbler hunting hot spot.

“For those lucky enough to have access to private hunting clubs along the Mississippi River, things could be pretty spectacular in 2023, also. These river bottoms have finally received a multi-year reprieve from flooding, and turkey populations have responded tremendously,” he said. “Bottom line, nearly every Magnolia State turkey hunter with decent habitat to hunt should be posed for a much better season in 2023 than they’ve had in several years.”

North Carolina

Down in the Tarheel state, turkey season starts on April 8th this year. Last year there were 20,576 birds harvested by hunters in North Carolina. Hunting conditions are expected to be about as stable as they have been for the last decade or so.

Hannah Plumpton, an upland game bird biologist with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, said “For several years, our surveys and harvest monitoring continue to suggest that the most robust turkey populations are in eastern North Carolina. That’s not to say that good hunting doesn’t exist in the piedmont and mountain regions, but in general, those regions have not been as productive in recent years.”


Turkey season gets going in the Sooner State on April 16th. Oklahoma was once one of the premier gobbler-chasing states in the country. However, things haven’t quite been that way there for a while now. According to Eric Suttles, Southeast Region supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, there are still some reasons to be optimistic.

Hunters took just 4,500 there last year. “The season outlook will be similar to last year, with pockets of the state having good success,” said Stills. “Turkey populations statewide have declined in recent years. This has caused pockets or strongholds around the state. The southwestern and southeastern portions of the state have been impacted by population decreases the most.”

South Carolina

In parts of South Carolina, the season opened up on March 22nd. In other parts of the state, hunters will have to wait until April 1st. The 2022 season saw hunters there take 13,488 birds.

Charles Ruth, the big-game program coordinator for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, said the turkey hunting outlook for spring 2023 is probably only fair. He cited declining harvest figures and the continuing trend of less-than-desirable poult recruitment as the major indicators.


The Volunteer state remains one of the greatest turkey-hunting states in America. The season opens up on April 15th this year. Tennessee hunters shot 29,940 birds this past spring. All indications are that it’s going to be another huge year for hunters there again this year too. Roger Shields, the wild turkey program coordinator with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, talked about the reasons for his optimism.

“First, we were still coming off the exceptionally high harvest year of 2020 — the COVID bump — when a lot of birds were harvested. On top of that, 2020 saw one of our worst productivity years on record, so not many of those birds were replaced. However, reproduction in 2021 was really good, so there should be an abundance of noisy 2-year-old birds for harvesting. While western Tennessee is a distant second in terms of harvest, that part of the state has seen below-average productivity for many of the past six or seven years, so I suspect harvest will not increase as much there as in the rest of the state.”


Last year, hunters in Texas took down 20,168 gobblers. This year, the season gets popping on April 1st or April 22nd depending on the species and region. In the far southern parts of the state, the season opened for Rio Grande gobblers on March 18th. Jason Hardin, wild turkey program leader for Texas Parks and Wildlife, said this season should be solid.

“Hunting conditions are often dictated by weather,” Hardin said. “A mild, wet winter often results in early reproductive and nesting behavior. Hunting may be difficult at the start of the season and improve as hens initiate nesting. The lack of young hens on the landscape will reduce competition for hunters dealing with live hens pulling gobblers away from calling. As long as we get some green-up and can avoid another year of extreme heat, hunters should be able to get into some active birds.”

“The Texas Hill Country is always the best area for Rio Grande turkeys, but southern Texas and the Cross Timbers region offer great hunting opportunities where hunters can find access,” he continued. “Portions of the Rolling Plains offer great hunting, but that landscape along the Oklahoma line in Texas is not seeing the numbers they once did. Populations have seen a marked decline since 2016. There are still huntable populations. But the very large flocks we are used to seeing in those areas are not as robust as we would like to see.”


Turkey hunting in Virginia has been consistently good over the last few years. In 2022, hunters took about 19,711 birds. Eastern Virginia continues to be the best place to turkey hunt in the state. Mike Dye, the upland game bird biologist with the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, said data indicates that both those trends should continue this year. The season opens up on April 8th in some parts of the state and on April 24th in others.

However, it’s important to note that he said hunting could be tough in some parts of the state. “We have several areas we are watching due to lower numbers or declining harvest — primarily the northern mountain counties of Bath, Highland, Augusta, and Rockingham, and a few counties in the central and southern piedmont and a cluster of counties in far southwestern Virginia,” he said.