Nine Tips for Hunting Turkeys on Public Land

Few gobblers are tougher than those that make their homes on public land. Heavy hunting pressure seems to turn them into avian Einsteins. But you can score. You just have to add a few tricks to your routine. Here are nine.

Photo by Lon E. Lauber

[1] Better Late
You probably know to hunt these spots on weekdays, but even then it can pay to skip the first-light rush. During late morning or afternoon (where legal), you might have vocal birds all to yourself.

[2] Get Closer
If you must hunt at dawn, say, because of work, use binoculars or a spotting scope to pinpoint a bird's roost the night before. Then get up extra early and sneak in ultra-close. Be ready to drop the hammer as soon as your bird touches down.

[3] The Road Not Taken
Many public areas have just one or two major access routes that virtually every hunter follows. Pressured birds figure this out and either steer clear or roost overhead and pick off hunters as they walk in. Find an alternate path, even if it means taking a longer way around.

[4] Use a Different Locator
A locator call that's unusual for your area can rouse a tight-lipped gobbler into sounding off. Honk a goose call, try a coyote howler, raccoon squaller, loon call, redtail hawk ­scream—anything, as long as it's different.

[5] Switch Your Turkey Call
By the same token, hard-hunted toms may respond better to unfamiliar turkey calls. Try a wing-bone, tube, or snuff-can call. You don't hear many of these in the spring woods.

[6] Work the Close Birds
Most folks ignore the area near the parking lot, assuming there can't be birds there. And for this very reason, there often are. A careful approach and soft calling are key.

[7] Inside Info
It is shocking how few people take advantage of the invaluable information easily obtained from public-land managers. Just call and ask.

[8] Patience Pays
Pressured birds rarely race to the call and commonly come in without making noise. Leave your watch at home, sit tight, and give them time to ease their way to you.

[9] Take the Shot
Know exactly what your turkey gun is capable of, and take the first reasonable shooting opportunity a gobbler pre­sents. Don't wait for a better chance. On public land, you may not get one.