by Jim Spencer
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard other hunters say they don’t hunt public land. The excuses are many: It’s too crowded. It’s too dangerous. There are too many fools out there who interfere with the birds you’re working. Yeah, well, nothing’s perfect.
If you can line up good private land for your state-hopping trips — emphasis on “good” — more power to you. Jill and I hunt some private tracts every spring, and we’re always looking for more.
But truthfully, we prefer hunting public land because we have access to so much more of it. Private tracts are often small, and few things frustrate me more than going to a gobbling turkey and coming to a property line I don’t have permission to cross.
The U.S. Forest Service manages about 190,000,000 acres of land, and turkeys are present in huntable numbers over the vast majority of it. Additionally, the individual states collectively own millions more acres of wildlife management areas, and many of the national wildlife refuges allow turkey hunting as well. If all that isn’t enough, some states (Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota are three examples) have landowner incentive programs that give hunters access to parcels of private land.
The following list is the barest sampling of what’s available, but here, in no particular order, are a few good public turkey hunting lands Jill and I have personal experience with. Contact information isn’t provided because you can use Google as well as I can. There are many, many more areas than these, and the only thing missing is you.
- Mark Twain National Forest (Missouri) — 1,500,000 acres.
- Ozark National Forest (Arkansas) — 1,200,000 acres.
- Daniel Boone National Forest (Kentucky) — 706,000 acres.
- Homochitto National Forest (Mississippi) — 189,000 acres.
- Delta National Forest (Mississippi) — 61,000 acres.
- Talladega National Forest (Alabama) — 392,000 acres.
- Ouachita National Forest (Arkansas and Oklahoma) — 1,784,000 acres.
- Kisatchee National Forest (Louisiana) — 604,000 acres.
- Finger Lakes National Forest (New York) — 16,000 acres.
- Black Hills National Forest (South Dakota and Wyoming) — 1,200,000 acres.
- St. Francis National Forest — 22,000 acres.
- Nebraska National Forest (Nebraska) — 142,000 acres.
- Sabine National Forest (Texas) — 160,000 acres.
- Natchez Trace State Park and Forest (Tennessee) — 48,000 acres.
- White River National Wildlife Refuge (Arkansas) — 161,000 acres.
- Wayne National Forest (Ohio) — 240,000 acres.
- Savage State Forest (Maryland) — 54,000 acres.
- Ocala National Forest (Florida) — 388,000 acres.
- Lincoln National Forest (New Mexico) — 1,104,000 acres.
- Uncompahgre National Forest (Colorado) — 955,000 acres.
- Nantahala National Forest (Tennessee and North Carolina) — 528,000 acres.
Find more great information about turkey hunting, strategies and tips in these past issues of Turkey & Turkey Hunting along with other downloads and media. These include expert tips from veteran hunters with decades of experience. You’ll also find specific online courses about hunting tactics, calling and more. Check it out now!