Turkey hunting is a challenge that will test your mental toughness in the field, but bagging a bird can be one of the most rewarding experiences in the outdoors. Take the following steps to help make sure you and your turkey hunting gear are ready for your next hunt.
Secure And Scout Your Hunting Spot
Hunting private land? Never assume you have permission; speak with the landowner before the season begins. If you’re going out on public land, take time to scope it out before you go into the woods for the first time. Go online and check out aerial views and topographic maps of the land you’re hunting. Good turkey hunting spots tend to have a few key features: roosting trees, food, water, open spaces and cover that provides shelter from predators.
When scoping out your hunting spot in person, hit the woods in the early morning before dawn to identify roosting trees. Try to get a feel for the birds’ daily patterns. Scout the spot several times before the season begins to make sure you’re on the right track.
If you’re hunting in the spring, be careful not to scout too early, when birds are still in their winter patterns. They will likely move differently come springtime.
Ready Your Weapon
Shotguns and Choke Tubes
It can happen to any turkey hunter: You call a bird in range, maybe as close as 10 feet. You line up your shot and pull the trigger, only to have the turkey fly off unscathed. What happened? It could be that a shifty turkey simply moved his head as the perfect time. But, there’s also the chance that your firearm wasn’t quite right. Make sure your shotgun is ready to go before the season starts.
Start by choosing and testing a choke tube for your gun. Choke tubes are designed to tighten the pattern from a shotgun blast. The tube holds the pattern together longer, extending the shotgun’s range and allowing for maximum density at impact. For turkey hunting, the two most popular choke tubes are:
- Super Full/Extra Full: These choke tubes produce the densest patterns, and are ideal for turkey head shots.
- Full: A full choke will pattern approximately 70 percent of the pellets in a 30-inch circle from 40 yards out. For turkey, you’ll want to place at least 18 pellets in the head and neck area at 40 yards.
Get to the gun range. Test your gun, choke tube and shells at different distances between 10 and 40 yards. Some choke tubes claim to allow for shots as far out as 60 yards. Try to test your gun from real-world hunting positions. Remember, the tighter the pattern, the easier it may be to miss a bird at close range.
The bow setup you use for big game doesn’t necessarily have to change for turkey season. If anything, you may prefer a shorter axle-to-axle length so you can maneuver your bow with more ease and avoid spooking a turkey.
Take Stock Of Your Turkey Hunting Clothing
Turkeys have super-sharp eyesight. Head-to-toe camo is the way to go during turkey season. Make sure you have a camo hat, shirt, jacket, gloves, pants and face mask. Face paint is also a good option. In the fall and early spring, you’ll probably need camo with brown patterns, while you’ll want to go green as the woods come alive in the mid-to-late spring.
A good turkey vest is key, as it allows you to store essentials and access them quickly. Many vests also come with a built-in seat cushion to help keep you comfortable while you’re waiting for a tom to come into range.
The boots you choose depend on the season and conditions. If you’re hunting in milder spring weather, you’ll want a pair of lightweight, uninsulated boots, while cooler temperatures in the early spring and fall call for insulation. Either way, you’ll want waterproof boots that won’t catch the eye of a turkey — either camo or short boots covered by camo pant legs.
Make sure your clothing fits comfortably and, more importantly, make sure it’s as quiet as possible. Turkeys also have tremendous hearing. The slightest sound can spook them, so make sure your gear isn’t creating any sounds that will alert a turkey to your position.
Make sure you’re prepared for all conditions. Rainy weather can actually produce good turkey hunting, as the birds will often move to seek shelter. This is where a ground blind comes in handy as well.
Dust Off Your Decoys
Decoys can be your ticket to drawing in a gobbler. The jake and hen combo is a popular choice, as many dominant gobblers can’t stand the sight of a young turkey near a female. The dominant gobbler will often come over to chase the jake away from the hen, possibly giving you a clean shot.
The strutter decoy is another popular choice if you want to lure in a big, dominant tom. Turkey decoys are especially important for bowhunting, as they can give you the time you need to draw your bow and make an accurate shot.
Purchase And Practice Your Calls
Some hunters believe it’s best to avoid practicing calls on live turkeys before the season starts, as you may either scare the birds off or, worse, allow them to become bored with your calls before the season. But that doesn’t mean you can’t practice at home. The three most popular types of turkey calls are the:
- Box Call
- Typically made of the wood, a box call creates turkey sounds when you scrape the paddle bottom against a side panel’s lip.
- Pot or Friction Call
- Pot or friction calls feature a two-piece design. A slate, glass or aluminum striking surface is attached to a hollow pot, while a peg, or “striker,” is moved against the striking surface to call. The hollow pot has drilled holes that help carry the sound. The pegs are often made from wood, glass, plastic or carbon.
- Diaphragm Call
- Diaphragm calls feature a piece of latex rubber, or “reed,” stretched across a horseshoe-shaped frame. Blowing air across the reed creates turkey sounds. Many hunters prefer diaphragm calls because of their hands-free design and cost effectiveness.
In the spring, you may also want to try a locator call. Springtime toms are sometimes so eager to find a mate that they will gobble, or “shock gobble,” at any loud noise. That’s where the locator call comes in. Owl and crow calls are popular choices. Remember the law of diminishing returns when it comes to locator calls — the more you use them, the less effective they become.