Preparing for the Hunt
The first step is to locate a place to hunt. If it is privately owned, be sure to get the landowner’s permission before scouting or hunting. Contact your state wildlife agency for locations of public hunting land. Scout your hunting area before the season. Locate areas of recent turkey activity.
The clothes you wear to hunt are critically important. Complete camouflage is best, including hands and face. Never wear sharply contrasting colors, or the colors red, white, or blue. These colors appear on the heads of gobblers, and someone may mistake them for a turkey. Be sure that white socks, T-shirts, and other non-camouflage clothes do not show. Pennsylvania turkey hunters must know and obey the hunter orange laws for spring and fall turkey hunting seasons. Use florescent orange also as a covering for that successful turkey you harvest and carry out of the woods. Many turkey hunting vests, hats or coats, are now equipped with orange strips. Use them.
Poor vision can lead to accidents. Be sure to have your eyesight checked and corrected before going afield.
The Spring Hunt
Select a calling location in a fairly open area – turkeys often are hesitant to walk into thick brush. If possible, sit with your back against a tree that is wider than your shoulders and taller than your head. This will break up your outline and protect your back from unethical hunters who may be stalking in behind you. However, do not sit behind a deadfall or other cover that will obstruct your vision; try to maintain at least 50 yards visibility in each direction.
As you are selecting your calling location, remember not to get too close to the bird, or you will flush it off of the roost. A distance of 100-150 yards is usually close enough.
One of the marks of a successful turkey hunter is the ability to call. Those who consistently bring wily turkeys to their calling positions have mastered the bird’s basic vocabulary, and they know how to call, when to call, and when not to call. They learned from real turkeys, other hunters, and from tapes and videos. Here are a few tips:
- If you’re a beginning hunter, don’t call too often. This is a common mistake. If a turkey is responding to your calls and getting closer, you’ve called enough. He’s coming to find you.
- Loud, aggressive calling will excite a gobbler and often bring him in a hurry, but this technique is not effective in every situation. If a bird happens to be close, loud calling may scare him away.
- If you imitate the gobble call in spring, be especially alert to approaching hunters who may think you’re the real thing. Stalking a gobbling turkey is nearly impossible, but some hunters can’t resist trying. Even if you’re on private land, always be alert to anything or anyone responding to your calling.
- Calling is important, but no more important than being in good position and sitting perfectly still. Turkeys may come from any direction, and they may come in silently. Their eyes are extremely sensitive to motion. If they see motion, they’re instantly suspicious. Patience and a soft cushion to sit on will greatly increase your odds.
If Turkey "Hangs Up"
This is the most frustrating part of turkey hunting. You’ve done your homework and made some good calls, but the turkey won’t come into range.
Don’t be too eager to change your location, especially if the turkey has been silent for awhile. The bird may still be coming to you. Also, unseen hunters may mistake your movement for the bird they’ve heard in the area.
If you decide to change calling locations, remember:
- If decoys are legal where you hunt and you choose to use one, cover it while moving. Other hunters will be keying on the shape and colors of a turkey.
- If you suspect there’s another hunter already working the same bird, leave the area – you’d expect the same thing in return.
- Resist the urge to stalk turkey sounds. It is nearly impossible to sneak up on a turkey, and it is also unethical and could lead to an accident.
If everything comes together right, you’ll have a spring gobbler strutting right into your position. The following tips will help you bring that turkey home:
Positively identify your target – in spring, only gobblers (in some states all bearded turkeys) are legal. Know your state laws and obey them.
- Be sure you have a safe line of sight and backstop.
- Keep your shots to thirty yards or less.
- Don’t shoot until the turkey’s head and neck are extended.
- Aim for the base of the head.
- After firing, put on you gun’s safety and quickly approach the downed bird to assure it’s a clean kill.
Real turkey hunters know that success is not measured in the length of the beard or spurs, or even the tagging of a bird. Success is measured in the enjoyment you receive from participating in the great sport. It’s the gobble, not the gobbler, that makes this hunt so special. The sound of the turkey on a distant ridge is enough to fill your game bag with wonderful memories. And the times you are able to outsmart one of the wariest creatures in the woods –well, that’s just icing on the cake.
Working a gobbler in close enough to see him strutting and gobbling is a thrill that is unsurpassed in sport hunting. Even if you do not get the opportunity for a clean shot kill, the challenge has been met with success, for you will be able to come back another day to hear, see, and work that gobbler. That’s what spring turkey hunting is all about, now you have mastered one of hunting’s special opportunities.
Turkeys behave differently in the fall than in the spring. Most hunters try to locate a flock of turkeys, scatter them, and then try to call individual birds back to a central location. Considerable scouting is required to locate flocks and pattern their daily movements. Once you have scattered a flock, wait about ten minutes before beginning to call. Fall calling to young birds requires a different turkey sound than spring hunting. Listen and learn a fall turkey’s vocabulary by using tapes or videos on turkey hunting and calling.
