Turkey Hunting in the Ozark-St. Francis National Forests

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Video ozark national forest hunting

The Ozark mountain region is known for magnificent scenery, rough terrain and good turkey hunting opportunities. The St. Francis region is a unique bottomland region located in the Mississippi River Valley and is also known for magnificent scenery, rough terrain, and good turkey hunting opportunities. Hunters will find several quality walk-in turkey hunting areas within the 1.2 million acres on the Ozark-St. Francis National Forests. These areas are the result of hunters requesting opportunities to hunt on public lands managed by the US Forest Service in a place free of disturbance from motor vehicles.

All maintained roads leading into each area are closed to motor vehicle traffic from early spring to late summer. In some areas, road segments and primitive forest roads are permanently closed and re-vegetated to improve turkey habitat and to control erosion. Signs are posted along the boundaries of each area to inform the public about motor vehicle restrictions. Restricting vehicle traffic protects turkeys during the critical nesting and brood rearing seasons. Other habitat improvements include prescribed burning and establishing water holes and food plots for the turkeys. These same projects will improve the habitat for more than 100 species of wildlife.

The Ozark-St. Francis National Forests Walk-In Turkey Hunting Areas are a joint partnership between the U.S. Forest Service, Arkansas Game & Fish Commission, and the Arkansas Wild Turkey Federation as part of the Making Tracks program. It began in 1989 as a way to improve wild turkey habitat on national forest lands. It is also designed to provide a surplus of wild turkeys for stocking and introducing into suitable areas throughout the nation.

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Detailed topographic maps are available online here. The maps can be downloaded for free and/or imported into smartphone apps. These maps overlay Forest Service assets, such as roads and campgrounds, on USGS’s topographic maps. They are available for download by quadrangle. A limited supply of topographic maps is available at the Forest Supervisor’s Office and district offices.

Codes of Federal Regulations

Pursuant to 36 C.F.R. 261.54 and 261.56, forest roads in these walk-in turkey hunting areas may be closed upon official order, seasonally or permanently. Road closures prohibit the use of vehicles on designated roads. Violation of the prohibition is punishable by a fine of not more than $500 or imprisonment for not more than 6 months, or both.

Pursuant to 36 C.F.R. 261.50(e), persons with a permit from the U.S. Forest Service specifically authorizing an otherwise prohibited act are exempt from the order, along with federal, state, or local law enforcment, firefighting or rescue officers acting in an official capacity.

State Regulations

Hunting and fishing are permitted in the Ozark-St. Francis National Forests, except in areas closed by the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission, within developed recreation sites, or otherwise posted areas. All state hunting and fishing regulations, fees, and seasons apply on national forest land. Learn more at Arkansas Game & Fish Commission.

Growing Season Prescribed Burns Benefit Turkey Habitat

Forest managers have long known that prescribed fire used to aid with land management is an important tool to improve wildlife habitat. While many prescribed burns are conducted during the dormant season, or winter, there are benefits to extending the activity into the growing season. Read more

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Walk-In Turkey Hunting Areas

Huckleberry Mountain Walk-In Turkey Hunting Area

St. Francis Walk-In Turkey Hunting Area

Sylamore Walk-In Turkey Hunting Area

Salt Fork Walk-In Turkey Hunting Area

Hunter Safety

Since turkey hunters are camouflaged, it’s more difficult to see each other. This is a dangerous situation that results in hunters being shot and even killed. Accidents can be prevented by following these rules:

  1. ALWAYS identify your target – Never shoot at a sound or movement. Be 100% certain of your target before you pull the trigger.
  2. Never stalk a turkey; you could be stalking another hunter.
  3. Don’t wear red, white, or blue. Red is the color most hunters count on to differentiate a gobbler’s head from the hen’s blue head. White can look like the snowball colored top of a gobbler. Wear hunter orange entering and leaving the woods.
  4. Don’t imitate a gobbler. You could become a target.
  5. When turkey hunting, assume that every sound you hear is made by another hunter.
  6. Be considerate – Don’t infringe on others: if someone is already in your place, back off and find another area.
  7. Be sure the gobbler is within range of your firearm for a clean shot (closer than 40 yards).
  8. Protect your back: Select a large tree, rock or other substantial natural barrier while calling. Hunt in open woods.
  9. Do not move if you see another hunter. Remain perfectly still, and speak to the hunter in a normal voice. Do not wave, use a turkey call or stand up. Be absolutely certain the hunter knows you are there.
  10. Observe all rules of safe turkey hunting.
  11. Remember: You are responsible for your actions. Think before you decide to pull the trigger – there is no calling back your shot.
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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>