Missouri perennially ranks as one of the best states in the nation for turkey hunting and those looking for a shot at a hard earned public land gobbler won’t be disappointed by the wide range of opportunities the Show Me State has to offer. Missouri is a big state and there is a diverse array of habitat. The northern portion of the state is primarily agricultural with small woodlots providing roosting trees for turkeys. The Ozark Mountains dominate much of Southern Missouri and large stands of timber cover the slopes of one of the most beautiful places on Earth. There are hundreds of public hunting areas to choose from including state conservation areas, Army Corps of Engineers properties, and county, state, and national forests. Here are a handful of the best public land hunts in Missouri.
Indian Hills Conservation Area
Draws and ravines covered with timber make for great roosting areas on this nearly 4,000 acre public hunting area. Two forks of the Middle Fabius River flow through parts of Indian Hills, providing river bottom cover as well. But most of this property is open fields and grasslands. The Missouri Department of Conservation also manages an intense food plot program on this property and the fields offer hot hunting action.
Gist Ranch Conservation Area
This 11,000+ acre public hunting area in Texas County is one of the premier stops in the state for hunters who don’t have a place of their own. It’s immense size offers plenty of elbow room and a lot of habitat for turkeys. The terrain is rugged and is mostly covered with timber but there are some savannahs and glades providing strutting zones for gobblers. It’s a popular place to hunt but Gist Ranch CA is relatively new as a public hunting property. It was purchased back in 1997 so it’s still quickly building a reputation as one of the best public hunting spots for turkeys in Missouri.
Little Indian Creek Conservation Area
This nearly 4,000 acre Franklin County property is mostly oak & hickory forest but there are some stands of pines and turkeys often roost in the evergreens. Only a small percentage of the acreage is open fields, and they’re often hit hard by hunting pressure. Franklin County is the top county in the state for turkey hunting and Little Indian Creek CA is a popular spot for gobbler chasers. Hunt weekdays or go deep to get away from the crowds.
Mark Twain National Forest
The Mark Twain National Forest isn’t really “a” forest. It’s one and a half million acres is made up of several forest tracts throughout Southern & Central Missouri. You’ll find timber with some fields mixed in on these properties. Young forests make for thick underbrush so getting close to birds usually isn’t a problem. The major issue here, like other public hunting areas is getting away from the crowds. With so many acres, the best way to hunt the Mark Twain parcels is to drive until you get away from other hunters. The forest is well managed and logging roads can be find throughout just about all the parcels. Use those roads to go deeper than your fellow hunters. The Forest Service also has about two dozen designated walk-in turkey hunting areas closed to motorized vehicles. If you don’t mind putting some miles on your boots, they can be very productive and secluded.
Other favorite spots include Union Ridge Conservation Area, Rebel’s Cove Conservation Area, Woodson K. Woods Conservation Area, Bell Mountain Wilderness Area, and the Harry S. Truman Reservoir. For more information on Missouri turkey hunting, see the Missouri Department of Conservation website.