In some ways, the wild tom turkey is underrated as a giant sport animal. He’s received wonderful eyesight and hair-trigger instincts which have helped him keep away from hunters and unfold all throughout the nation. Public land turkey looking will increase the problem much more. Usually, public land toms gobble much less, they frequent fields much less recurrently, and cling up outdoors of shotgun vary extra typically. Plus, you’ve received to compete with different turkey hunters who’re out hammering the identical floor as you.

All of which means turkey looking success charges are decrease than you would possibly count on. Take my residence state of Minnesota for instance. We’re lined up with birds and habitat. However the hunter success price for the spring season hovers round 30 %. Meaning two out of three Minnesota turkey hunters are going skunked this spring.

So in case you’re planning to hunt turkeys on public land and also you don’t wish to be among the many 70 % of hunters who can be consuming turkey tag soup, then observe this final information to public land turkey looking.

A turkey hunter at sunset.
Hike farther from the car parking zone to search out birds that different hunters aren’t messing with. John Hafner

The place to Discover Public Land Close to Me?

Discovering public land looking spot is the important thing to success. You wish to hunt the place the turkeys are and different hunters aren’t. The search begins on-line. Use a mapping app like onX or Huntstand to determine public lands close to you. Additionally verify your state’s public land web site (simply Google the identify of your state and “public looking land”). Listed here are some frequent (and a few underrated) land sorts that usually provide public turkey looking (verify native regs earlier than looking):

  • State wildlife administration areas
  • State forests
  • Nationwide forests
  • Bureau of Land Administration land
  • Nationwide wildlife refuges
  • Nationwide scenic riverways
  • Waterfowl manufacturing areas (non-toxic shot solely)
  • Stroll-in entry or voluntary public entry areas
  • Open forest crop
  • County-owned forest land

As soon as you discover public land parcels that look promising, it’s time to guage every yet one more completely. Learn my full information on how you can scout turkeys right here.

Ideally, you’ll discover an space that’s arduous for different hunters to achieve. This implies areas they’re removed from a car parking zone or highway, throughout a creek or stream, or on the bottom of a steep ridge. Take a look at the display screen shot under. That is simply what you’re on the lookout for: an hilly hardwoods surrounded by non-public land and it’s accessible solely from the river. Most hunters aren’t going to undergo the difficulty of leaping in a kayak or canoe to entry this piece of land. And that is exactly what makes some of these locations so excellent. (At all times double verify your native entry legal guidelines).

Public land that's only accessible through water.
Public land that’s solely accessible by way of water is a perfect place to focus on turkeys and get away from looking stress. onX

Terrain Options and Habitat

Toms love open fields and inexperienced meadows the place they’ll show for hens and feed on bugs or leftover crops. However on public lands, these areas are likely to get pounded. Many public land hunters will merely stroll to the primary area they’ll get to, arrange some decoys, after which spend the morning ready for a tom to strut in. That is unlikely to work on pressured public lands. Search for these areas as a substitute:

Secluded Hardwoods

Get again into the woods the place toms can be spending most of their time. Search for open hardwood flats which are secluded and arduous to entry. Seek for roost websites alongside the best way. Mature oaks are supreme, and since oaks typically maintain their leaves longer than different hardwood bushes, you may determine stands of oak by way of the satellite tv for pc view on digital maps in case you kind by month (have a look at November and December).


Turkeys will journey by way of pinch factors within the terrain similar to rutting bucks will. This would possibly seem like a strip of timber between two waterways, a saddle between two ridge tops, or a flat between a river and a steep hillside. Search for turkey sign up these areas, they’re good locations to setup midmorning.

Small Open Areas

Keep away from the massive, fashionable fields everybody else is looking and deal with smaller, much less apparent openings the place toms would possibly wish to strut. This may very well be an intersection of two previous logging roads, an deserted homestead, or an space that was burned or logged the earlier season. If yow will discover one among these spots nicely off the crushed path, it would probably appeal to turkeys.

Calling and Decoying Public Land Turkeys

Many of the guys I hear within the public turkey woods aren’t nice callers (full disclosure: I’m no Will Primos, both). Fortunately, you don’t must be an excellent caller to kill a complete bunch of turkeys. If you already know you’re not an professional caller (and even in case you flat out suck), you could be profitable by establishing the place the tom desires to be after which giving him some gentle yelps and clucks. If he likes it, give him just a little extra. If he doesn’t reply with enthusiasm, then it’s best to cease calling. Curiosity would possibly draw him, however a complete run of crappy calling gained’t.

