Turkey Hunting 101: 11 Tips and Tactics For Beginners (EXPERT Guide)
Turkey hunting is one of the most fun sports that man ever discovered. The activity dates back to hundreds of thousands of years ago when our forefathers used to practice turkey dogging to hunt down the birds.
Though these birds are highly engaging, pursuing them can be a tough activity, given that they’re intelligent creatures. In fact, you can spend hours trying to entice a turkey into crossing your range. And in worst cases, miss the opportunity.
If you’re planning to pursue the birds in the woods this spring for the first time, the following 11 expert Tips and Tactics will help you hunt like a pro:
1. Obtain The Right Turkey Hunting Gear
To have higher chances of capturing a turkey, you ought to bring the right hunting gear with you. Some of the essential hunting equipment include decoys, turkey calls, archery equipment, guns, turkey vests and ammunition, etc. We’ll discuss these gear later in this post.
To transport this gear to your hunting spot conveniently, you’ll also need to invest in a high-quality turkey hunting vest, backpack or fanny pack.
Most hunters prefer the vests as they offer plenty of storage space. They’re also highly convent and practical. Plus they come with seats to provide you with lots of comfort during your hunt.
NOTE: Ensure that the outfit you hunt is camouflaged and matches your hunting spot environment.
I’ll tell you the importance of remaining total concealed when hunting turkeys later…
2. Hunt Alongside A Friend
Don’t get me wrong. You’re not just hunting with any friend. Look for a friend who has done it before; someone who have a clue what he’s doing.
It would be even better if you find someone who had previously hunted in the area you plan to hunt. This way, he’ll be able to guide you through the tips and tricks of turkey hunting in your area.
Plus he’ll advise you on other important factors such as the right equipment to bring along, the best hunting hours, etc.
He’ll also assist you in calling the turkeys. How? Well, it has been proved that having someone call the birds 20 yards behind the shooter will aid in getting them closer for a precise shot.
As a side note, most novice hunters have learned the secrets of turkey woods through experienced friends.
3. Identify A Favorable Hunting Zone
If you want to hunt the turkey, you must go where they are. You would want to scout your hunting area for the best hunting spot- the turkeys’ hotspots.
Buy a large map for the area you wish to hunt in. Select a large area where the birds are most likely to be found, narrow it down to a smaller area, then into a piece of property, and finally into a particular hunting zone.
You can as well enlist the help of sporting goods stores staff, hunt club members, area biologists, and DNR workers to show you the richest hunting spots in the area. Be nice to them, and they’ll gladly help you out.
You can also look at the public or private land- just ensure you’ve permission to access private lands.
While scouting, check out high points, ridges, river bottoms, dry creek, power lines, and listen for gobbling sounds.
Besides, look for tell-tale turkey signs like feathers, droppings, scratch marks in tracks, dirt, and obviously, gobbling.
4. Understand The Hunting Rules and Regulations In Your Area
Different states outline varying turkey hunting rules and regulations, hence the need to fully understand what the hunting laws in your hunting area state.
In most areas, only the male turkeys are hunted.
Other rules that you might need to follow include the hunting locations, months, bagging limits and time schedules- all these vary from state to state.
Just be sure to follow your hunting region’s rules to avoid getting into the wrong side of the law.
And oh! Don’t forget to bring along your hunting license.
5. Know The Best Time To Hunt
Have you ever asked yourself why most gobblers are tagged in the first hours of the morning?
Most novices tend to pursue the turkeys in the middle of the day. While this is still possible, it’s not what the experts would recommend you to do.
Turkey hunting isn’t a sport for folks who like to sleep. So, you’ll need to get up early, before the birds. If you could just slip into your hunting spot before the sun rises, you could scale up your chances of bagging a gobbler.
This is so because you’ll minimize your chances of being seen by the roosting birds.
6. Ensure You’re Totally Camouflaged
You might have heard countless times that turkey have excellent vision. And that means that they can easily and quickly detected you- especially if you don’t cover up yourself properly.
The only way to ensure that you don’t get noticed (and ruin your chances of knocking down your target) is to wear camouflage from head to toe. Cover yourself with jackets, vests, long-sleeved shirts, gloves, mask, pants, and boots (black boots also work).
Consider wearing jackets/vest with extra ammunition, turkey calls, and even a pocket full of the trail mix.
Above all, ensure you pick the camouflage colors and patterns that match the time of the year you’re hunting the birds. This will help you blend in perfectly with the forest. If hunting in spring, cover yourself up with lots of greens.
BEWARE: No matter how camouflaged you’re, turkeys can still detect you if you start moving around. So, still yourself!
7. You Can’t Hunt Them Without Decoys!
That’s true; your hunting success will dramatically increase if you employ decoys in your hunt.
That being said, you need to learn how to excellently set up your decoys so that you can get the best out them; else, not a single turkey will waltz around them.
