Turkey Hunting On Public Land
By Ben Gustafson
If you are like a lot of other hunters who don’t have access to private land for turkey hunting, rather than going door to door trying to find a place to hunt, try some of the public hunting land your state has to offer. There are acres upon acres of land waiting for you to score big and get a tom. While turkey hunting on public land can bring vast rewards, it is very different than hunting on someone’s back 40. Here are a few tips I have learned that will help bring you success and safety while hunting public land.
Scout and Scout Some More
If you do decide to turkey hunt on public land scouting well ahead of time is a must. Make sure you have at least a couple of areas picked out on more than one plot of public land.
There may already be other hunters where you plan to hunt.
The unexpected can happen. I’ll make a long story short. A couple of years ago a buddy and I were all set up for turkey hunting in a local state forest. We heard some strange noises that turned out to be a horse race through the entire state forest.
Running into Others
When you are hunting on public land there is always the chance of running into other hunters. You may see them in the parking lot, walking along a trail, or when you are in the middle of a hunt. If you have the luxury of running into them in the parking lot or on a trail make sure you ask them where they are planning on setting up so you can avoid any mishaps.
You may not even know you are in the third scenario. But here are a couple of ways to tell. When you call and get responses, listen for the gobble to move. If it is moving, it is more than likely a live bird. If the responses don’t move and never gobble, chances are it’s another hunter. What do you do here? In my judgment stay put and stop calling.
When you use decoys on public land avoid using any toms or decoys with a lot of movement. I suggest using a hen with at most a moving head and a jake without any movement. You may even want to skip the jake completely to be safe. This will lessen any chance of other hunters mistaking your decoys for real birds.
I don’t advise using blinds because if you don’t set them up ahead of time turkeys won’t have a chance to get use to them. Use natural cover such as pine branches, long grass, and brush to conceal your location. If possible pick a spot where you sit against a tree wider than your own body. It is also a good idea to find a location which allows you to see in all directions, so another hunter can’t sneak up on you.
Use softer and less frequent calling especially if you are hunting after opening morning. Calling softer will bring gobblers in closer and toms are accustomed to hearing lots of calls from other hunters. Less frequent calling will hold his attention.
Next time you are out turkey hunting on public land keep these tips in mind and you will have a much safer and hopefully more successful hunt. Good luck!
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