I never hide the fact that I love to chase big whitetails. It is a true passion. It is not, however, my only passion. I made a vow several years ago that I will never allow another spring to pass without spending as many hours as my body will handle chasing gobblers.
I live in southern Michigan and, at age 34, am not exactly an old-timer. But I can certainly remember the first wild turkey I ever saw in my area. I was 20 years old then. Three years later, I was able to draw a turkey license and, well, my life was changed.
Spring turkey hunting is one of the most exciting forms of hunting that I’ve ever participated in. It’s addiction of the finest variety.
It’s also, in my opinion, one of this country’s most affordable forms of high-quality hunting available. Any gobbler that’s reached its second birthday is trophy class. With long beards and spurs, those two-year-olds gobble hard and often.
The true monarchs of the spring, those razor-spurred rascals that have seen more than three or four seasons are the equivalent of a Boone and Crockett class whitetail—with one major difference. There’s a lot more of them and they are available just about everywhere. For free.
That’s right, while you will likely pay a hefty fee to hunt the types of land where world-class whitetails can be found in any number, world-class turkey hunting for turkeys can be found on public lands in just about any state.
From Michigan to Georgia to Texas to Idaho, putting together an outstanding turkey hunting trip is almost as easy as looking at a map and choosing how far you’re willing to travel.
I’ve hunted more than a dozen states for turkeys and the vast majority of those outings were conducted on public lands. I killed birds on each of those trips and more than a few of them were older birds with spurs topping the 1-inch mark.
Turkeys were made for the public land hunter. To me, the joy in killing a turkey doesn’t come from pulling the trigger. It comes from covering lots of ground and striking that longbeard that will respond to the calls. There are few places where you can cover hundreds, if not thousands, of acres in a day without either paying a trespass fee, hiring an outfitter or lucking into that rare situation where access to private grounds is free and easy to obtain.
Public lands, on the other hand, are often large and there for the hunting. While turkey hunting is certainly a popular sport, it’s not on par with deer hunting. Thus, you’ll generally encounter lighter levels of hunting pressure and flock of birds that are comprised of several age classes. The perfect recipe for an outstanding spring hunt.
Obviously, there are some drawbacks to hunting public land. For starters, you’ll need to accept the fact that you will need to access these areas on foot. So get those boots broken in well before hitting the woods.
You’ll also likely encounter a hunter or two from time to time. We all share these public lands—so treat them as you’d like to be treated. There is room for all.
You’ll also need to allow time to learn the ground. Scouting via computer or maps is great. But be ready to devote your first day to simply learning the lay of the land. Public land turkey hunting is an awesome way to experience the spring. And the price simply can’t be beat.