How To

Turkey Hunting Success and Safety on Public Land

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In order to hunt turkeys safely on public land, you have to be prepared to be seen.

In order to hunt turkeys safely on public land, you have to be prepared to be seen.

For many of us, it’s a reality of hunting. We hunt public land, or we don’t hunt.

Out West, public land can mean areas where you hike miles into the wild to set up a tiny, primitive camp from which to base your hunt for elk or big mulies. On a hunt like that, you’re on public ground, but chances are you won’t encounter another human.

Sadly, that’s not the kind of public land most of us know. We hunt on wildlife management areas close to major metropolitan areas. These areas receive significant hunting pressure. Most days, especially on weekends, you see vehicles overflowing designated parking areas close to prime locations.

CloseRange_300x250Even so, you can enjoy successful hunting if you plan your strategy carefully—and you’re willing to work hard. However, there are safety considerations, too. Number one is being seen!

It goes against nearly every strategy for hunting success, but it’s essential to safety. You want the other hunters around you to know where you are at all times. That’s why nearly all states require some form of blaze orange clothing for firearms hunting for big game, small game, and upland birds. Turkey hunting on public ground is the perfect example of the need for both concealment and visibility on the same hunt.

You do your homework and figure out the routine of a longbeard that’s taken to roosting on an island. Normally, the water’s too deep to wade to that island, but you watch the weather and river reports. You figure this weekend, if it doesn’t rain, the water will be down enough you can tip-toe out there without filling your waders. The walk in—and the walk back out—is through a half mile of public land.

You execute your plan. You take tom by surprise and bust him as soon as his toes touch down next to your decoy. You wade back to the mainland a little wet, but justly proud of the big bird.

campchef abmBut now you have to walk back through that maze of hunters you don’t know. To me, that’s the scariest part. Though I had to hide completely from that gobbler, I need to be seen walking out!

I accomplish that by wearing a reversible stocking cap—camouflage out for hunting, blaze side out for the daylight walk out through the public ground. I also carry a lightweight orange vest in my turkey vest. It goes over everything for the walk out, too. And it’s a smart idea to have blaze orange tote tucked in your vest, too, to carry your turkey—or at least a big hank of blaze orange fabric to wrap around the bird.

The blaze orange should broadcast your presence far and wide so you’ll arrive safely, but to be doubly sure, sing loudly as you’re hiking out.  After all, you need something to get attention and gather a crowd so you can brag about the longbeard on your back!

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These insights brought to you by Federal Premium Ammunition, Camp Chef, and the Quebec Outfitters Federation.

Image courtesy Bill Miller

Any views or opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect those of OutdoorHub. Comments on this article reflect the sole opinions of their writers.