Hunting Public Land Turkeys

Hunting Public Land Turkeys
Hunting Public Land Turkeys 

Turkey season is coming up quick. Some hunters use spring as a chance to pass the time until deer season, while others are chomping at the bit to have a gobbler come strutting into range. Turkey hunts can be one of the easiest or most difficult hunts you can have. There’s no in-between. They are finicky birds who either want to do everything right or you could go days without seeing or hearing them. Because of this, adding the public land factor can make your hunt even more difficult.

Over the years, I have hunted turkeys in many different states on both public and private lands. Different environmental factors will affect how turkeys respond, but I have learned a few key tricks that seem to work across the board for most turkeys.
Less is more:

We are all eager to have that textbook hunt where you call a bird in on a string and he’s gobbling his head off. Most public birds, however, are smart enough to hang up just out of range. I have found that doing some yelping to locate a gobble can be half the battle, but rather than putting pressure on him by doing nonstop yelping, it is often better to go quiet and be patient. Public land birds are often less vocal, and they may shy away from your calling if you do it too much. Patience is key in this scenario. So long as you are set up in a spot that is a part of a Tom’s core area, it is likely he will remember the location of your calls and come by later in the day to investigate. 
Decoys only matter if they’re seen:

When you think about turkey hunting, you probably envision a hunter propped up next to a tree with some cover and a decoy or two sitting on a field edge 20 yards away. This exact set up is certainly effective, but the terrain and hunting pressure will weigh in as to whether the decoys will be helpful. I have personally shot about two-thirds of my turkeys without the use of decoys because the situation didn’t call for them. If you hunt thick timber or very hilly terrain, a turkey may not be able to see a decoy. Birds that live in those types of habitats will often be more eager to come searching for you when you call. Turkeys that live in agriculture areas or flat terrain will usually prefer to see a decoy. This is so they can associate a call with another bird, rather than a hunter hidden in Veil camo. The main drawback to decoys is that as the season goes on, public land birds may learn to associate decoys with a hunter so they will sometimes spook.
To move or not to move:

I want to stress the importance of reading your state regulations before doing anything, but especially this tip. Turkey hunting public land can be dangerous so always know your target and make sure that you yourself don’t appear to look like a turkey. With that said, if you are hunting states that are more open with low hunting pressure, moving can be a huge help. 

Some turkeys may hear your calls and gobble back every time, but you can’t seem to get him to come in. In most cases, he is hung up because he either has hens with him or he wants you (a hen) to come to him. I find that if you do some calling then move parallel or closer to him, add in some feeding clucks and scratch the ground, he will think he’s missing out on the action and work his way in to investigate.
I hope those tips help you to bag a big ole gobbler this spring. Stay safe and happy hunting!

Written by: Kaitlyn Maus