It's April. Spring has sprung, and we are in the throes of prime time for turkey hunting. Big toms are heating up their gobbling action. Hen groups are starting to bust up a bit and separate. This is the time when a big gobbler can be coaxed into gun range with some seductive hen calls. The trick is where to go to find these gobbling toms.

Finding a good private-land turkey lease is tougher than winning the Louisiana lottery. I should know - I've had inquiries out there for more than 10 years now around Hinds County. It ain't happening.

If you belong to a deer hunting club that just happens to have a few turkeys strutting around on the same property, you'll find yourself in the woods with multiple hunters after the same targets. That's not only highly unproductive - it is also extremely dangerous to have too many hunters working the same area.

So what are the alternatives?

Mention hunting public land to some guys, and they break out in cold sweats. This happens even more profoundly when it's turkey season. I can understand their concerns. Turkey hunting, of course, means hunters are out in the woods in force, all making hen calls. Top that with the real things milling around the woods doing their thing as well. Add to that some gobblers that are totally confused by so much calling both natural and contrived. It can make for some very interesting and challenging hunting. The caution flag should always be out.

First and foremost, if there is any way to avoid turkey hunting public land on weekends, do it. The trick is to avoid crowds.

"Last year, several of us were looking for places to set up ground blinds on Malmaison WMA in Grenada County," said Joe Wood of the National Wild Turkey Federation. "This is a great turkey venue with lots of turkey action, but the hunting pressure can be very intense as well. We pre-scouted one day and counted more than 10 vehicles parked along WMA roadways.

"The next day, we slipped into a place pointed out to us, and halfway across an empty field to our 'secluded' hotspot, two other hunters were following behind us into the same neck of woods. We set up our pop-up blind and settled in, but never heard a single gobble."

This certainly does not mean no turkeys were in the area, but with as many as four known hunters in the same piece of woods, no self-respecting gobbler was going to open up under those circumstances.

So, what do you do?

Well, obviously you need to schedule your hunting times when the fewest numbers of hunters might be in the woods. Typically this is Monday through Wednesday as most folks will be back at work, though not all dedicated turkey hunters will be. Stay clear of parking areas where vehicles are already lined up. Be on the watch, too, that other hunters may well come in behind you.

It is a great advantage to any turkey hunter to get off the regular beaten pathways. This requires some judicious preseason as well as in-season scouting to narrow down isolated spots to call without spooking any resident gobblers out of the area. Some really crafty hunters even have a spouse or friend drop them off on the side of the road to slip into the woods to scout so it is not obvious they are in the area. If you locate a good area with some gobbling going on, keep your mouth shut.

The Magnolia State has 49 state-operated wildlife management areas. Populations of wild turkey exist on the majority of them. Naturally some are better than others, having established reputations over the years. If you seek an open public land for a turkey hunt this year, try these:


Bienville and Caney Creek WMAs. Located within the Bienville National Forest in Scott County, these two WMAs have long been known for holding good numbers of wild turkeys.

"With my store located in Raleigh right on the edge of these areas, I get turkey hunters in all the time to check out my homemade calls," said call-maker Paul Meek. "Both of these public areas are popular spots for turkey hunting. Mid-week has less of a chance of bumping into other hunters."

Check out details on these sister WMAs at


Copiah County WMA. This public area south of Jackson offers 6,500 acres of slightly rolling hills with sage grasslands, pines and hardwood-lined creeks. Copiah is a sleeper except for folks living nearby, and those hunters are not saying much.

Med Palmer, the area manager, can answer any questions you have about best times to hunt and suggestions on areas to scout for gobblers. Call him at 601-277-3636. Double check regulations and seasons on line.


Sandy Creek WMA. Located in Adams County in Southwest Mississippi Sandy Creek is a bit of a mixed blessing. It has traditionally been known as a great area for turkey hunting, but it tends to draw a lot of hunters from Louisiana. The high ridges and deep ravines offer lots of places for toms to gobble then run to hide. Calling from a ridge top will likely reveal the whereabouts of any willing