Relating to dangerous turkey calling, just a little goes a great distance. When you can’t make even the perfect turkey mouth name sound like an actual hen, then for God’s sake depart it within the truck. A slate name will draw the fowl in, and a easy push-button name (which you’ll run along with your shotgun shouldered) will pull him these previous few yards into capturing vary. When turkey looking on public land, attempt to get near a gobbler (inside 200 yards or so relying on how thick the quilt is) earlier than calling to him. More often than not it’s unlikely to name in a fowl from a mile away on public land. And getting a turkey to gobble time and again from lengthy vary will solely draw different hunters to him.

Be extremely cautious with turkey decoys on public land. Don’t use reaping decoys whereas looking turkeys on public floor. Personally, I gained’t use a tom decoy on public land both. There are just too many different hunters round and it’s not well worth the danger of them mistaking your decoy for the actual factor. I additionally assume that many hunters are too reliant on decoys. these movies you’ve seen on looking TV or Youtube of a giant tom strutting in to leap on a turkey decoy at shut vary? Yeah, that not often (by no means?) occurs with pressured public land turkeys. I want to arrange in a spot within the woods the place I do know turkeys wish to be and set out no decoys in any respect. If I resolve to hunt a public land area, I’ll run two or three hen decoys.

Public Land Turkey Searching Suggestions

Stroll slowly, cease typically, pay attention intently. Far too many hunters bomb by way of public land scaring turkeys as they go. Once you’re transferring by way of areas had been turkeys are prone to be, stroll as slowly as you may (then decelerate much more). Cease and scan for strutters within the distance. At all times pay attention intently for a lot off gobbles (particularly after crows, owls, or coyotes pontificate).

A public-land gobbler.
The creator’s 2022 public land gobbler, taken in southern Minnesota. Alex Robinson

Hunt mid-morning and noon (if authorized). Most different hunters can be out of the woods by then however these gobblers are nonetheless on the market. Typically noon gobblers which have misplaced or bred their hens are the best ones to kill.

Discover the roosts. Regardless that calling a fowl proper off the roost and into gun vary not often works, it’s nonetheless helpful to know the place gobblers roost. It offers you an concept of the place birds can be very first thing within the morning and the place they’ll be within the evenings.

Speak to the opposite hunters you meet. When you see different hunters within the car parking zone or on the path, be good and chat them up. Discover out the place they intend to hunt and allow them to know the place you’re planning to hunt. It’s much better to work collectively than compete for a similar fowl. When you’re each concentrating on the identical birds, contemplate looking with one another as a substitute of towards one another.

Use path cameras (if authorized). If it’s authorized to run path cameras on the kind of public land you’re looking, it’s best to do it. This provides you with intel and when and the place turkeys are transferring. Simply be sure that the cameras are in locations different hunters are unlikely to stumble into them. And, learn our information on how you can use path cameras for turkey looking.

Learn gobbler habits. More often than not public land toms can be sneaky and elusive. They gained’t come into your arrange gobbling and strutting. These birds take extra persistence to kill. So if a tom gobbles at one or two of your calls after which goes quiet, don’t be discouraged. There’s an excellent likelihood he’s coming in silently. Give birds like this extra time. On the flip facet, whenever you encounter a fired up tom, get aggressive. Name actively and rapidly get able to shoot. That is the fowl you’ve been hoping to listen to.

Widespread Public Land Turkey Searching Errors to Keep away from

I’ve screwed up my justifiable share of public land turkey hunts, however I’ve discovered from these bone-headed errors. When you’re battling public land hunts this spring, keep away from making the next errors:

Don’t Hunt the Apparent Birds

Turkeys you can hear gobble from the car parking zone, birds you may glass from a busy highway, birds that roost on the finish of a strolling path. Neglect ’em. Any public land gobbler that appears too good to be true, in all probability is. When you had been capable of finding them with out a lot effort, different hunters actually will too.

When you spend your morning establishing on these “straightforward” birds, you’re virtually assured to bump in to different hunters and your pleasurable outing within the woods goes to get irritating fast. It may appear loopy to go up turkeys to search out turkeys, however you’re a lot better off looking birds that different guys aren’t messing with. Identical to deer looking on public land, you’ve received to do some further strolling to get away from the crowds. Additionally, you’d be shocked what number of turkey hunters gained’t cross a creek or a marsh. Wader up and discover birds that haven’t been known as to but.

