Here are a few tips on how and where you can gain access to new or additional turkey hunting property.
- Ask Local Farmers/Ranchers
Traditionally, a turkey hunter acquired access to hunting property by asking a local farmer or rancher for permission. This process has become increasingly more difficult, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. A hunter will never know if access is possible without asking. The old adage, “The worse they can do is say no,” is still true.
When approaching a landowner, try to ask permission during the off-season to put yourself first in line to gain property access. If you are fortunate enough to obtain permission, it is always a nice gesture to offer assistance around his or her farm or ranch. You will be surprised how much favor you can gain from a landowner by offering a little help fixing a fence or moving hay.
A little sweat equity still goes a long way.
Turkey hunters, in general, are always looking for new opportunities to access additional hunting ground. There are numerous benefits to this, including conservation, avoiding over-pressuring, building up low population counts, or any number of additional bonuses.
- Lease Land
Leasing land is the fastest growing method for many hunters to gain access to turkey and deer hunting properties. Similar to asking a farmer for permission to hunt, you should always approach a landowner during the off-season to discuss leasing. It is also encouraged that you visit with them between mid-December and mid-January, because a lot of leases start at the beginning of the year and run from January till December.
Also, have a liability insurance policy in place to protect a landowner from being liable if any accidents happen while hunting on their property. This will help stack the odds in your favor when they make a decision.
Have a simple but thorough contract in place. This will help protect both parties and outline in detail what both individuals expect from each other.
- Hunting Clubs
Joining a hunting club has become very popular over the years, especially in the SouthEast. How do you know if you’re joining a good, reputable hunting club?
- First, ask for references from other current and retired hunting club members. In just a few minutes of visiting with both old and new members, you will gain pertinent information on the atmosphere of the hunting club and whether or not you would like to join.
- Second, make sure the club has access to enough hunting property to support the number of members in the club. There is nothing more frustrating than heading out to your favorite spot only to arrive and see three other vehicles already there.
- Network with Local Hunters
Networking with both landowners and other hunters in your area is an effective way to locate a new piece of hunting ground. Try stopping by your local co-op and asking them for a list of additional landowners and hunters in your area. Reach out and visit with them personally. Co-op’s, local coffee shops and hunting stores are great places to start your networking process.
- Guided Hunts
Going on a guided turkey hunt can be a very thrilling experience! As a new turkey hunter, this might be as good of a chance as you can have in securing both access and success afield quickly. A new turkey hunter can learn a lot in a short time from a good guide. This knowledge can then be used down the road as you start to apply what you have learned on hunts of your own.
Picking that perfect outfitter with whom you entrust your hard earned money and time can be a stressful endeavor. We highly recommend looking for an outfitter that has been in business for many years. If they are still in the hunting business after 10 years, there is a pretty good chance that they are doing something right.
Also, look for a hunting guide who is willing to share references with you of not only successful hunters but non-successful hunters as well. Visit with these hunters and listen carefully to their experience to see if this is in line with your goals and expectations.
Over-hunted areas often lead to failed hunting trips, so review the amount of acreage available to hunt on and determine how many hunters an outfitter is taking to it each spring.
Keep in mind that, when hunting with an outfitter, many times the actual guide is not the owner and is working very long hours with little pay. The industry standard for tipping your guide is a minimum of 10% and up to 20% of the cost of the hunt based on how happy you are with your guide’s work ethic and your overall experience.
- Hunt Public Land
Hunting public land is a great way for hunters across the country to find a place to turkey hunt. Checking with a state’s Department of Natural Resources can secure you a list and map of public hunting lands available.
As with anything, hunting public ground has its pros and cons.
- PRO: It’s usually free or very inexpensive, making it much more affordable than the previously listed methods.
- CON: Overall hunting pressure. Many times you are dealing with a high number of other hunters competing with you for the same turkeys. We recommend hunting public land later in the season rather than earlier. After the first week or two of the season, a lot of the hunting pressure will dwindle greatly, and you’re likely to have a greater chance of having the area to yourself to hunt.
Looking for walk-in units only will allow you to potentially escape the hunting pressure by simply walking a couple miles off the road to hunt. Once you leave the busier main road, you will often find yourself alone in an impressive hunting habitat. If a hunter does his homework and is willing to go to the extra mile (pun intended), he or she can find some great hunting spots on public ground.
Turkey hunting has, and will always be, one of the greatest American hunting traditions. Location is key no matter what, and having an area and plan in place for you to hunt before the turkey season starts will create a better scenario for success.
Good luck this spring in gaining access to your next hunting location!
Credit for this article goes to Woodhaven Custom Calls.