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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello everyone

My brother and I decided we wanted to try and switch up our Turkey hunt this year. Normally we hunt in the thumb with decent success (we are from Southeast MI) but we would really like to check out the Manistee national forest this year to switch it up. We would like to take about a week to drive up, find a campsite to pitch some tents, do some scouting, and then begin our hunt for 2-3 days.

The park is obviously massive...I was curious if anyone is familiar with the area and where I should begin looking when it comes to what parts of the park I should camp in/begin scouting. I understand rustic camping is allowed almost anywhere in the park, but are the Turkey so abundant that the area I am in wont matter much?

I plan on making 1-2 trips up to the forest as well just to get familiar with the area a little bit.

In general I am just looking for some starting points, tips, or general knowledge of the area that could be useful. Thank you all! Take care
 

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I've hunted Manistee NF a lot from the '70s thru the 90s, but have been sticking closer to home lately. Hunted the Croton, Ruby Creek, Hawkins, etc, areas, all were very good. I'm not sure what direction to point you in., though.... As you have stated, it is a massive area. Best of luck to you this spring!
 
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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I've hunted Manistee NF a lot from the '70s thru the 90s, but have been sticking closer to home lately. Hunted the Croton, Ruby Creek, Hawkins, etc, areas, all were very good. I'm not sure what direction to point you in., though.... As you have stated, it is a massive area. Best of luck to you this spring!
Itchn2fish...thanks for the reply! I keep looking into it more and it seems like my best bet may just be to show up and start walking around with a GPS and record some locations of possible good hunting.

I have no problems with doing this, just figured if there was a "golden standard" of where to start then it be good to know. Appreciate it though!
 

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Be honest I get intimidated by massive national forest ground. When I go to giant pieces I will spend countless hours on Google maps.
Turkeys are no different than most animals and use edges, that can be cedar to hardwoods, hardwoods to meadow or forest to private ag etc.

I have never hunted that forest. But when we go to the black hills. I will break the forest down, take one area, and look for these edges. Out there it's where ponderosa pines meet Aspen or drainages, or pines to scrub oak. A handful of years back I probably had a dozen spots I was interested in marked on the forest maps in one area I think I own and have the entire hills mapped lol I rode around few days before season yelping at those places (yes I do Yelp before season) I dang neared batted 100, I think 11-12 and killed out right quick after it opened

So I'm saying look at it from the micro and not macro level.
 

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I do not know the situation of how many birds there are in the Manistee National Forest now days as I have not really hunted there the last few years

Back in the late 90's my life long hunting buddy and I did a lot of running and gunning. Some times we would cover parts of three or four counties in a day. Gas was a lot cheaper then. Prior to the first hunt I would have better than three dozen toms located. I seldom scouted during the first two hunts as I did not want to locate birds for other hunters. I had a few loops I would cover at day light before work, knowing where I had found birds in prior years I never had a turkey call with me before my hunt started, the experimental hunt back then. That is the 234 hunt now. All I used to locate birds with was a few different locator calls. Some years I would know where way over 3 dozen birds were hanging out.

Some days we would start south of M-20 and finish our day close to 55. I have not applied for any other season than the 234 hunt since it started. Now it can be purchased OTC saving an application fee. Do not be afraid to hunt 234 as there a plenty of birds left. Let the other guys get the easy birds the first two hunts. The 234 gives you a lot more flexibility of when you can hunt.

I got away from running and gunning when I got turkeys closer to home. When I first started in the early 80's I had to drive around 50 miles before I would find any birds. I have killed a few almost out my back door now.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Be honest I get intimidated by massive national forest ground. When I go to giant pieces I will spend countless hours on Google maps.
Turkeys are no different than most animals and use edges, that can be cedar to hardwoods, hardwoods to meadow or forest to private ag etc.

