Treasure Nobody Else Wants

Traveling across America filming, hosting media hunts, working sport shows, and presenting seminars, I visit with thousands of turkey hunters every year. And I hear many versions of the same question from “working man” turkey hunters: “Loved your seminar and all the incredible places you get to hunt, but I have limited time and don’t have access to managed, prime turkey spots with food plots and crop fields. I usually hunt public ground and can’t afford to travel far, so how do I hunt turkeys where I live?”

Great question. If you watch turkey hunts on TV, showing hundreds of river bottom roosts full of gobbling turkeys, rolling wheat fields full of stutters and miles of “run-and-gun” timber, you understand why most hunters feel left out. While I do hunt some pretty awesome places, I also hunt (and film) on a lot of public ground and small tracts of land–the same places you hunt.

An example of this, is a very special, 200-acre cattle farm in northeast Missouri, that you see on this map.

Of the 200 acres on this farm, 195 are over-grazed, open pasture with way too many cows. The only timber is several tree-lined ditches leading to a small (4.5-acre) steep, rough patch of timber and brush. Almost like Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree, this is the only parcel not bulldozed to make more room for cattle.

A winding creek borders the timber at the bottom of the ridge running east to west, and there’s a north-to-south ditch (small creek) that splits the center of the timber. At the head of the ditch are huge cottonwood, sycamore, and oak trees that survived the logging. As humble and unlikely a hunting spot as you’ll ever see, these are roost trees for local turkeys.

This type of habitat, from casual observation, seems useless for turkey hunting. If you come here any time after 9 a.m., it’s devoid of turkeys. You could call until you’re blue in the face and you will hear nothing, because they’re not here. Additionally, you can forget run-and-gun, because in early spring you can see all the way through the trees to the pasture on the other side! There are maybe two setup spots, so you’d be done “running” in five minutes.

Evening return
But in the late evening, groups of turkeys return from the east, south, west, and north, after a day in crop fields, wooded draws and pastures of surrounding farms. I found this ground quite by accident, as the landowner could not lease it for hunting, so he just gave us permission to hunt it. It is a hidden jewel, away from roads and surrounded by open pasture on all four sides. At first light in the springtime, this wonderful ridge rocks with love-struck Toms.

It’s a morning place, and you have one shot at gobblers as they leave the roost. Over the years, we have made the most of this by taking many gobblers, shooting great video, and this unlikely place has become my go-to spot when I really need a turkey for the video camera or an outdoor writer.

This is the kind of place 99 percent of turkey hunters would snub their noses at, but it’s a gobbler-killing honey hole. Wherever you live, wherever you hunt, try to locate a place like this. There will be no expensive lease cost, you won’t have to try to buy the land, and you won’t have to plant food plots. You’ll be the only one interested in hunting it.

It can be your little secret.

 

Bonus… for details on how Ray chooses setup spots on this farm, and to see successful turkey hunts from this location, check out the video blog post at midwestoutdoors.com/pastureturkey.

 

Ray Eye is a MidWest Outdoors hunting instructor. He was raised in the turkey-rich hills of the Missouri Ozarks, and is considered the dean of America’s professional turkey hunters. It’s less widely known that he is an expert hunter for many other species. Eye has produced an online course, “Calling is Everything,” that details how to call turkeys at any season of the year. Find it at eyesontheoutdoors.com.