If you’re hunting in the early season, consider setting up a hen decoy alongside a Jake or even a gobbler decoy. Such a setup will provoke enough jealousy from a Tom and will send him running towards your range.
Later in the year, carry along 1-2 hen decoys only. As the season draws to an end, the gobblers are tired of fighting for a mate. They might, therefore, decide that’s fighting your Jake decoy for your hen decoy will be a lot of work.
And when buying a decoy, ensure you pay particular attention to their realism- realistic appearance, motions, etc. - as these will convince the wariest of the birds to come in.
8. Do You Have The Right Weapons?
You can hunt the turkeys with a rifle or bow, but this boils down to the hunting rules in your state.
If the region you’re hunting in allows hunting with a rifle and you’re an absolute beginner, give yourself a chance and hunt with a shotgun.
Women, as well as the youths, will find the 20 gauge shotgun the ideal models for turkey hunting. But bear in mind that the 12 gauge shotgun is regarded as the standard gobbler gun. If you’ve got a one-chambered for 3½ inch shells, things will even get better.
And if you want to experience deadly patterns and lots of knockdown powers, go with the #5 shot.
To create a vicious pattern, you’ll require an extra full turkey choke. Employ full chokes with large shot pellets to achieve maximum punch- which means a good, clean kill shot of up to 45 yards.
Some hunters also fancy the scopes while others don’t. If you’re in the latter category, you’ll enjoy faster target acquisition, and you’ll be able to see everything in front of you if any adjustments are needed.
Overall, if your state allows rifle hunting, go for the .243 and .223- the absolute standards for turkey guns.
9. What To Do When You’re Actually Hunting:
Now that you’ve all the right hunting equipment with you, you’ve identified the best hunting spot, and you've got the hunting license with you, what’s next?
It’s time to get the bird!
Your first mission would be to spot the gobbler you want. And your next mission is to get as close as you can to the bird without him seeing you. You make a mistake, and he sees you, you aren’t getting him- at least not today!
Avoid approaching him if he’s within 100 yards away. Instead, set up and see if he’ll approach you. When setting up, use tree stumps or trunks that are wider than your back and face the bird with your left shoulder (if you’re right-handed).
If you make a call, keep your movements to a minimum. Take advantage of the terrain- like trees, brush, ridges, and hills- to conceal all your movements.
If you call the turkey and he fails to respond, resist the temptation to overcall him. Just wait or change your call, he might turn return with time.
What if you see the bird moving towards you and then vanishes and goes into silent? Just wait; the gobblers are notorious for sneaking up on you.
And when the bird is within your range (40 yards or so), it’s time to aim your shotgun and fire.
One shot-one kill should be your goal at all times.
10. Turkey Calling Will Bring The Birds To You Faster
Calling plays a significant part in drawing the turkeys closer to your range for an easy shot.
But calling the birds isn’t easy as you might think. You’ll need to learn how to use the various calls and when to use them if you want to call them successfully. Seek for help from experienced hunters on how to use these calls.
The general idea behind using turkey calls is to imitate hen vocalizations to entice the gobblers. Therefore, you’ll have to learn various hen sounds- like purrs, clucks, yelps, etc.
I’d advise you to start with the box, push-pin, and slate calls as they’re the easiest to use. Later, you can advance to other types of calls.
With determination and commitment, you’ll be speaking the language of the birds easily and more efficiently- like the experts do!
11. How About Picking Your Target?
At times, you might be approached with a flock of turkeys, and you’ll need to select 1-2 birds before they enter your range.
So, which birds should you pick?
Definitely, you’ll go for the gobblers. And in that case, any gobbler is an ideal gobbler- especially if it’s your first time in the turkey woods.
It’s not hard to detect a mature male turkey. It’ usually large than the hens and the jakes, with their heads bearing bright red with blue and white accents. Plus they’ve got beards and full tail fans.
Of course, the gobbler(s) you pick should be the ones giving you the perfect shot opportunity.
What To Do After The Shot?
A perfectly placed shot should take down the gobbler immediately.
In some cases, however, the bird might start running off rather than dropping down. When you encounter such a case, I advise you to make a follow-up shot to silence him. You just don’t want the bird to disappear, never to be recovered again.
Now, when the bird hits the ground, tag him immediately- before you even start moving in. If you’d wish to take quality photos to remind you of your first ever hunt, the perfect time to do it is when the bird is lying in the woods (not in your truck).
When heading to your cabin or truck, ensure you stuff in blaze orange flag in your turkey hunting vest to ensure you walk out of the woods safely.
If you have always wished to hunt turkeys, there has never been a perfect period to get started. Arm yourself with the 11 expert tips and techniques I’ve shared with you above, and you’ll surely bag a big gobbler on your very first hunt.
Remember that hunting is a game for the patient. So, don’t despair when the gobblers don’t turn up. They’ll eventually do, and it will be fun total fun watching him interacting with your decoys.
After your first hunt, trust me, you’ll never miss a season!
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