Spring turkey hunting is neither based on luck nor being in the right place at the right time. Skill, tactics, and techniques are the key to consistently bagging gobblers. Turkeys are extremely intelligent and hunting them is anything but consistent. Many things can go wrong when hunting turkeys, the scenarios are always changing.
Springtime is the mating season, and gobblers spend many hours strutting around and courting hens. Although it may seem that they let their guard down, their survival instinct remains strong. A sound or movement out of place, can send them running. Hunters can learn through practice and hunting scenarios, the tactics and skills needed in the field. Here are a few tips to help become a better hunter.
Preparation and Scouting Turkeys
Scouting is one of the most important things to do in becoming a successful turkey hunter. Finding the birds early and observing them will help to determine not only the size of the gobblers in the area but, the location and patterns of hens.
Find the hens, and the toms will be nearby. Locate the roosting area and spend a few days before the season watching birds roost, see if any gobblers have moved in or out of the area. A spotting scope can be of real help in this process. Look for likely strut zones, dusting areas, and feeding areas. Locate spots to set up. Try to find a good first light set up near the roost, but always have a back-up spot or two.
Set-up Location and Bird Decoys
Setting up on the turkeys can be difficult to do, knowing the lay of the land helps drastically. Very few set-ups are going to be perfect, especially the ones that happen fast, as the bird approaches and demands urgency. When setting up to start calling, try to locate an area that is somewhat open, so decoys can be seen by incoming birds.
Decoys give a visual to the turkeys and keep them focused on a certain spot, not scanning the woods. Locate the decoys where the sun won’t glare on them. Try using on hen or a jake and a hen set-up. Keep the decoys from being overwhelming, attraction is the key. There are a few obstacles that turkeys tend to “hang” up on, and cease their approach. Fences, steep hills, fallen trees, stone walls, large fields, and water can make a bird hold up and strut there, waiting for the hen to move to them. Again, turkey hunting is inconsistent, sometimes birds will pass all obstacles and come running in.
Turkey Calls and Callings
Calling turkeys is a pretty easy task, once the hunter learns to vocalize with them. Learning what sounds to make and when to make them is the key to “talking turkey”. Time spent in the woods hunting and observing all sounds made by turkeys, watching live birds, studying sounds with action, and practice, will make the hunter a skilled and confident caller. Learn to use various types of calls such as box calls, slate / friction type calls, and diaphragm calls. Several types of calls, sounds, and techniques may be needed to draw a wise old gobbler into gun range.
Spending time in the field, learning from the birds themselves, and the mistakes hunters make, is the best education a hunter can get. Follow the basic rules, scout for the birds, set-up spots, learn the lay of the land, and practice calling. Combine this with hands on hunting experience, and hunters will be consistently bagging gobblers season after season.