Author’s note: Tracy Groves of Sykesville, Maryland is an avid turkey hunter, a member of Mossy Oak’s Pro Staff ( and particularly enjoys hunting public lands, something many turkey hunters find hard to do. The host of the Real Deal TV show on the Sportsman’s Channel for three years, he recently developed a camp called Heartwood Outdoors ( to take youngsters from single-parent families hunting to teach them outdoor skills and to work with special-needs children.

Another big mistake turkey hunters make on public lands is they use owl hoots to locate gobblers. Now, let’s pretend you’re a turkey on the opening weekend of turkey season, and you’ve decided not to gobble until after daylight. You’ll hear a car come down the road, stop, a door slam, a series of owl hoots, and after about 30 seconds, the car door slam again, the car start up and move down the road.

You don’t have to be a very smart turkey to know that if you hear a car door slam, followed by an owl hoot, there’s a pretty good chance that owl isn’t sitting on top of that car. Hunters educate turkeys to the fact that when they hear doors slam and owl hoots that more than likely there’s a hunter in the woods. So, when I’m hunting public lands, I don’t use an owl hoot or a crow call.

Now, if I’m hunting a large area in Oklahoma where there’s thousands of acres, I’ll use a coyote howler instead of an owl hooter.

I’m often asked, “How do you locate turkeys on public lands if you’re not using an owl call?” I spend a lot of time scouting. One of my major secrets for successful public-land turkey hunting is to spend 80 percent of the time I’m in the woods scouting and only 20 percent of my time hunting. I hunt turkeys like I do deer. Turkeys have a daily routine they follow just as deer do. If you can learn where a turkey goes, why he goes where he goes, and what time he’ll show up at different locations, then you really don’t have to call at all. I truly believe if you spend more time scouting public lands than you do hunting public lands for turkeys, you’ll be far more successful. We all like to hunt a gobbling turkey. But on public lands, I’m convinced about 70 percent of the gobblers come in silent.

Image courtesy John Phillips

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