The Elusive Public Land Gobbler

A turkey may not look like the most intelligent creature, but apparently public land birds have learned enough evasive maneuvers to stay alive.  While plentiful turkey exist on public lands, they may be harder to kill than you first think.  Turkey on public land are ten times harder to kill than birds on private property.

This season, I have hunted turkey on public lands in Alabama and Georgia.  In Cahaba Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Alabama, where I have hunted the most, I have found the birds to be very wary.  After locating about three different gobblers and knowing their strut zones, I used several tactics to try to seal the deal.

The first few hunts, I tried sneaking onto the edge of a green field where one of the gobblers was known to be.  I even crawled with my gun, army-style, to no avail.  There were often hens in the area that were so easily spooked the gobbler never made an appearance.

So then I decided to set up on the field early, just like deer hunting, to wait out the bird.  With my blind in perfect position and very-well covered, I waited.  Of course, something prevented the tom from carrying out his normal routine and he never showed.

I have tried shock-calling the birds with an owl call or using a variety of hen calls.  But you have to remember that public land birds have been called to many times, with every variety of calls and are naturally more suspicious.  Many of the birds walk the other way when you call to them. They have encountered hunters and trucks and learned to be evasive, and that’s what makes them such a challenge.

Public land birds do not necessarily follow normal patterns, as they are easily spooked and may not strut in the same areas or at the same times. You may have to stalk public land birds and surprise them to catch them.  Sometimes you have to even hunt them at odd times of the day. The two birds I killed this year, I shot within ten minutes of my first sit.  Not only was it ten minutes in, it was at one and four in the afternoon when I killed them.  Apparently outsmarting a public land turkey is not so easily done, so it may be more likely to just happen upon them.  My advice is to scout a ton, and always ease through the woods like that big gobbler is just around the next tree.

While it is frustrating to watch those birds walk away and hear the famous “putt, putt, putt,” a day in the turkey woods is always better than a day in the office.  It makes it even that much better to know that the government provides me a cheap place to go after those gobblers on Public Land.

Photo by:  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Northeast Region’s Photostream

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