By Cole Daniels
The thought of hunting on public land makes some hunters cringe. But it’s reality for many hunters. Land access is getting more difficult to acquire and a lease is out of the budget for many hunters. The good news is there is plenty of game on public land. The bad news is there are plenty of hunters as well. Smart hunters overcome setbacks and stay focused. These four tips for successful public land turkey hunting will help you tag out the next time you’re pursuing public land gobblers.
Have A Backup Plan
Once you put together a backup plan, it’s time to make a backup to the backup plan. Preseason scouting plans often fall apart on opening morning. The typical scenario usually plays out when a turkey hunter pulls into the parking lot only to find a half dozen trucks already there. In this case, there is a good chance your planned spot is already being patrolled by another hunter. One of my favorite backup plans utilizes a ground blind. Most hunters set up along the edges of forests. However, many public hunting areas have vast open fields that go relatively unhunted. As birds move from roosting trees to feeding areas, these open fields become turkey hotspots that are typically overlooked by turkey hunters.
Teamwork Pays Off
Public land turkeys are notoriously wary. They have a habit of stopping just short of shotgun range and teasing hunters before strutting off to other conquests. One of the oldest tricks in the book still works. Have a partner set up thirty or forty yards behind you and do all of the calling as you prepare for the shot. This way if the gobbler stops 60 yards shy of the calling he is well within range. If your teammate is particularly skillful, he can literally steer a gobbler right into your lap. For example, if the gobbler is coming from the shooter’s left, the caller can move to the right. As the bird pursues the calling he will close in on the hunter’s position. Hen turkeys move as they feed so the movement and noise is perfectly natural. A wooded ridge helps conceal the caller.
Never Stop Scouting
A lot of hunters scout like crazy during the preseason and then focus on hunting as soon as opening day rolls around. These hunters have a good idea of how unpressured birds operate in a given area but may be missing the boat. Turkeys will change their routine when pressured and during normal cycles in breeding activity. In-season scouting also gives you an idea of where hunters are likely to set up. Most hunters won’t walk more than four or five hundred yards from the parking area. If you’re willing to go beyond that, you will likely be hunting all alone.
Mix Up The Calling
Box calls are easy for just about anyone to learn. That is why box calls are the best selling turkey calls on the market. And that is why they lose their effectiveness on public lands midway through the season. Yes, there are days that turkeys will come to just about any calling. Some variety is required on stubborn turkeys. Oddball pot & peg calls and homemade wingbone calls are great in these situations. The goal is to sound like a turkey, not a turkey hunter.
Public land turkey hunting doesn’t have to be an exercise in frustration. With a little extra effort and determination, you can fill your tag on public land. If the hunt is a little more difficult it will also be more rewarding.
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