Don’t Cease Scouting Throughout the Season

Essentially the most profitable waterfowlers spend far more time scouting than they do looking. Once they do decide to a hunt, it’s often an excellent shoot. Take a web page from their guide and sacrifice a pair days of looking to relocate birds. That is particularly helpful throughout midseason when these birds you scouted earlier than the season have been bumped, buggered, or killed. Taking an early-morning drive and hitting as many places as potential will make it easier to discover contemporary birds and new spots.

turkey hunter in blind
Don’t burn your entire season ready in a floor blind. John Hafner

Don’t Preserve Sitting within the Similar Outdated Blind

I’m amazed at what number of hunters will choose a area edge to hunt for the season and simply wait… and wait. There’s little question that sitting a area edge with decoys could be an efficient method to kill turkeys. However on public land, the dynamics are all the time altering. Your go-to spot can get blown out with out you even understanding it. So as a substitute of stubbornly ready in an space that used to have turkeys, change because the circumstances change.

Strive new, out-of-the-way spots. One in all my finest public-land spots is a hardwood peninsula that juts out into a giant cattail marsh. Gobblers roost within the hardwoods and might’t get off the peninsula with out strolling by me. One of the best factor about it’s I’ve by no means seen anybody else hunt it. However, I by no means would have discovered that spot if I hadn’t left a extra fashionable piece of public floor to seek for new birds.

Don’t Be So Rattling Loud

Public land turkeys get blown off roosts. By the second week of the season they know that headlamps and boots tromping by way of the leaves imply hassle. Typically, birds that hear the noisy method of a hunter gained’t blow off the roost straight away, however they’ll go quiet. Then they’ll fly down and slip away to security.

Usually occasions the hunter thinks the birds had been henned-up and uncooperative. In actuality, they had been spooked. So on calm, quiet spring mornings, sneak in like a ninja whenever you plan to hunt close to a roost. Go away sooner than you might want to, so that you don’t must rush. Go away the blind at residence and go as gentle as potential, so your extraneous gear gained’t get caught up within the brush and make a racket. Flip your headlamp nicely earlier than you get near the spot. Tiptoe to inside 100 yards of the roost and there’s likelihood the gobbler will fly down proper in your lap.

Legendary turkey hunter Ray Eye as soon as informed me a narrative a few tom in Missouri that he and his buddies simply couldn’t appear to kill. After every week of blown makes an attempt, Ray determined to sneak in on the roosted fowl at zero darkish thirty. He took off his boots when he received shut and crept towards the roost tree in his socks, guided solely by the sunshine of the moon. Then he waited silently for hours till dawn. Ultimately, the tom flew down and Ray shot him when his ft touched the bottom. I’m certain elements of that story have been stretched through the years, however the lesson is an efficient one: be quiet and get there early.

Don’t Get Discouraged When the Searching Will get Powerful

Typically it looks like all people and their 10-year-old child has already received their fowl. Plus, with all of the Fb and Youtube movies of suicidal toms charging in to decoys, it may be straightforward to neglect that turkey looking can really get fairly difficult. So don’t get discouraged when your first couple outings don’t go as deliberate. Preserve altering up your ways and revel in these early mornings and late nights, as a result of it’s solely a matter of time earlier than that previous tom slinks in to vary.

The right way to Get Permission on Non-public Land

Strutting toms in a field.
It’s all the time value asking permission to hunt on non-public land. John Hafner

Typically it’s good to have a go-to non-public land spot in case you’re putting out on public floor. Farmers are sometimes extra keen to grant permission for turkey looking than they’re for deer looking, which is a blessing and a curse—as a result of there’s likelihood any person else already has permission to hunt the place. So begin your non-public land search the identical approach you’d begin your public land search: Use a digital mapping app to find probably turkey habitat that’s off the crushed path. Search for hardwood ridges close to agricultural fields, river bottoms which may maintain good roost bushes, and timber factors that jut out into corn or soybean fields. Mark all of your potential new looking places and ensure to report the landowners’ addresses.

Then spend a pair afternoons in late winter knocking on doorways. Don’t present up throughout meal time or on Sunday morning when people is likely to be preparing for church. Be pleasant and upfront. Inform the landowner you’d wish to hunt the place for spring turkeys solely, you gained’t rut up the fields, you gained’t hunt close to the cattle, and also you gained’t have a complete crew of different guys looking with you. If the landowner declines (it doesn’t matter what the rationale), don’t argue or attempt to persuade her or him, simply say “thanks for the time” and be in your approach. Keep in mind: Farmers don’t owe you something. They’d be letting you hunt their land and not likely getting something in return. Additionally, native landowners speak to one another. You may earn a status in an space rapidly, for higher or worse.



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