Get Into Public Lands Early to Take a Turkey

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Use the 30 Day Option for Taking Public Land Turkeys

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John’s Note: Tracy Groves of Sykesville, Maryland, is the Regional Pro Staff Director for Mossy Oak’s Turkey Division and enjoys hunting public lands. He is a licensed minister and has been the host of the “Real Deal” TV show on the Sportsman’s Channel for 3 years. He has 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.

17 Use the 30 Day Option for Taking Public Land TurkeysMost turkey hunters start scouting for turkeys a week or two before the season begins, but I start 30 days before the season. I’m looking for the turkeys that are the farthest from the parking lot or any road. Those turkeys are the ones I plan to hunt on opening morning. Very-few turkey hunters today are willing to walk as far as I think you need to walk to take a mature gobbler on the opening day of turkey season. On the opening week of turkey season, I’ll walk many miles before daylight. I don’t use a flashlight, and I don’t have to use a GPS, because I know the woods so well where I hunt. I can leave my vehicle long before daylight and reach the spot I want to hunt without any lights or navigation system. I don’t use flashlights, since they’ll let other hunters know where I’m going, and where I’m hunting. Most of the time, I’ll walk in 45 minutes to an hour before first light to get to a turkey that I believe other hunters haven’t found yet. Now, if you’re hunting an area you don’t know well, then do carry a hand-held GPS and/or a compass. Any time I go into a new region or a new state where I’ve never hunted before, I’ll have a GPS and a compass with me to use for navigation.

All you have to do to take a mature gobbler on public lands is do the things that other hunters don’t do, who aren’t successful. Most public-land hunters….

* don’t start scouting 30 days before turkey season;

* won’t call softly;

* won’t sit patiently for 2 to 3 hours;

18 Use the 30 Day Option for Taking Public Land Turkeys* won’t learn which direction a gobbler flies from a tree as he leaves the roost;

* don’t find the water that turkey’s going to;

* won’t find a route they can take to the place where they want to set-up, so they won’t spook the turkey;

* aren’t willing to walk a mile or two in the dark to reach a turkey before daylight;

* won’t scout for other turkey hunters and where they’re hunting;

* won’t stay in their stands after a gobbler has left their area with other turkeys;

* aren’t willing to hunt a silent gobbler, although 70 percent of the turkeys I take on public lands come in silently; and

* won’t leave their locator calls at home, especially their owl hooters, and won’t leave their decoys at home, even though leaving decoys at home is the safest way to hunt on public lands

We live in the get-it-done-quickly society. We believe that if we can’t take a turkey within the first hour or two of daylight, we just need to head on to the house and come back another day. But, I’ve learned that soft calling, scouting and patience pays-off with more public-land gobblers each season for me, than any-other tactics I can use.

19 Use the 30 Day Option for Taking Public Land TurkeysTo get John’s book, “The Turkey Gobbler Getter Manual,” for free, go to to download.

To learn more about turkey hunting from the masters, get these Kindle eBooks and print books by John E. Phillips, including: “The Turkey Hunter’s Bible (available as an eBook or in paperback),” “PhD Gobblers: How to Hunt the Smartest Turkeys in the World,” “Turkey Hunting Tactics,” (also available in an audio book from, “How to Hunt Turkeys with World Champion Preston Pittman,” “The 10 Sins of Turkey Hunting with Preston Pittman” and “Outdoor Life’s Complete Turkey Hunting.” Click here to get these books.

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