Up until the last few years,I exclusively hunted private land only for Turkeys. I just assumed that public land was a waste of time. After going on a hunt to the Cheatham WMA (a local Management area about 21,000 acres large) a few years ago, I was definitely proven wrong. Now that I’ve stumbled upon this great resource, I rarely go out and not get on birds,or at least hear a few. It’s pretty funny that these places were under my nose for years,and I never thought to tap into them. Here are some tip’s to help you make the most of your next public land hunt.
Scout Scout SCOUT!: While it’s not impossible to kill a bird just by showing up to a public spot, the odd’s are stacked against you. You can almost bet that every bird you encounter is being worked by another hunter,from another angle. Without scouting,you are leaving your entire hunt in fate’s hand’s. Who has time for that? Get out a few weeks before season starts and try to figure out where the birds like to be. Look for strut zones:open fields,oak ridges,dirt roads. Any area that a Tom can get in to attract a possible lady friend. Also try and roost some birds while your there. You would be amazed at how pattern-able a turkey is when it is undisturbed (key word “undisturbed”). You will inevitably have to adjust your tactic after opening week,because you can bet when the herd of shotgun wielding rednecks hit the wood’s,those birds will change their patterns faster than you can say yelp. Which leads me to my next tip….
Be flexible: As previously stated,a turkeys patterns will constantly change throughout the hunting season on a public tract because of pressure. You need to be willing to do the same. After opening week,get to the back forty. The majority of hunters aren’t willing to put in the legwork to get to where the turkeys end up by mid season. This is where a map can be your best friend. Look for areas that are midway between two access points,preferably a long way away (see below). Start there. You would be amazed at how much cover a gobbler is willing to go into in order to get away from a predator, aka you.
Be Safe: You would hope that every hunter that is out chasing longbeards is as safe and cautious as you are,but that isn’t the case. Here are a few things to remember when turkey hunting in general,especially when around a plethora of hunters.
- 1 – Don’t walk and call at the same time. If you are mimicking a turkey sound in order to locate birds,walk 100 yards or so,stop and call,listen for a minute or two,then move on.
- 2 – Keep your decoys covered up. Make sure when hauling decoys back and forth from setups that they are completely covered,either in a bag over your shoulder,or in the back of your vest. A red tom decoy head sticking out of your vest is an easy way to get peppered with 3 1/2″ magnums.
- 3 – Try and stay away from using gobbler sounds,such as jake yelps and gobbling tubes. These calls can be indispensable in the right situation, but need be used sparingly when hunting near other people.
- 4 – If there are 20 trucks at a spot,move on to the next. Even if you know there are birds in that specific area,let the other guy’s have a crack at them. The more distance you put in between yourself and other hunters,the better.
- 5 – Identify your target. The majority of hunting accident’s happen because someone didn’t make sure that what they were shooting at wasn’t a human. Always make sure what your firing at is a game animal. You would rather have a shot opportunity slip by than accidentally fire on a fellow hunter.
Maybe this spring when your headed out to the Turkey wood’s, Give one of these great public spots a look. Good huntin’!