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Public Land Turkeys

Public Land Turkeys


Many hunters who chase turkeys do so on many of the public lands that are available across our states. Public land is an excellent place to hunt and kill turkeys. Like a lot of hunting across public land, the techniques are a bit different when chasing turkeys. The reason is that unlike other animals, turkeys announce their location.

One of the most common techniques for hunting turkeys is to listen for gobbling activity at dawn then moving into location to try and call the tom into gun range. When hunting public land it is quite possible, and even likely that you are not the only hunter to hear that particular bird and are setting up on them. This being the case, extreme caution is necessary to make sure that you fully recognize your target and what is beyond your target. No turkey is worth the tragedy of shooting another hunter or worse getting shot by another hunter.

One of the trades I employ when hunting on public land is to listen to the hens. After the gobbler announces his location, I move into a good location and listen carefully. Careful scrutiny can usually distinguish the sounds of real hens and someone calling and trying to sound like hens. I like to make sure no other hunters are calling to the same bird. If I think someone else is calling to the bird, I leave and go find another. Personally, I just cannot justify trying to call the same bird another hunter is working. So I go looking for another bird. More often than not, if there is one gobbler in the area, there are two or more. They will congregate where the hens are. On pressured public land, it seems that calling to the hens works a lot better than calling to the gobblers.

Setting up in what I believe is the direction of travel, I will soft cluck and purr to get the hens attention. Continuing this almost constantly, I want to sound like content hens that are in the area but not with the group. If the hens are being vocal, I mimic their calls to try and get them to move into my direction and bring the gobblers in tow.

If this does not seem to be working, I have found that taking a break – letting the birds go about their business, and letting the other hunters get fed up and leave. Then I begin my tactics to kill public land turkeys. I have hunted with many people who quit before nine o’clock in the morning. Believing that if the birds do not come straight in they cannot be killed. When in fact, I have killed more turkeys between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. than any other time of the day. It works well for me to let the other hunters leave and then I will go find a willing bird and kill him. This has proven so effective, on some of the more pressured public land I seldom even arrive to hunt before 10:00 a.m.

As our public land has shrunk across South Carolina, it becomes more and more difficult to find areas where the turkeys are not harassed by other hunters. I have found that some of the smaller named WMA’s are honey holes for Tom turkeys. Most hunters overlook small parcels and that leaves the Tom’s for me. Parcels of even fifty acres can hold turkeys or at least close enough that you can call them onto the property. Completely juxtaposed to this is hunting the larger expanses of public land. Those of over one thousand acres. On these parcels, using the same mantra as when hunting other animals works well. Get as far away from other hunters as possible. Hunters are largely a lazy lot and will not want to walk too far from the truck to kill a turkey. I like to park in a well visible location to let other hunters know I am there, then walk as far as I can to get away from them to find a turkey. In some areas this is not too far. The Jocassee Gorges in the northwest corner of South Carolina is a great example. This 43,000 acres area is the largest in the state and gets very little pressure, because most turkey hunters do not want to walk the steep terrain for turkeys. This gives me and a few other hunters plenty of opportunities to kill big long beards. Granted, some of them require a lot of work, but it just adds to the satisfaction.

Hunting turkey’s on public land is not a sure thing, just as it is not a waste of time. I have several close friends that kill their season limit every year hunting public land exclusively. I know for sure, the turkey is worth the effort to locate and hunt on public land. If this is the only way to find them, then by all means go find them – just be careful.