Try this handful of productive tracts of public land for your gobbler this spring
Hunting opportunities for wild turkeys abound on public land in Louisiana — five Wildlife Management Areas boast a high hunter-success rate. Look to these WMAs when searching for productive public ground this year.
- Fort Polk WMA is 10 miles south of Leesville in Vernon Parish;
- Peason Ridge WMA is 14 miles north of Leesville in Natchitoches, Sabine and Vernon parishes;
- Clear Creek WMA is 20 miles west of Leesville in Vernon Parish;
- Big Lake WMA is 12 miles west of Gilbert in Franklin, Tensas and Madison parishes;
- Bodcau WMA is 17 miles northeast of Bossier City in Bossier and Webster parishes.
“I would caution people who want to hunt Fort Polk and Peason Ridge, to keep in mind it’s owned by the (U.S.) Department of Defense,” said Cody Cedotal, the turkey program manager for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. “You really want to check maps posted online each week to make sure the area you want to hunt is open. Large portions routinely close for military training.”
Cedotal said if hunters are faced with closures on Fort Polk or Peason Ridge, to look to Kisatchie National Forest, which boasts more than 600,000 acres that is available to the public. “Those five ranger districts have good turkey populations,” he said.
Statewide, however, the turkey population is still on the decline, a trend that began in the early 2000s.
“We had a stretch of wet springs and that dampened reproduction rates and really hurt the population overall,” he said. “We need several years in a row of good reproduction, and we’ll feel a lot better about our turkey population in the state as a whole.”
Early in the season, Cedotal said turkeys stay around bottomland hardwoods where hard mast is still available. “And then, as the green up occurs, they use those upland ridge areas a little more,” he said.
Cedotal said it’s best to hit the woods on high-pressure days with clear mornings, typically without much wind.
“They tend to gobble better then,” he said. “Make sure you are familiar as possible with the area beforehand. Do some scouting prior to the hunt, before the season or before the hunt to try to locate some birds.”