Hunting out of state can be expensive. And especially if you fail to plan ahead, lease prime private land, and follow other practices that can cost serious money. Fortunately for turkey hunters, there are ways to cut costs and spend less on turkey-hunting road trips. Sound interesting? Consider this your guide to out-of-state turkey hunting on a budget.
General Cost-Cutting Methods
Hunting out of state on a budget isn’t an exact science, but much of it involves significant planning. There are numerous things turkey hunters can do to reduce the bottom line. Some things include: purchasing affordable gear, hunting adjoining states, hunting in a group (less gas money), and driving something with good gas mileage. In addition, you can buy gas where it’s cheapest, sleep in a tent or camper, and bring groceries instead of eating out. And don’t forget the options of knocking on doors for private-land hunting permission and of course, hunting public lands.
HuntStand Was Built For This
There are many ways that a HuntStand Pro subscription can aid in your out-of-state turkey hunt. First off, you’ll be hunting unfamiliar territory. Use the app to stay within the property lines.
The app is also great for finding specific public lands to hunt, property info, and more. And don’t forget to save offline map versions of the areas you’ll hunt. This allows you to use your HuntStand app even if the area doesn’t have cell service.
HuntStand also offers monthly updates to the aerial imagery. In contrast, most traditional satellite views are updated much less often. This new HuntStand app layer is much closer to real-time imagery. This can reveal crops, food plot locations, controlled burns, and more.
Many other app layers are beneficial, too. Aerial-based layers show the terrain and foliage, including hardwoods, conifers, crops, pasture fields, etc. Topography-based layers can pinpoint high ground, ridge lines, benches, saddles, pinch points, and other areas turkey hunters can find success. You can even find isolated water sources.
More features for turkey hunters to use include weather forecast info and maps. Mother Nature can be unpredictable in spring. These can help focus travel efforts during good-weather windows, and monitor it during the hunt.
And don’t forget HuntStand’s Friend Locator/Sharing features, which allow you to share your location and detailed mapping info while traveling and hunting with friends and family. This is an excellent safety feature and can help you hunt through a property more efficiently if the group splits up. Sharing things like hot sign/sightings/roost locations can quickly turn a tough hunt into a successful one.
States With Affordable Turkey Licenses/Tags
With the current state of gas prices, overall trip costs might be less expensive by hunting states closer to home, regardless of the license cost. That said, if you live near one of the following states, they seem to have the best prices. Some of these include Alabama ($143.65 plus), Arkansas ($55 plus), Florida ($171.50 plus), Kentucky ($135 plus), Maine ($70 plus), Massachusetts ($108 plus), New Hampshire ($144 plus), Oklahoma ($150 plus), and Vermont ($140 plus).
Drilling down on some of these destinations, in the Northeast, New Hampshire has a good turkey population. Its hunter-to-turkey population ratio isn’t what some states offer, but it isn’t at the bottom of the list, either. In Vermont, which has about 50,000 turkeys, and only 18,000 licenses sold, the odds are great here. This means less hunting pressure.
In the Southeast, Alabama, Florida, and Kentucky are solid budget-based options. The Bluegrass State has a flock that’s about 425,000 strong, and only about 100,000 turkey hunters. Pressure is mild, but public lands aren’t as abundant here as some other states. In Alabama, the turkey hunting heritage is unmatched, which means more pressure. But again, the price of admission isn’t terrible. And if you want an Osceola, your only option is Florida. The great news is public land is in great supply here.
Looking westward, Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Wyoming are arguably the best states, but these destinations have pricier tags. Oklahoma is the budget-minded option. There are a lot of turkeys, and turkey hunter numbers are lower here.
Public-Land Programs To Remember
There are many different types of public lands throughout the nation. Fortunately, many of these offer access to hunters who chase turkeys. Some of the following programs include millions of acres that harbor great turkey populations.
National Level Organizations: There are several programs to remember that extend beyond state lines. Some of these include:
- National Forest Service (where open to hunting)
- Army Corps of Engineers (where open to hunting)
- Bureau of Land Management (where open to hunting)
- Military installations (where open to hunting)
Lesser-Known Opportunities: While the above are well-known programs, the following include public lands that aren’t as popular.
- Third-party land trusts open to public hunting. Alabama’s the Forever Wild Trust is one example.
- South Dakota’s grasslands that are open to hunting.
- County lands and county forests are oftentimes owned by local governments. Many of these areas are open to public hunting.
- Limited draw hunts.
- Reclaimed coal lands (that offer public hunting).
- Electric and power companies (that offer public hunting).
- Timber and paper companies (that offer public hunting).
