Tips for Fooling Public Land Turkeys
- Lots of scouting- Find where the public land gobblers are hanging out
- Locate less pressured gobblers- There are areas on public land, that has less pressure
- Plan your hunt- Planning your hunt before opening morning can make all the difference
- Locate more than one roost tree- Having a few roosting areas increases your chances when hunting public land gobblers
Hunting Public Land Gobblers
There are two definitions of longbeard and it might take both to describe the longbeard turkey.
Public land usually gets a bad rap as horror stories have been told for generations now. I have plenty of drama and spoiled hunts on private ground even on my own ground. Public land can be frustrating. With other hunters setting up on the same turkey. They usually booger a bird after you’ve spent the morning working it into your area. That’s longbeards on public land. These are just a couple scenarios that have happened to me when hunting public land turkeys. There are a few others as well. You can either compete with the other hunters for the longbeards affections or use the other hunters calling to bring the turkey to you.
This tactic is determined by the location of the other hunters. If they are setup and calling between you and the gobbler then sit tight and don’t call. Many times you are at an advantage, especially with public land gobblers, when the turkey hears some hens beyond your location and feels less cautious as it makes its way past you on his way to the distant calls. However, when there are 3 or 4 other turkey hunters in the area you never know what might happen and usually it the opposite of what you think.
Switching Gears On Public Land Turkeys
The Night Before My Public Land Turkey Hunt
The Morning Of The Turkey Hunt
Finally after 3 hours the turkey flew down. Keep in mind I could actually see the gobbler the whole time once the sun came up and the fog cleared. One of the hunters was calling literally every couple minutes and I was afraid it might stay roosted trying to get the hens to come to him and that’s what happened. The bird finally flew down and of course went away from any of the calling probably because he knew that the real hens had already hit the ridges and this hen over by the creek bed wasn’t real or it would have came over to him or at least moved a little in the 3 hours it was calling. Never over-call to a roosted gobbler if you want him to fly down before lunch time.
Making A Move On A Public Land Turkey Before Daylight
Striking A Gobbler On Public Land
I struck a gobbler that was over on the next ridge. He answered quick and deliberate and within a couple minutes and another gobble I knew he was coming. He shut up for several minutes and I didn’t dare call unless I had to. The wait was agonizing for fear that he was moving off but finally he gobbled and he was close. I am so glad I didn’t call to him. He either was walking from the other ridge to mine or he had flown over and was slowly getting to where he knew he heard a hen.
Finally I got a glimpse of the gobbler. I could see its glowing red head as it strutted below me about 70 yards away. The woods he was in was old growth and open but he was reluctant to move into the cutover even though it had more under story. I believe he knew he was exposed to hawks and eagles. In the cutover, with the sun high in the sky, visibility was excellent when looking from above. The tom finally eased up the spur to within 50 yards. Still to far away for an ethical shot with my 20 ga Mossberg. I could hear him spitting and drumming as he tried his best to lure the hen he thought was in the cutover.
The Turkey Would Not Get Any Closer
The old gobbler would not come any closer and I knew that I would have to do something because I was way to exposed to move and my mouth calls just are not good enough to call this close. I just can’t keep the pitch low enough when I use a diaphragm even though I used it to get him this close I didn’t dare use it now. I decided I would risk it and let him move away so I could move. This is risky and knowing that he could just keep going or get nervous I had no choice. It was my only chance at killing the gobbler. I needed him to come another 10 yards at least. I would prefer 15 yards closer to feel more comfortable with taking the shot. The gobbler finally had enough of the hen in the cutover and moved down the spur.
When it was just out of sight I planned my 10 yard belly crawl. I just had to make it to a dead tree to set up and try and get him back. It wasn’t much of a move, but it was all the cover I had. If he came back to where he was I would be in range for the 20 gauge. I was able to get to the dead tree and even set up with my back against it.
This was a comfortable position after belly crawling with the fancy new turkey vest that has the frame inside. That was the first thing to go when I got home. It works great if you know where you’re going to sit. The frame kept me from looking up once I was on my belly. I felt claustrophobic as the frame stayed in my neck making the 10 yard crawl more difficult.
Calling The Gobbler Back
When I was set up I eased the box call out of its pocket and struck it lightly. I still couldn’t see that far into the big woods. My set up was about 10 yards from the edge of the cutover. I prayed the gobbler was just out of sight, as planned. When I hit the box call the gobbler responded almost instantly cutting me off at one yelp. I sat the box call next to me and readied the shotgun.
The gobbler was very close. I knew that my plan had worked perfectly to this point now to finish off the best turkey hunt of my life was at hand. I knew if the gobbler came to where he last strutted he would be in range but I hoped for a few more steps. Without anyone calling behind me I knew the turkey would probably stop where he stopped before which would be about 40 yards and within range.
The End To The Best Public Land Turkey Hunt Ever
I ran down the hill to grab my public land turkey. It had a 9 inch beard and maybe 3/4 inch spurs. Plenty good for me. A mature tom on public land. It was a good trek in to get it done. I always try to get away from the crowds. It was just hard to pass up 3 turkeys gobbling on the roost that morning. I am guessing the area is well known because as I said I only saw one couple scouting on the road. However that opening morning the trucks came in heavy with multiple hunters per vehicle. I could see each one as I made it back to that first gobbler. The head start helped but they caught up to me. I had to get out of there to make it happen.
The hike out was tough and hot with no leaves to shade the woods. I’ve killed several good gobblers over the years but this was my first mature gobbler on public land. It proved, like many public land hunts, to be at the top of my list of favorite all time hunts.
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