April 18, 2015
Tips for a Successful Turkey Hunt
Spring turkey hunting can be an amazing time of year. For those who have experienced the thunder of a gobbler, they know what I’m talking about. If you have never turkey hunted before, but are curious, find a way to get out this spring. I can’t recommend it enough.
Photo courtesy of Captured Creative
Turkey hunting is a great way to get back out in the woods and sharpen your hunting skills. Below are a few things to think about if you’re planning to go chase some thunder chickens this spring.
A paranoid bird with insanely good vision
Wild turkeys live in state of paranoia, and because of that, they can present some interesting challenges while trying to hunt them. On top of that, they have insanely good vision. Their ability to detect movement and potential danger always amazes me - even if you’re hundreds of yards away. A turkey’s vision is by far their best line of defense. If you have any hope for success, you need to be in camo head to toe, in good coverage and be absolutely motionless when Mr. Tom comes strutting in.
If you can, the use of blind can be an effective method here. It allows you to set up in areas where there might not be great cover, but also helps to mask any movement while trying to sit still.
Where and when to hunt
Understanding where and when turkeys are moving is half the battle. If you can find where turkeys are roosting at night, that’s a great place to start. Just like a whitetail’s bedding area, it’s sacred ground, so it’s important to key in on the roosts early to avoid busting through the area and pushing all the birds out. If you can find a roost, get there well before sunrise and set up in the darkness in hopes of calling in birds at first light off of the roost.
There are really three different times throughout the day that you can be most effective. At the crack of dawn, like mentioned above, which can be tough to swing at times. However, there’s good news for you folks out there who don’t like to get up early. The late morning starting at about 9 AM can also be a killer time to hunt. It’s in those later-morning hours that birds get up to start moving around again, and most avid turkey hunters will tell you that from 9 - noon is a great time to hunt. At about the lunch hour, I’d call it quits, take a nap or head in for lunch, and then get back out for the late afternoon hunt as the birds start moving again.
Calling in Turkeys
There’s nothing more exciting than a big beard-dragging Tom getting all worked up over that raspy ol’ hen call you’re making. That’s why a lot of folks relate turkey hunting to elk hunting the rut when you’re calling in bulls, but this time it’s a 20 pound bird.
Photo courtesy of Captured Creative
Calling in turkeys is one of my favorite things about turkey hunting, especially when you have a gobbler all hot and bothered on the other end of your hen call. If you’re not getting any responses, fight the urge to keep calling. Less is more here, and you’d be surprise by how soft little sounds can do the trick. Try to avoid the temptation to be on the horn every couple of minutes.
There are a variety of types of turkey calls out there. My advice here is buy a few different types and practice to see what you’re most comfortable with. It’s all about building confidence in the call, so that when the time comes and that Gobbler is lighting up over the ridge, you can lay those sweet purrs out there to coax him to come on in. For your most common call types, you have the box call, a slate call and then a mouth call. In the video below, Seven Rinella walks through the different options you have.
Most hunters would recommend laying out a few calls every 20 - 30 minutes. If no response, just continue to sit still. Some turkeys will still move in on that hen call without making a noise. However, if you do have a male turkey responding on the other end, listen in and locate where he’s gobbling from. At that point you either need to get aggressive and move in on him or set up shop and lure him into range with those sweet hen sounds.
Check out our other blog post on some of our favorite turkey hunting calls.
Use of decoys
Decoys are an important tool in a turkey hunter’s arsenal. You already have a paranoid bird with insanely good vision, so you need to stack the deck in your favor. Decoys will help with that. Without spending too much money, you can get yourself a set of decoys that will greatly help your odds of bringing a bird in. Check out some of our favorite decoys in another post of ours.
Fanning and Reaping Turkeys
This is the ultimate turkey experience. When you have a Tom out strutting and fanning that won’t commit to your setup, it’s time to put on the stalk. A few years back I was able to reap a mature Tom with my good buddy from 200 yards out. It took almost an hour, but it was an incredible hunt. We couldn’t get this Tom to come in, so we belly crawled at the Tom with a full strut decoy in front of us. As soon as that long beard saw us approaching with the decoy, he locked in on us and started to come our way. He lost all inhibitions and could only focus on our decoy. He did not see the two full grown males laying behind the decoy with a Remington 870 pointed his way. It was an unbelievable hunt, and I can’t wait to put the reap on another mature bird again.
This is the Tom my good buddy and I put the stalk on from 200 yards out. Took a few more shots than necessary, but still an amazing hunt to get on the reap.
Turkey hunting is a great way to get out and enjoy the woods in the springtime. There’s nothing more exciting than exchanging calls with an ornery Tom, so get out and take advantage of the opportunity this spring.