Are you an outdoor enthusiast looking for a new challenge? Take your hunting experience to the next level and expand your luck by learning how to hunt turkeys on public lands. With the right knowledge, lightweight gear, and some patience, you can become a successful, self-sufficient hunter in no time.
Hunting turkeys on public land can be challenging, but it is also rewarding. In the rest of this article, I will explain how to find public hunting lands, the challenges hunters face, and some helpful tips.
Don’t be fooled – turkey hunting may seem like child’s play from afar, but it requires sharp instincts and expertise that often take years of practice to perfect.
Whether you’re an experienced hunter looking to try something new, or a novice hunter itching to bag your first bird, you may be wondering: how do I hunt turkeys on public land?
How To Find Public Hunting Land
Finding public lands to hunt is easy enough – you just need to know where to look!
Using the internet is one quick way to find local public lands. You can check your state wildlife agency’s website, which should have specific information on the hunting season window, what hours you can hunt, and any regulations you should be aware of.
You should also check your area’s national forests and county lands, as they often have public lands available. Talk with other hunters in your area too! They will tell you about all the well-known (and little-known) gobbler grounds.
It’s 2023, so there’s an app for that! Popular hunting apps like Huntstand and onX offer information on local public lands. Plus, these apps are packed with features that will help you on the hunt!
The Challenges of Hunting Turkey on Public Land
Hunting on public land is a bit different than hunting on private land. On public lands, you are often competing with many hunters in the same area. This is commonly referred to as “pressure.” The more pressure a turkey is used to, the harder it will be to hunt.
As a result, public land turkeys have adapted to this pressure – they gobble less. Of course, that means finding them can be tough!
But that isn’t even the end of it. Compared to private lands, public hunting lands have much smaller turkey populations. With a large hunter-to-tom ratio, successfully bagging a bird doesn’t happen often.
Research your local laws and regulations on hunting turkey in public lands.
Understand whether or not turkey hunting is allowed and the rules associated with it, such as what type of firearms are allowed, time limits, and bag limits. Also, be aware of any special requirements for obtaining a permit or license to hunt in your area. Make sure that you always obey all wildlife regulations when hunting turkeys on public lands.
Familiarize yourself with the surrounding terrain and identify areas where turkeys reside.
Before you step onto the dirt, you should take a lay of the land! Any map you can find will help. Search for areas of interest, places to avoid, land markers, etc. Of course, this is when you would make the plan for your first hunt. Scout the area prior to your hunt to locate active roosting and feeding areas. Learn the habits and behaviors of turkeys in order to increase your chances of a successful hunt. Keep in mind that turkeys are commonly found near wooded areas as they require trees for roosting and protection, so look for signs of turkey activity, such as tracks and droppings.
Be sure to practice safety while hunting turkeys on public lands. Ensure you always identify your target before shooting, as other hunters may be nearby. Respect private property boundaries and only hunt where it is allowed and legal. Additionally, always wear bright-colored clothing so that you are visible to other hunters and carry a firearm appropriate for turkey hunting. Never take shortcuts or dangerous risks, as getting lost in unfamiliar terrain can be easy. Finally, make sure that you clean up after yourself and leave the area as you found it. Keep these safety tips in mind to ensure a safe and successful hunt!
Bring a GPS device to help you navigate and stay on track while in the field. Even if you are familiar with the area, it is easy to become disoriented without a reliable navigation system. A GPS device will also help you easily return to your vehicle or campsite if lost.
The apps I mentioned above will help you do this. Google Earth and Google Maps are also great tools for this!
Identify key signs of presence, such as tracks, feathers, and droppings.
As you scout the area, look for signs of turkey activity, such as tracks and droppings that can indicate where the turkeys are roosting and feeding. Turkeys will also leave behind feathers which can help you identify their location. It is important to remain quiet while scouting, as too much noise, can scare away potential prey. Once you have identified an area with signs of turkey activity, you can plan your hunt accordingly.
Choose gear – including decoys, calls, and firearms that are appropriate for turkey hunting.
Ensure that your firearm is properly licensed, registered, and legal to use in your hunting area. Using a shotgun with a shot size 4 or 6 for turkey hunting is advisable, as it gives you the best chance of hitting your target at longer distances. Choose decoys that resemble real turkeys and opt for calls that mimic the sound of a real turkey. Be sure to practice using your gear before the hunt so that you can use it confidently when out in the field.
Learn to use your chosen gear properly and practice before heading out for the hunt.
If you are unfamiliar with turkey calls, practice and become comfortable using them before bringing them out in the field. Spend time familiarizing yourself with your firearm so that you can be sure of a clean shot when it matters most. Practice shooting and setting up targets at various distances to ensure accuracy. Additionally, make sure that you have all the appropriate gear, such as ammunition, decoys, calls, a vest, and a bag for carrying your supplies. With the correct equipment and knowledge of how to properly use it, you will be prepared for an enjoyable turkey hunt on public lands.
Select a suitable blind and set it up at least one hour before sunrise to give you time to scout the area.
Turkey hunting requires patience and a good setup in order to be successful. Choose a blind that will provide you with adequate cover and enough camouflage to blend into your surroundings. Ensure that the blind is sturdy and has enough room for all of your equipment. Additionally, ensure that the area provides you with an unobstructed view of potential prey so you can easily spot turkeys and make a clean shot.
Get As Remote As Possible
Hunting on public lands can get a bit crowded – it’s terrible to have a hunt ruined by bumping into other humans!
It’s also harder to find turkey in heavily-trafficked areas. Instead, you should seek areas that are harder to reach or could easily be overlooked. Often, that’s where the turkeys are!
These public land turkeys are heavily hunted, so you’ll want to keep your presence hidden for as long as possible. The easiest time to do this is in the early mornings, at least thirty minutes before sunrise.
Public Land Turkey Hunting Essentials!
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With all that in mind, it can seem like hunting turkeys on public land is a fruitless endeavor! Not so. With time, patience, practice, and a bit of luck, you’ll find it extremely rewarding.
Primal Pioneer is a food blog and public land hunting resource by Mike and Jennifer Shreckengost. We’re a husband and wife team who combined their two passions – a love of the outdoors and food – into a joint effort with Primal Pioneer! You’ll find resources on planning and executing your own DIY over-the-counter public land big game hunt, along with wild game recipes featuring mostly venison and elk.