Skip to main content

How to Find Unpressured Public Turkeys

8 ways to avoid pressure and kill a turkey on public land.

How to Find Unpressured Public Turkeys

Finding public land turkeys that receive less pressure is still possible. (Honeycutt Creative photo)

The hour strikes 9 a.m., and it’s been nothing but songbirds and squirrels since that distant lone gobble at daybreak. Suddenly, a stick breaks. Then, an unmistakable spit-and-drum. Seconds pass, and flash of a tail fan appears through the undergrowth. A few minutes later, that turkey covers the last 50 yards, nestles up against the hen decoy and does the dance.

When hunters experience public land turkey hunting success, it’s usually in the form of minimal gobbling, days of hunting without sightings and other patience-testing challenges. As public land turkey hunting becomes more popular, these same destinations become more difficult to hunt.

Without question, some turkeys are incredibly pressured. Here is the how, when and where of finding public land turkeys that aren’t pursued quite as heavily.

wild turkey
Even less-pressured public land turkeys might not gobble as much, but they’re still fun to hunt. (Honeycutt Creative photo)

Step 1: Pinpoint Places Where Turkey Hunting Isn’t Vogue

One of the first tasks in finding unpressured public turkeys is pinpointing places where turkey hunting isn’t as popular. Some states have rich turkey hunting traditions, and in those states, hunting pressure is almost always greater than in states where the heritage isn’t as strong.

“The easiest way is to go to areas with both lower concentrations of human populations and diehard turkey hunter populations,” said Calling All Turkey’s Shane Simpson. “Examples would be states in the Northeast, upper Midwest, and Western states.”

Step 2: Talk to Biologists and Land Managers

The dedicated men and women who manage and maintain our public lands know more about these tracts than most others. Talking to these people can help devise a stronger game plan. Ask specific questions, and oftentimes, you’ll receive quality answers.

“Do your homework,” said Ken Perrotte, outdoor writer and NWTF staffer. “Find out how, if at all, land managers control the pressure and harvests on public land. Research the quality of the habitat. Hunting a place with limited or no pressure doesn't mean much if turkeys don't want to live there.”

Step 3: Hunt Smaller Tracts of Public Land

Hunters oftentimes focus on moderately sized public hunting lands. Massive acreages are often seen as daunting. Very small tracts are viewed as a waste of time. The latter isn’t nearly true, though. Find these overlooked tracts and scout them.

“Look for smaller, less-publicized tracts,” said championship turkey caller Scott Ellis. “Hunting apps are great tools for this. Look for areas that are off the beaten path.”

wild turkey tracks
Find good concentrations of turkey sign, and chances are good the area receives less pressure. (Honeycutt Creative photos)

Step 4: Hunt Massive Tracts of Public Properties

If you’d rather not hunt very small tracts of public ground, go in the other direction. Hunt larger tracts of public land that others see as intimidating. Of course, even large tracts get hunted around the perimeter.

The key is finding pieces of ground that allow you to get more than a mile or two away from easy access points. Spots that require hiking up steeper terrain tend to deter many hunters, too. If it’s safe enough to traverse, and you’re willing to tackle it, such barriers can produce pockets of turkeys that aren’t as pressured.

Step 5: Focus on Difficult-to-Access Tracts

Many hunters won’t take extra steps to access public land. If they can’t pull up to a parking spot, walk in, and hunt, they aren’t hunting there. Those who work harder and overcome more difficult access tend to experience better hunting. This might be boat access, trespass permission through private ground, multi-mile treks in and out, etc.

Recommended


shotgun pointed over fence
Sometimes, turkeys spend a lot of time along private-public borders. While getting permission to hunting ground for whitetails is very difficult, it’s still possible to ask and receive permission to turkey hunt private ground that borders public lands. (Honeycutt Creative photo)

“Most turkeys living on public and heavily pressured private receive some sort of hunting pressure,” said The Hunting Public’s Aaron Warbritton. “Properties that are easily accessible receive the most pressure. While the opposite is often true for areas that are hard to access.”

Step 6: Find Limited-Access Hunts

Some of the best public land hunts available are those that aren’t open to everyone. Draw and quota public land hunts help maintain the quality of the public lands that implement these systems. These do so by limiting hunting pressure and preventing overharvest.

