Turkeys often hang out in places you don’t have permission to hunt, but are close by. Here’s how to deal with gobblers on the next piece of property.
You’ve probably been there.
You know where a big tom has been roosting and go after him early, before fly-down time. He gobbles, but he is not exactly where he is supposed to be; he is close to the property line. You go straight to him, and suddenly, there you are, face-to-face with a big POSTED sign — and your tom is just across the line.
What do you do? Where should you sit? The answer is not always a simple one when considering what’s legal and what’s ethical.
Hens and gobblers are not respecters of property lines. They do, however, love diverse areas, and they spend a lot of their time along the edges of habitat: fields, stands of pines, oak flats, swamps, clear-cuts and pastures. This even includes thickets and cutovers when hens start to look for nesting areas.
It just so happens that in these diverse places, turkey hunters are chasing spring gobblers — the breaks and edges of different habitats, which often occur along a property line. When big pine timber is next to an open pasture, or a big oak flat meets up with a fresh, clean clear-cut, many times, they are often owned by different individuals.
Turkeys spend a lot of time near borders of different terrain. They use edges to navigate and can easily go to different feeding areas or quickly escape predators.
It is perfectly legal for a property owner, lease-holder or hunter with legal permission to hunt an entire property, even up to the actual property line. You cannot legally cross the line unless there is legal permission or agreements with the adjacent property owner. Nor can game be shot across the line — it would be trespassing to retrieve a gobbler, even if it was only a few feet.
It’s a loaded question and can be different, as each hunter’s ethics may differ. Any way it is looked at, though, turkey hunting right on the property line is not a good idea. Even though it is legal, it can cause conflicts.
“I stay away from the property lines while turkey hunting,” said Van Britt, a veteran turkey hunter. “Every time you set up on a gobbler, you have a decision to make; you can set yourself up for success or failure and even for adversity.”
Etiquette calls for hunters to respect property lines and have regards for other hunters who hunt properties next to yours. It is manners that leads hunters to back off the property line at least a little more than shotgun range.
If a hunter backs off the line a good distance, there will not be any subsequent accusations or any temptations to take a shot at a tom across that line.
“I don’t put myself in the position of having to make that decision,” Britt said. “A hundred yards away from property lines is a good rule of thumb.”
Tactics for fringe gobblers
If you are hunting a place with different types of habitat, it is a good idea to hunt the edges, as long as the property is continuous and you are not hunting along a boundary. Here are a few breaks in turkey habitat to target:
- Big pine timber next to a field or pasture;
- Stream management zones (SMZs);
- Large, open hardwoods joining plantation pines;
- Sandbars on rivers, creeks and streams running through any terrain;
- Logging trails and rights-of-way in big open woods;
- Edges of green fields and food plots;
- Long and high ridges, especially in hardwoods;
- Alongside flooded timber.
The list could go on. The bottom line is, any change in topography can be places spring turkeys will frequent. Sitting on edges with decoys in an open area is very productive.
When it comes to calling, there is no magic call that will bring them in running from a neighboring property. Basic traditional calling and patience is the key to luring them in.
“I don’t go out with the intentions of calling a turkey off someone else’s place,” said Britt.
Not all woods are created equal, so consider the terrain that you are hunting; find the edges, breaks in terrain, and changes in topography — you will encounter more turkeys. Remember that turkeys, like other animals, will use the path of least resistance, whether they are feeding or traveling from one area to another. Use the changes in terrain and hunt the edges, and if the edge you are near is a property line, just back off a little and enjoy the hunt.