10 Best Strategies For Hunting Turkey On Public Land
Hunting turkey on public land is a great way to get out and experience the outdoors, but it presents unique challenges that private land hunters don’t need to deal with. I wrote this quick guide to help you have the most success.
Hunting turkeys in general has become more popular recently, and much of that is thanks to hunters taking their exploits to public lands. Believe it or not, you can actually have a really successful season hunting turkeys on public lands only.
With that said, there are definitely some things you need to know before you run out to get started. Your approach should be very different hunting on public lands, so it’s wise to have a game plan before you get out there.
Here are a few tips that will help you start hunting public land turkeys the right way.
1. Beat the Competition
Public lands are a great place to find turkeys to hunt, but you have to consider that any land that isn’t private is going to offer some unique challenges. The main thing that you need to keep in mind is that you are going to have more competition on public land.
But this shouldn’t be a huge roadblock as long as you are willing to be a bit innovative to beat the competition. Try everything that you can to be the first (or only) person at a particular plot of land. Get up early. Stay late. Go during the week when other people are at work.
You may have to think outside of the box, but it’s super important if you want to score a turkey.
2. Don’t Hunt by the Road
The accessibility of public lands is one reason why they are so appealing to turkey hunters. You can just drive up and be right near a perfect plot of land. But that leads many to make a common mistake.
Hunting by the road sounds like a good idea, but animals (including turkeys) are very aware of the noise caused by vehicles driving by. That means that the convenience of the spot will be negated by the fact that all animals are avoiding it.
If you want to have a better chance, you are going to need to hike back further into a plot of land to find a quieter and calmer hunting spot.
3. Cross Private Land… with Permission
Every hunter knows that trespassing is a no go. A lot of great public spots are bordered by private land. So what are you to do? It’s not like you can just walk through the private land...right?
In general, it’s a good idea to look for public land that has easy access. But if you really need to get through private land, there’s nothing wrong with just reaching out to landowners and asking them if they would allow you to cross through their plots. Just exercise some tact when you speak to them. State clearly how big your group will be, when you will be on and off of their land, and what your purpose is.
Honesty is the best policy here.
4. Stay in Shape
Being in good physical form is important for all hunters, but it is something that should be focused on even more by turkey hunters looking to score some birds on public land. This is because you will often need to traverse difficult terrain (and a lot of it) to actually locate turkeys.
Make sure that you can handle long days of walking uphill and across rugged ground. Work a lot of exercise into your hunting training routine so that you can be as successful as possible on public lands.
It’s also important to bring along good fuel to keep you going on those long days. You’ll be burning a lot of calories out there!
5. Treat Others How You Want to be Treated
Many people avoid hunting on public land because they need to compete with other hunters in order to have a good chance at being successful. But sharing the land doesn’t need to be an unpleasant experience. In fact, being able to chat with others who share your passion can be a really nice thing.
The key to turning a potentially ugly experience into a friendly one is to simply treat other hunters how you would like to be treated. If they were at a spot first, don’t fight them for it. If they are being polite, be polite back. It’s simple, but it can go a long way to making your day much more enjoyable.
And, as you know, a happy hunter is a focused (and successful) hunter.
6. Be as Cautious as Possible
You should already know by now that exercising caution is really important when hunting turkeys (or any other animal, for that matter). But public land requires you to be a bit more patient and careful than you might be on private land.
This is because the chances to actually get a turkey on public land are going to happen less regularly. Great private spots will be filled with turkeys and will lack competition. Public land has less turkeys and more competition. See where we’re going?
If you want to have success, you are going to need to pay far more attention to your tactics than if you were on private land. Take your time while scouting, and don’t be afraid to just wait when it seems necessary.
7. Do Your Homework
When it comes to private land, most of the best turkey hunting spots are widely known and passed around. For public land, it really isn’t that simple. The turkeys are rarer, and you need to actually do the work if you want to figure out where they are.
The best public land hunters suggest that you should spend as much time as possible scouting out potential hunting areas. Public lands are good for that because you can typically drive between different spots quite easily.
Rather than just throwing in the towel and going back to your house after an unsuccessful day, do some homework and drive around the land so that you can understand it better. It will pay off later on.
8. Listen Closely
One thing that you can do to improve your chances at getting a turkey on public land is to simply listen closely. This is great for all hunters, but it’s especially true on public land. Pick a spot, sit there, and just listen. If you hear a turkey after about 30 minutes or so, great! If not, it may be time to move and try again.
Actually finding a turkey is the biggest challenge of hunting on public land, so you need to really stay alert. Once you finally hear something, try and move around quite a bit to better pinpoint where the sound came from.
You’ll eventually find the target, and you’ll have your ears to thank.
9. Make Your Shot Count
Okay, you’ve spent all day moving and hiking around in a public spot. You’ve listened closely and employed all other tactics. Finally, you spot a turkey right there in front of you. It looks perfect, and you have it within your sights.
This is a tense moment. You’re not going to want to wait long enough that it gets away, but you aren’t going to want to act so quickly that you miss your shot. This is where practice comes in handy.
When hunting public land turkeys, you will want to absolutely make sure that your shot counts. Spend lots of time working on your shot before you actually get there so that muscle memory just takes over in that moment of adrenaline.
10. Be the Last to Leave
It’s incredibly important to arrive at a spot of public land before anyone else in order to maximize your chances. Similarly, you also need to be the last to leave. Walking out in the dark might be a bit annoying, but staying late and having the land to yourself greatly increases your chances.
Bring along all that you need to make sure that you’re the last one there. A headlamp can really come in handy here, as well as extra clothing to keep you warm as the sun begins to set.
You might feel a bit lonely out there, but it’s worth suffering a bit to have that magical moment where it is just you and the animals alone on a plot of land.
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