Private Lands Open to Public Hunting: The following programs are state-based concepts that pay private landowners to enroll their properties into public hunting. You can find these in the HuntStand Hunting Lands layer. These programs go by different names, but all follow a like-minded, walk-in hunting concept. Some of the most popular programs include:
- North Dakota
Turkey-Rich Public Lands To Consider
There are certain areas throughout the nation that offer excellent hunting opportunities to hunters. Remember to read up on the general turkey hunting regulations, non-resident regulations, and the rules that apply to specific public lands.
If you plan to road trip to one of these states, some of the following are potential places to scout. Again, you’ll find all in great detail in the HuntStand Hunting Lands layer:
- Arkansas: Muddy Creek WMA
- Georgia: Coopers Creek Wildlife Management Area
- Illinois: Mississippi River Pool areas
- Indiana: Clark State Forest
- Iowa: Yellow River State Forest
- Kansas: Marais Des Cygnes Wildlife Area
- Mississippi: Chickasawhay WMA
- Ohio: The Shawnee State Forest
Finding Public-Land Hot Spots
Most hunters have already done their research and have a piece of public land (or lands) in mind. That said, there is an art to finding the best areas for turkey hunting. Remember, these out-of-state trips are usually short. Time must be spent wisely. We don’t want to rush the trip and miss the adventure, but the less time your trip lasts, the less money you spend. Therefore, it’s essential to be efficient. Consider doing the following:
E-Scouting: Check forums. Call biologists. Consult with public land managers. Look over harvest reports. Use all available information. Study the available maps that wildlife agencies and DNRS publish. Compare these to your HuntStand app layers of preference. Of course, most of the DNR-provided maps are basic. These are good places to start, but you’ll get much more information from various HuntStand app layers.
App Scouting: It’s time to drill down on specific public-land properties. Use your HuntStand Pro subscription to learn more about each property of interest. Find the areas that look the best.
In-the-Field Scouting: You narrowed down the search to likely hotspots via e- and app-scouting. Now, it’s time to confirm (or not confirm) what your learned from e- and app-scouting. Check out the areas that looked best. Listed for birds at dawn. Look for sign. Check for other clues that turkeys are in the area.
If you’ve located plenty of turkeys, it’s time to hunt. If not, keep scouting. Of course, there’s a balance, but it’s better to spend more time scouting and less time hunting. At some point, you must start hunting or you’ll run out of time. That said, for a week-long trip, scout at most for three days. Spend the remaining four in the best spot you find.
Hunting Tactics For Public-Land Longbeards
Public-land turkeys are difficult to hunt. These birds are pressured. It pays to have a playbook of ideas to use on these pressured birds. Again, the less time you spend on the trip, the cheaper it will be. Go into it with the right mindset and potentially, you’ll fill that tag quicker.
Get There Early: Most public lands get hit hard. If you want first dibs on a property, get there several hours before daylight. Most hunters will keep driving if they see you parked there.
Get There Last: Most turkey hunters leave after a few hours. Get there after everyone has left and you’ll likely have the place to yourself. Birds will be less henned-up by mid-morning anyway.
Roost A Turkey: Spend the late afternoon period putting a bird to bed. Then, be there very early the next morning. If you can get there without spooking the turkey off the limb, camp out where the bird flew up from. That’s likely where it will land after sunrise.
Don’t Keep It Gobbling: Gobbling turkeys draw attention. Don’t keep that roosted bird gobbling. It draws attention from other hunters. Call as little as possible. Let the bird know you’re there, and then hush.
Use Multiple Calls: After fly down, switch up the calls. This makes it sound like multiple hens are in the area.
Use Good Decoys: Public land turkeys see a lot of decoys. Use decoys that look like the real deal. That said, be safe. It might trick turkey hunters too, which can lead to safety issues.
Find Overlooked Properties: Get further away from roads to escape heavy hunting pressure. Most hunters won’t get more than ½ mile from the nearest access.
Have Multiple Plans: Prepare and believe in the plan. That said, don’t rely on plan A. Have backup plans in place. You’ll likely need these.
Focus On Budget-Based Gear
While longtime turkey hunters likely already have most of what they need, new turkey hunters will need to buy the basics. The necessities include a hunting license (plus appropriate tags, permits, stamps, etc.), shotgun, ammo, camouflage, boots, turkey calls, and binoculars. As you might guess, there are plenty of options out there to save big while gearing up. Looking for clearance sales and previous-year models are just two proven ways to save some coin.
In addition, every turkey hunter needs the right state-mandated documentation. Specific needs vary by state. Every wildlife agency and DNR operates differently. Generally, this includes a hunting license, tags, stamps, hunter education, or a variation of these. Read the turkey hunting guide to determine what you need.
All in all, it’s a simple matter of focus and desire to hunt turkeys in other states on a budget. From tapping into HuntStand Pro to assembling the right gear, to being as efficient of a hunter as possible, you don’t have to spend a ton of money. Use the tips above to focus your approach, and you’ll be well on your way to bagging out-of-state turkeys while spending minimal cash.