Scouting for Public Land Gobblers
Editor’s Note: Mossy Oak Pro Tracy Groves, from Eldersburg, Maryland, takes on the toughest turkeys there are to hunt in the United States – public-land gobblers. If you’ve ever hunted turkeys for very long on public lands, you know all those turkeys are bad. But this week we’ve asked Groves to solve the mysteries of public-land gobblers.
Eighty percent of the property I hunt during turkey season is public lands. I enjoy hunting sheds, especially on public lands. When I go out hunting sheds, I’ll often run into a flock of turkeys. I’ll make a mental note of where I’ve seen the flock of turkeys for the coming season. The next way I locate birds is to go out in the mornings several weeks before turkey-hunting season arrives and listen for turkeys to gobble. I look for places I call hide-a-way holes, spots where most hunters won’t be listening for gobblers, and that are difficult to reach. I may have to park my truck and hike into an area to hear a turkey gobble.
Most turkey hunters, especially on public lands, are not comfortable walking very far in hopes of hearing a turkey gobble. I don’t stay in a parking lot or a place where other hunters park and listen for turkeys. I’ll get on a fire road, a logging road or a hiking trail to go further back in the woods than most hunters will. I do a lot of walking and listening before the season on public lands. Now I know for certain that if I pinpoint a gobbler on public lands that someone else may be hunting that gobbler too. I know that a hunter will have put in at least as much effort as I have to find that turkey, and that cuts the chances drastically of other hunters hunting the same bird as I am.
Another thing I do is search for signs of other hunters. When I hear or see turkeys, I look for empty shotgun shells, cups, chewing gum wrappers or any other type of trash hunters will leave in the woods. You can say I'm scouting hunters as much as I’m scouting turkeys. I make note of every place where I see a hunter’s truck or car parked and decide I won’t hunt there. If you spend enough time looking for places to hunt, you’ll get to where you’ll notice exactly where other hunters are hunting.
So, I’m shrinking the woods by not hunting sections of land where I know other hunters will be hunting. I’m increasing my odds for seeing and taking turkeys in regions most other public-land hunters won’t hunt. I hunt about 8-10 different public-hunting areas every year. I start scouting on March 1st; and I’m in the woods every single morning, driving up and down the roads, right at the beginning of daylight. I’m listening for turkeys to gobble, and I’m looking where other hunters are parked to listen to turkeys gobble. I spend 15-20 mornings before the season arrives, listening for turkeys to gobble and searching for other hunters who are listening for turkeys to gobble.