Overlooked Public Hunting Grounds Provide Unique Hunting Opportunities

Finding turkey hunting property today can be as challenging as a late-season tom on public lands in Pennsylvania. One way to add more acres to your hit list is to look for public lands others may not know about or even shun due to certain circumstances. 

First, inventory all your options regardless of size and ownership. Look for city, county, state and federal tracts open to hunting. Some parks, green areas and urban buffer zones may allow hunting with special regulations. Reach out to each entity for rules, and scour land ownership via programs like OnXMaps.

There are numerous property players in the federal government and many allow hunting, even on small parcels. Look at traditional owners, such as the National Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management for guaranteed hunting opportunities. Overlooked owners include the Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation and even the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, including refuge hunting access.

Size matters, but just because a property is small doesn’t mean it is not a good turkey hunting location. The exact opposite may be true. Other hunters may actually ignore a property due to its small nature, but before you nix an area, check these factors:

  • Begin with a habitat rating. Does it offer turkeys everything they need to survive including food, water and escape habitat?
  • Does it connect with private land that is managed for wildlife and offer reasons for turkeys to cross between the two properties?
  • Is it hard to access? You can have a public parcel all to yourself simply by walking farther and focusing on rugged topography, even on tiny tracts. 

I found a turkey hunting heaven in a Wyoming region most hunters tag as “good sheep hunting terrain.” Pressured turkeys climb through a series of steep canyons to reach pine-covered slopes 2,000 above where “normal” turkey hunters roam. The gobbling is nonstop all day, because the turkeys literally are alone and unpressured.

Finally, an area may not be overlooked on weekends, but during the week, it may be as empty as a university campus over Christmas break. Most hunters plan their outings for the weekend. Studies show that whitetails and turkeys actually return to public areas after the weekend crowd leaves. Plan your hunts for the middle of the week and you could be in for some great, overlooked public-land turkey hunting.

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