I have never hunted that forest. But when we go to the black hills. I will break the forest down, take one area, and look for these edges. Out there it's where ponderosa pines meet Aspen or drainages, or pines to scrub oak. A handful of years back I probably had a dozen spots I was interested in marked on the forest maps in one area I think I own and have the entire hills mapped lol I rode around few days before season yelping at those places (yes I do Yelp before season) I dang neared batted 100, I think 11-12 and killed out right quick after it opened

So I'm saying look at it from the micro and not macro level.
Dedgoose...great point all around. Google earth may be my savior here. The hard part with the forest is that its intertwined with private lands and campgrounds I need to look out for so I have to compare maps between google and the actual forest boundries, but Im starting to think this may be the best place to start to start narrowing things down.

Like you said, start micro and not macro.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I do not know the situation of how many birds there are in the Manistee National Forest now days as I have not really hunted there the last few years

Back in the late 90's my life long hunting buddy and I did a lot of running and gunning. Some times we would cover parts of three or four counties in a day. Gas was a lot cheaper then. Prior to the first hunt I would have better than three dozen toms located. I seldom scouted during the first two hunts as I did not want to locate birds for other hunters. I had a few loops I would cover at day light before work, knowing where I had found birds in prior years I never had a turkey call with me before my hunt started, the experimental hunt back then. That is the 234 hunt now. All I used to locate birds with was a few different locator calls. Some years I would know where way over 3 dozen birds were hanging out.

Some days we would start south of M-20 and finish our day close to 55. I have not applied for any other season than the 234 hunt since it started. Now it can be purchased OTC saving an application fee. Do not be afraid to hunt 234 as there a plenty of birds left. Let the other guys get the easy birds the first two hunts. The 234 gives you a lot more flexibility of when you can hunt.

I got away from running and gunning when I got turkeys closer to home. When I first started in the early 80's I had to drive around 50 miles before I would find any birds. I have killed a few almost out my back door now.
I thought about waiting for the 234 hunt myself as well. I live below the ZZ line, so the 234 wasn't always a great option for us unless we had some private lands to hunt at the time. But if Im going to make the journey north a bit, the 234 could give me some flexibility on when and how long I want to do it.

I cant imagine though that if I applied and got the early hunt that I would run into many hunters due to the sheer size of the forest. I could be wrong though.
 

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Dedgoose...great point all around. Google earth may be my savior here. The hard part with the forest is that its intertwined with private lands and campgrounds I need to look out for so I have to compare maps between google and the actual forest boundries, but Im starting to think this may be the best place to start to start narrowing things down.

Like you said, start micro and not macro.
Buy hunt onx maps if your worried about private. Whole state plat book. 20 bucks for your phone or 100 for a GPS. I've used in multiple states and it's scary accurate.
 

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Trav You might be right about there not being that many hunters in that big of an area during the early seasons. My problem with the early season is there is not much flexabity in when you can hunt if the weather is nasty. With almost a month to hunt with a 234, you can pick and chose when to hunt.

Years ago I was tipped off by the biologist at the turkey festival in Baldwin that there had been talk about making Oceana and Newaygo counties part of ZZ land. I spent hours the next day adding up the amounts of public lands that would be closed to turkey hunting with a 234 tag if they were put in ZZ. It totaled around 50,000 acres in each county that would be lost to hunting with a 234 tag. 100,000 acres would have been a big loss to the turkey hunters of the state.

On Monday I called Al Stewart, the turkey specialist at the time. He flat out lied to me telling me it had not been discussed. Later that week there was a press release that it had been discussed and not adopted.

My next call was to Bob Garner as he was on the commission. He was nasty to me on the phone before he even knew what I called about.

I have not had any use for either one since. They are not the only times I have been lied to by higher up DNR employees. About the only ones word I trust are the local CO's I have been friends with over the years and local DNR employees.
 

