By Bob Humphrey
Disturbance and competition - more precisely, lack thereof - are important components to a quality turkey hunt. Having a place all to yourself is the ideal situation; but it’s not always realistic for many hunters, particularly those limited to public ground. That doesn’t mean you should give up and go fishing instead. With a little effort directed in the right direction, it is possible to find quality turkey hunting on public lands.
Pre-season scouting is important whether hunting public or private ground; but on public ground you should scout more, and more often.
Look for patterns, but don’t rely too heavily on them. Daily movement patterns can change, particularly as human activity increases during and even before the season. You want to have the most recent information possible.
Another key is avoiding the crowds. One way to accomplish this is to seek out large parcels. The more land, the more room for hunters to spread out.
Get back. Most hunters stick close to the roads. Don’t be afraid to hike or ride back into more remote areas - and this applies to both hunting and scouting.
Check the regulations carefully. Many public areas allow ATVs, something your competition may not be aware of. Ride the trails before the season so you get familiar with them in daylight.
Don’t overlook smaller parcels. By studying maps, you may find smaller, more isolated blocks that other hunters don’t even realize are public land. It’s even better if you can find parcels that abut land closed to hunting. It is possible to call birds off these “reservoirs” and onto huntable public land.
Concentrate your scouting in the early morning. There will be fewer hunters out scouting, and the birds are more vocal. This allows you to hear distant birds that late-rising hunters aren’t aware of.
These are but a few tips for creating a better public land hunting experience. Every situation is different and requires its own specific tactics, but if you go the extra mile and put in the time, effort and ingenuity, you should be rewarded with a positive experience, whether you bring home a bird or not.