“Some places, like many state WMAs or military installations, allocate areas by quotas or draws, limiting the amount of hunters that might be on the property or a section of the property at any one time,” Perrotte said. “If you're lucky enough to get a place/slot to hunt on a quota, you still need to try to find a couple precise locations where you want to strike out in the morning. Invariably, you'll have to get up a couple hours earlier than if you were hunting private land because it can be a race to the prime spots.”

Other areas permit bowhunting only, which can prove to present much lower volumes of hunting pressure than properties that allow all legal hunting methods.

bowhunter walking on trail with turkey hunting gear
Bow-only tracts of land tend to see less hunting pressure. (Honeycutt Creative photo)

Step 7: Hunting During Less Popular Times of the Day

Most turkey hunters hunt the first few hours of the day. They hear those turkeys gobbling on the roost and try to steal those gobblers away from their hens. By mid-morning, it hasn’t worked, and they head in for biscuits and gravy.

Consider operating in reverse. Sleep in. Grab a biscuit. And then go turkey hunting. You’ll experience less competition, fewer henned-up birds, and just might catch a turkey that wants to work.

“Focus on smaller, overlooked parcels or hunt at odd times of the day — like early afternoons,” said HuntStand’s Josh Dahlke. “The birds are often there, but they become professionals at patterning human activity.”

hunter waiting in the dark for the sun to come out
Most turkey hunters will hunt the first few hours of the day. By mid-morning, most head for the truck. (Honeycutt Creative photo)

Step 8: Wear Good Boots and Put Miles on Them

Unless accessing by boat, or gaining permission to reach public through private ground, most public land turkey hunting requires a lot of walking. Those willing to tackle this challenge can find turkeys others can’t reach.

hunter in camo sitting against a tree, calling for turkey
Call as needed, but with less frequency, with public land turkeys. (Honeycutt Creative photo)

“Make sure you don your most comfortable boots and cover some ground,” said turkey calling competitor Anthony Virga. “Up in the mountains, where I hunt public, predation and pressure leave these gobblers not as talkative. Scout-hunting has been a great tactic for me over the years.”

hunter with turkey and turkey decoys
The author was happy to tag this public-land longbeard. (Honeycutt Creative photo)



GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Recent Videos

Hunters and shooters looking for a single-gun solution for hunting, predator control and plinking should consider the Fr...
Hunting

Part 3: Bears of the North – Grand Finale

Hunters and shooters looking for a single-gun solution for hunting, predator control and plinking should consider the Fr...
Hunting

Part 2: Bears of the North - Keep the Momentum Going

Hunters and shooters looking for a single-gun solution for hunting, predator control and plinking should consider the Fr...
Hunting

Part 1: Bears of the North - The Journey

Hunters and shooters looking for a single-gun solution for hunting, predator control and plinking should consider the Fr...
Gear

Stag Arms Pursuit AR Pro

Hunters and shooters looking for a single-gun solution for hunting, predator control and plinking should consider the Fr...
Gear

Aero Precision Solus Hunter

Hunters and shooters looking for a single-gun solution for hunting, predator control and plinking should consider the Fr...
Gear

Browning X-Bolt 2

Hunters and shooters looking for a single-gun solution for hunting, predator control and plinking should consider the Fr...
Gear

The Truth About Thermal Optics

Hunters and shooters looking for a single-gun solution for hunting, predator control and plinking should consider the Fr...
Gear

Weatherby's All-New Model 307 Range XP

Hunters and shooters looking for a single-gun solution for hunting, predator control and plinking should consider the Fr...
Gear

Introducing the Savage 110 Trail Hunter

Hunters and shooters looking for a single-gun solution for hunting, predator control and plinking should consider the Fr...
Gear

Federal Terminal Ascent 7mm PRC

Hunters and shooters looking for a single-gun solution for hunting, predator control and plinking should consider the Fr...
Gear

CZ Shadow 2: Competition Ready Right Out of the Box!

Hunters and shooters looking for a single-gun solution for hunting, predator control and plinking should consider the Fr...
Gear

The Ultimate Truck and Trail Gun

Petersen's Hunting Magazine Covers Print and Tablet Versions

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save.

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

Buy Digital Single Issues

Magazine App Logo

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Petersen's Hunting App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Petersen's Hunting stories delivered right to your inbox.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Petersen's Hunting subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Enjoying What You're Reading?

Get a Full Year
of Guns & Ammo
& Digital Access.

Offer only for new subscribers.

Subscribe Now