Editor’s Note: Travis Walton from Birmingham, Alabama, a longtime outdoor friend of my son, John, Jr., is my new turkey-hunting hero. Without question, some of the baddest gobblers live on public hunting lands. Generally, they receive far more hunting pressure than the turkeys living on private lands. After President Trump announced the stay-at-home order in the spring of 2020, turkey hunters all over the nation had a legitimate reason to hunt turkeys every day of turkey season. Travis Walton then had the freedom to hunt a part of every day when not working.
Travis Walton moved within 3 miles of the 41,500-acre Cahaba River Wildlife Management Area (WMA) close to Birmingham, Alabama, and hunted deer there during the fall of 2019. He got to know the area manager and scouted turkeys there before the season. His overall philosophy was to walk far away from any public road, try to find turkey sign, go there before daylight and set-up to call and hunt turkeys. Travis never expected the high number of hunters who would be at this public-hunting area during the 2020 spring turkey-hunting season.
For 20 years, Travis had hunted some of the best private lands in Alabama. At that time, Alabama had a five-bird limit during the spring. Travis was a well-seasoned turkey hunter. But then he moved close to more property than any turkey hunter could pass up. Due to the closeness of his home to the property, he could hunt mornings, afternoons and/or all day long when able. Because of this property’s proximity to Downtown Birmingham, this area probably received as much turkey-hunting pressure as any WMA in the state but not nearly as much turkey-hunting pressure as occurred during 2020, due to the pandemic.
“I had deer hunted this area when I was a youngster but only turkey hunted it a handful of times,” Walton explains. “Since moving, I could hunt turkeys at least some part of every day. I thought that if I hunted during the weekdays, I’d probably not encounter many other hunters. However, after hunting the first week of the season, Monday through Friday, and having multiple hunters come into my hunting area each day, I knew 2020 would be a different type of turkey-hunting season than any I’d experienced in the past.
“My thinking was that if businesses were shut down, and people were off work, they’d have nowhere to go. But they could practice social distancing while hunting. I guess those factors led to other turkey hunters thinking, ‘We ought to go turkey hunting!’ and I agreed. I didn’t want to sit at home and watch TV all day. I had all of those woods outside my door – crying for me to hunt them. While doing that, I became a serious student of hunting public lands for turkeys.”
To learn more about turkey hunting, check out John E. Phillips’s book, “The Turkey Hunting Guides’ Bible,” at https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01ITWYY2K/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_taft_p2_i11and available in Kindle, print and Audible versions. You may have to cut and paste this link into your browser. (When you click on this book, notice on the left where Amazon says you can read 10% of the books for free and hear 10% for free). To learn more about other turkey books by John E. Phillips, go to www.amazon.com/author/johnephillips.
Tomorrow: How Travis Walton Learned to Scout Public Lands for Wild Turkeys