Young birds, scattered, often begin calling shortly after the break. Listen to their calling, try to imitate their pitch and rhythm, and don’t move as they often come straight in to your calling position.
Turkey Hunter’s Checklist
As you prepare to enter the turkey woods, review this short checklist to ensure a safe and successful hunting experience:
- Are you completely camouflaged, or will patches if contrasting colors be showing when you sit down to call? Remember to obey your states game laws.
- Don’t get too close to a roosted turkey. (100 yards is close enough)
- Choose an open calling location that offers good visibility.
- Choose a large tree to sit against to break up your outline.
- Take a cushion to sit on to help you remain comfortable and perfectly still.
- Don’t over call. Just enough to keep the turkey coming to you.
- You may have to change calling locations, but resist the urge to stalk turkey sounds or move in on other hunters.
- Do not carry an exposed decoy.
- Call the gobbler in close – try for shots of thirty yards or less.
- Identify your target as a legal bird, then shoot for the head and neck.
- Put on your gun’s safety and quickly approach the downed bird. Watch for flopping spurs and wings.
- Wrap your bird in a game vest, using fluorescent orange to wrap around the bird, while carrying it out of the woods.
Defensive Turkey Hunting
The National Wild Turkey Federation has developed a list of defensive turkey hunting techniques you should follow.
- Never stalk a turkey. The chances of getting close enough for a shot are slim, but the chances of becoming involved in an accident are increased.
- Eliminate the colors red, white and blue from your turkey hunting outfit. Red is the color most hunters count on to differentiate a gobbler’s head from the hen’s blue-colored head.
- Never move, wave or make turkey sounds to alert another hunter of your presence. A quick movement may draw fire. Yell in a loud voice and remain motionless.
- Never attempt to approach closer than 100 yards to a roosting turkey. The wild turkey’s eyesight and hearing are much too sharp to let you get any closer.
- Be particularly careful when using the gobbler call. The sound and motion may attract other hunters.
- When selecting your calling position, don’t try to hide so well that you cannot see what’s happening. Remember, eliminating movement is your key to success, not total concealment.
- Select a calling position that provides a background as wide as your shoulders, and one that will completely protect you from the top of your head down. Position yourself so you can see 180 degrees in front of you.
- Camouflage conceals you. It does not make you invisible. When turkey hunting, think and act defensively. Avoid all unnecessary movement. Remember, you are visible to both turkeys and hunters when you move even slightly.
- Never shoot at sound or movement. Be 100% certain of your target before you pull the trigger. Remember -- Be Sure, Identify Your Target.
- When turkey hunting, assume that every sound you hear is made by another hunter. Once you pull the trigger, you can never call that shot back.
- Remember the rules for safe gun handling: always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction, always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot, always keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.
- Always call in terrain that is fairly open with a visibility of 50 yards or more in every direction.
- Anytime you use a turkey decoy, you are increasing the chance of an accident. If you use a decoy, place it so that you are not in danger of being shot.
- When walking in the woods in the dark, always use a flashlight. This not only identifies you as a person to other hunters, but helps you avoid falls or other accidents.
- Be sure of your footing and control the muzzle of your gun when moving to head off a gobbler in the spring or break up a flock of turkeys in the fall. Do not put yourself in a position as to be stalking a turkey, it may not be legal and you will increase the chances of an accident.
- When hunting with companions, be certain of each other’s location and know the area they are going to hunt.
- Discuss and emphasize safety techniques such as these with your hunting companions.
- If you are on land where you have sole permission to hunt, do not assume there are no other hunters.
- Remember turkey fever is real. Hunters have been know to lose their self-control. In the excitement of the hunt, it is easy to see what you are looking for, rather than what is there.
- Be sure you know the seasons and bag limits in the state you are hunting, many states differ in turkey hunting laws, read and obey the game laws, and be sure you are an ethical and safe turkey hunter.
Turkey hunting is a privilege, not to be taken lightly or abused. Hunter responsibility is a serious matter, do not let your desire or peer pressure to kill a turkey jeopardizes your safety or the safety of your fellow turkey hunters. There is a challenge to developing outdoor skills to call in and harvest a wild turkey. A close, clean, one shot kill is the ethical way to take a turkey, whether with shotgun or bow and arrow.
Develop your hunting skills, learn about the out-of-doors, hone your calling techniques, and above all respect the wildlife you pursue. Wild turkey populations in recent years have doubled, doubled again, and then doubled again. Habitat and their environment are key to their future. Turkey hunters, as sportsmen and conservationists, have the opportunity to protect this environment.
To inquire or book a turkey hunting seminar, or any of our other seminar topics, send me an Email for more information and dates availability.