If You Hoot You Lose with Public Land Gobblers
Editor’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 recently has developed a camp called Heartwood Outdoors (heartwoodoutdoors.com) 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. So, 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. Now, we all like to hunt a gobbling turkey. But on public lands, I’m convinced about 70 percent of the gobblers come-in silent.