Turkey season is here and the gobbling has been going on for weeks now, whetting all spring gobbler hunters’ appetite for some clucking, purring and gobbling action. Given how many people chose outdoor activities during the COVID pandemic, a lot of new hunters are out there (since we could all hunt and social distance too)! So, if you are new to turkey hunting, here are a few tips that you will find very helpful to putting a turkey in your freezer and a turkey fan on your wall.
Overcalling is a NO NO!
Part of the excitement of turkey hunting is having a bird respond to you. When that happens, new turkey hunters often want to call right back and keep the dialogue going. It is hard to resist. We all want to hear that thunder chicken sound off and keep boasting of his dominance. However, “playing hard-to-get” is the key to turning the lights out on your next bird. When you get a gobbler to answer, make him wonder where you are, what you are doing and if you are still interested. Stall. Give it at least a few minutes before answering after you have him interested. Not doing so will make the gobbler believe you are so interested you will come to him. He has to come to you. If you try to sneak up on a gobbler, 99 percent of the time you lose! (Don't know how to call turkeys? Our friends at NRA Women have some hints for you, too.)
Scouting is a HUGE help
You have to be where there are birds. So, be sure there are turkeys in the area you want to hunt. Go scout and look for droppings, tracks, feathers and even the turkeys themselves. A good binocular that allows you to scout from a distance first is a good idea. Gobblers like to strut in the fields, so visit fields and glass them before moving in.
No red, white or blue please
These colors mimic a turkey and can get you shot by an idiot masquerading as a turkey hunter. Do wear camo and as much camo as you can to include your face, hands and clothing. Do not wear white socks unless you are SURE when you sit down your pants won’t ride up and expose those pretty bright white socks. Turkeys can see so well that if you blink, it is likely “game over.” White socks are the flag of surrender!
If you have allergies, do take your medicine before going into the field. I have undoubtedly lost many chances for my spring gobbler by having my eyes burning with pollen when I have forgotten my medicine or eye drops.
Line up multiple places to hunt
If you are able to line up a few places to hunt it will be incredibly beneficial for you. Sometimes gobblers are “henned up” and disinterested in the lonely-sounding hen that is over a hundred yards away when he has multiple feathered ladies all around him paying him plenty of attention. No point in hanging around if the bird is locked up and won’t come in.
Visit the next parcel and then double back later in the day if you were unsuccessful elsewhere. I prefer to hunt at daybreak, but honestly when thinking back to my previous harvests, many were right at daybreak when the bird flew down and marched in, but almost as many were mid-morning! Sometimes when the hens go to nest or tell the old boy to bug off, he will get lonely and go looking for love elsewhere. Be elsewhere!
Pattern your gun
Oh man … I hear the stories all the time how people have missed their birds when they shouldn’t have. Some guns “like” certain loads better than others and have a more consistent and denser pattern with certain shotshells. Find out what your shotgun likes to “eat” and stick with it.
To pattern your gun, get a big piece of paper or a target with a turkey head on it. I like the reactive ones on which you can easily see results. Take a steady rest and aim at the center of the paper (30” diameter at least), or the turkey, and check out the results. (We have some more advice about patterning here.)
Yes, turkey loads are expensive. So, what is more expensive, that one or two shells or multiple mornings getting up very early and driving to your hunting spot (price of gas anyone?), and then missing because you were too cheap to check your load? As Hevishot’s slogan once declared, “I did not come all this way to miss!” I am shooting a shell or two to be sure I won’t miss because the pattern was not great before I go afield.
Now go out and earn those spurs!