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I have hunted up that way for 25+ years now......birds are plentiful...just no longer on the roads like they used to be - too many road thumpers....an easier way to look at things is find the camping areas you may be interested in and work that way.........some are state ones with only primitive type camping - others could be something different - unless you are truly hoping to just park and camp on a two track........start in cadillac and work your way west on M55........south down to Baldwin on M37.....Luther area, Manistee to Kalkaska on US31- so much area.......there have been days we have driven 10 miles and bang - and others where we drive 200 miles......and start all over again the next day......
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Trav You might be right about there not being that many hunters in that big of an area during the early seasons. My problem with the early season is there is not much flexabity in when you can hunt if the weather is nasty. With almost a month to hunt with a 234, you can pick and chose when to hunt.

Years ago I was tipped off by the biologist at the turkey festival in Baldwin that there had been talk about making Oceana and Newaygo counties part of ZZ land. I spent hours the next day adding up the amounts of public lands that would be closed to turkey hunting with a 234 tag if they were put in ZZ. It totaled around 50,000 acres in each county that would be lost to hunting with a 234 tag. 100,000 acres would have been a big loss to the turkey hunters of the state.

On Monday I called Al Stewart, the turkey specialist at the time. He flat out lied to me telling me it had not been discussed. Later that week there was a press release that it had been discussed and not adopted.

My next call was to Bob Garner as he was on the commission. He was nasty to me on the phone before he even knew what I called about.

I have not had any use for either one since. They are not the only times I have been lied to by higher up DNR employees. About the only ones word I trust are the local CO's I have been friends with over the years and local DNR employees.
Multibeard, I do love the flexibility of the 234 hunt. I think I just need to change my mindset a bit. In the zones I hunt, in the thumb, theres only 600 tags and limited birds. They get over hunted and difficult to locate after the first few weeks of hunters being out there. So for us its always been the sooner the better.

As for the loss of all that public land, that would be a shame! Glad to hear it did not get adopted, but its something I shall keep an eye on now as well.
 

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i have strictly hunted 234 for that reason - more time to come and go instead of messing with 1st or 2nd seasons and potential bad weather.......killed birds on first day and also memorial day wknd........pressure is exactly that.......early bird gets the worm though......we scout our butts off (well my friends up there do) and we spend a lot of time looking for birds......some days its like just turn a corner and there they are......work hard enough and you will be rewarded.....as it gets closer - keep communicating - we are all here to help
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
i have strictly hunted 234 for that reason - more time to come and go instead of messing with 1st or 2nd seasons and potential bad weather.......killed birds on first day and also memorial day wknd........pressure is exactly that.......early bird gets the worm though......we scout our butts off (well my friends up there do) and we spend a lot of time looking for birds......some days its like just turn a corner and there they are......work hard enough and you will be rewarded.....as it gets closer - keep communicating - we are all here to help
Misturn, Im not against camping off the two tracks haha but Im also not against finding a campground to put up my tent and going from there. Mr brother and I are young-ish and dont mind roughing it for a week or so. But even your starting points of which roads and cities to go through are helpful! So thank you.

Sounds like scouting is going to be key here, and theres no real good answer on where to start due to sheer size.

But this is my first time checking out this community and so far the responses have been great. Ill definitely keep communicating through here as my research progresses.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Sounds like you have no ties to any particular area. Snow may be an issue as this winter plays . Snow is deep and we could have some losses. Too early to tell. Keep an eye on the snow depths. Now the least snow is South and east in the forest. Although that's not unusual sure hope we're in for a January thaw.
Snow is definitely a factor to keep an eye on this year! This weekend doesnt look like its going to thaw out anytime soon
 

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If I were to do what you have planned I'd start at Baldwin and look for the Nat. Forest campgrounds. I'm not sure they'll be open by the start of 234 hunt so best to check with the
Rangers in White Cloud. I can think of three that have always had good turkey populations and public access. Look for water, grassy areas that'll have bugs, scratched areas in the oaks, etc. and plan to walk in a ways off the road. Take a Thermacell with a pack of refills and put your food where it won't attract bears.
 
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