Ready to start your first hunt for turkeys, or just brushing up on a few things you should know before gearing up and heading out? Turkeys are one of the most iconic North American game around, with their long-held title as our favorite hunting bird.
In fact, turkeys are so entwined with United States history that, at one point, some of the founding fathers considered making the turkey our national bird, instead of the bald eagle. Not quite as awe inspiring, but still pretty fundamental to our culture.
Get a Jump on Them!
Hunting is very much an improvisational skill, wherein paying attention to your surroundings, using calls, and finding proper cover can all be very vital to a successful hunt, but it can be incredibly helpful to scout ahead before you begin your hunt.
- If possible, get scout the area you plan to hunt in the night before, so that you can see where the turkeys are roosting. By getting a head start on your turkeys, you’ll be able to locate them in the morning. Don’t worry if you can’t find any, though; your calls should still be effective the next day. You can also become more familiar with the terrain during your night time scout, to make travel much easier.
- Don’t scare them off. Turkeys are incredibly anxious, and incredibly loud. They don’t have the most excellent hearing of any game, but even giving one a slight reason to panic is enough to set off its gobbles for quite a wide range.
- When a turkey descends from its roost, it tends to do so away from the rising sun. This could be so that it can descend from a tree without the sun getting in its vision, but in any event, you can use this to your advantage when plotting where you expect a turkey to be during your hunt. If you’ve found the roost, consider looking toward a nearby open field. Turkeys enjoy sunlight, as most birds that aren’t nocturnal do.
Decoys and Calls
Now that you have an idea of how to set up your hunting area, the next step could be to increase your odds of bagging a turkey with a call, or a decoy. Both have excellent advantages that are worth bringing along.
- For good decoys, a hen decoy is preferable if using one. If you decide to use two, try a hen, and a decoy of a male turkey that is on full display, to signify that there may be some mating that needs to be interfered with. The goal is to lure the turkey into a natural, organic situation, and that’s going to be where you will have the best odds of bagging one. Some of the best decoys available even have motion options, such as a head that bobbles, to simulate feeding, or features that allow parts of the decoy to move in the wind to better mimic a live bird.
- For good calls, the type to use is often a “locator” call, which can be used to get a turkey’s location when they respond, along with a mouth call, which is popular because it is an all weather call device. Mouth calls tend to take a lot of practice, so make sure to get comfortable and practice with these calls before you take them out into the field. The sound that you may want to make should be something like a whistle, or a clean tone. From there, you can lower the pitch.
- Don’t call too much. The idea is to simulate natural calls. If you’re overdoing it, you will drive your turkeys away from the area.
- Don’t panic if it moves away. Birds have certain patterns that they like to follow when they are suspicious, or if they are just slightly anxious, and one of them is to circle back. It’s entirely possible that a bird that seems to have gotten away will come right back to you. If in doubt, move back yourself, and then try the call again. Remember to keep it soft.
With time, practice, and a lot of calling, you should be well on your way to getting a bird in your sights.