Shooting a longbeard in another state is one of the most accessible and rewarding hunts you’ll experience. A lot of states have plenty of birds that allow nonresidents to tag one or multiple gobblers for cheap. Compared to other over-the-counter hunts, turkey hunting is relatively inexpensive and can even be a gateway to other big game pursuits.
Planning an out-of-state turkey hunt on public land might seem intimidating, but finding the birds is the hardest thing about it. Aside from that, planning a hunting trip to a new piece of public land requires a little willingness and a lot of strategy.
Luckily, this guide can take the guesswork out of your planning and get you one step closer to killing a tom.
Planning an Out-of-State Turkey Hunt
Picking a State
Your budget will influence this the most. A neighboring state might help you cut costs, especially if you have a friend who won’t mind you crashing on their couch. But if money isn’t an issue, traveling to a distant state or different region of the country can offer a ton of excitement and maybe a different turkey species.
Consider tag price and bag limit when you choose a state. For instance, a non-resident spring turkey tag and license in Wisconsin will run you around $80. Whereas the same would run you almost $200 in Indiana.
Some states only allow non-residents to hunt turkey during certain seasons, with some public lands designated for residents only. Others have strict application dates. Do your homework before crossing state lines.
Be honest with yourself when it comes to this one. Are you okay with spending your whole trip in a tent? Or do you require a hot shower and bed every night? If sleeping in a hotel keeps you from cutting your hunt short, then it’s worth the investment.
But if you’re used to camping, staying in a tent will save you a lot of money.
Turkey Hunting Gear/Pack List
Turkey hunting doesn’t require much gear. A shotgun and ammo, turkey calls, and camo are about all it takes to wrap your tag around a spur. You can add a vest if you prefer more comfort, storage, and organization, but even then, it’s a minimalist affair.
Ultimately, the list of necessaries is up to you. Here’s a list of gear to consider:
- Turkey ammo
- Turkey choke
- Turkey vest
- Insect repellent
- Knife for cleaning/processing
- Rain gear
- Sleeping bags
- Game or Ziploc bags
Depending on your lodgings and budget, you’ll have to consider how much food to pack. To keep it cheap, prepare some type of protein ahead of time to keep in a cooler. You can buy side items at a grocery store once you’re near your destination.
If you’ve got the extra cash, get to know the locals down at the diner and pay for a hot meal every night. Whether you’re camping or couch surfing, always pack more snacks than you think you’ll need. Cutting a hunt short because you didn’t pack enough Cliff Bars is a lousy excuse.
Once you’ve narrowed down your state, it’s time to scout. If you can, arrive the day before the season opens to scout. Depending on how far you’re traveling to hunt, boots on the ground might not be feasible. That’s okay. Diligent e-scouting with the onX app goes a long way.
I like to start by identifying habitat and terrain features where I expect gobblers to roost. Think old-growth forests with diverse features like ridge tops, creek bottoms, or wood lots that border large ag fields. Then, eliminate the ones with easy access.
If you can find five to ten spots that contain most, if not all, of these features, you’ll have several solid options come opening day.
Timing Your Turkey Hunting Trip
The first and last weeks of turkey season can be some of the best. The first week because turkeys haven’t been hunted (hopefully). The last week because a lot of hunters call it quits early, and most hens have probably been bred. If I had to put my money on one day, it would be opening day. If possible, plan your trip around opening day.
Last year I roosted a gobbler on public land the night before the season opened. The next morning he came in on a string before I leveled him at 30 yards. I did the same thing the season before. This doesn’t always happen. But you’re more likely to kill a gobbler that hasn’t already dodged a payload of No. 4s.
- Plan to hunt all day
- Get to your spots early
- Have backup spots
- Don’t be afraid to get aggressive
- Burn boot leather
- Bring an extra gun
Turkey hunting in a different state isn’t just rewarding; it can teach you a lot about hunting the birds in your own backyard. And if you’re diligent enough, you’ll return with more experience and woodsmanship. Oh, and hopefully, a longbeard too.