With spring only a few months away, I wanted to create a post that covered some turkey hunting tips and tricks for beginners.
If you are thinking of trying turkey hunting for the first time this spring or if you have only been out a few times and just never had much luck, keep reading and these tips may help you bag your first tureky this spring.
The basics of turkey hunting are fairly simple. The mating season for a turkey is in the spring. This can vary based on your location but usually is between February (for southernmost states) through April (Northermost states). Spring turkey season in your area will most likely line up with this time frame. As far as basics on the animal themselves, there are 3 types of turkeys you will encounter while hunting. It is important to know the difference between them to ensure your harvest is legal. These 3 types are Females also known as Hens, Mature Males known as Toms, and Young Males known as Jakes!
Some of the key differences between each can be noted in the photos below, however as a quick reference a hen will no “strut” or puff up and display their tail feathers or “fan.” They do not usually have a beard, although in rare cases they could grow one and as you can see their heads are plain and not colorful like a Tom or Jake. It is very important to understand the difference between a male and female during spring hunting because in most areas only males can be harvested during the spring. Please check local regulations in your area!
Now the difference between a young Jake and mature Tom can sometimes be more subtle but as you can see in the photos, the tail of a Jake will not make a fully smooth fan. The outer feathers will usually be shorter than the middle. The head of a Tom will be less vibrant in color and the beard will usually be smaller than that of a mature Tom.
Tip #1 Scouting
Now that we have covered some basics of wild turkeys, lets get into increasing your odds at a harvest this spring. Knowing the area you plan to hunt is crucial in being successful no matter what animal you are pursuing. Wild Turkeys prefer to have cover while roosted but will feed, mate, and congregate in open spaces. Open area in the woods with green vegetation for the turkeys to feed on is a great place to set up. Field edges are also top notch when it comes to harvesting a turkey in the spring. Look for signs of turkeys scratching in the leaves, as well as tracks in soft soil or muddy areas. This will indicate a turkey travel path or feeding area. Setting up a trail camera can provide insight into animal movements when you are not around. There are affordable cameras on the market that will serve great for beginners.
Head out in the evening a little before sunset to scout an area you will likely hunt. Listen for the sounds of turkey’s preparing to roost for the night. This is what I like to call “Putting them to bed.” If you can locate a roost near a field the evening before you plan to hunt, you will increase your chances to bag a turkey the next morning.
This is a prime opportunity to take an owl call and attempt to get some shock gobbles from the turkeys to help you locate them. Turkeys are notorious for shock gobbling at any loud noises including train horns, owl calls, car horns, thunder, etc. Once you have located where the turkeys are roosting, it is best to wait until they are all full roosted and the sun has set before exiting. This will ensure you will not alert them to your presence.
Tip #2 Choosing the right Gear
For turkey hunting, there are endless amounts of gear that can be purchased but to keep this article for beginners simple, we will go over the basics of each item and as you gain more experience, you will be able to decide which works best for you. A quick gear list for turkey hunting necessities would be your weapon of choice, calls, decoys, camouflage, a knife, and a bag to carry it all in. You can make it that simple or you can get very complex with it. There is no right answer here, it all depends on the person and the terrain they are hunting.
There are a few different types of turkey calls on the market. The main types are Diaphragm calls, Box calls, and Pot calls. Each one is useful in certain circumstances and what you ultimately choose is based on personal preference. I would however recommend having a few different types in your bag while hunting. The main take away from this is to purchase your calls and PRACTICE. You are trying to mimic a real animal and if you haven’t practiced, they will know and you will go home empty handed. I will do a follow on article covering the types of calls and their uses and link it here for you to check out as well.
Decoys can be extremely beneficial during Spring Turkey season, however if you are hunting on public land be very cautious of your set up to ensure another hunter doesn’t mistake them as real. I usually set up my decoys and position myself where if another hunter were to walk into the area I can quickly identify myself and I am not between them and my decoys. There is no worse way to end a hunt than having to visit the hospital or worse.
Tip #3 Setting up
Now that you have figured out where the turkeys are, all that is left is to get in there undetected and set up for your hunt. You want to arrive while they are still on the roost and sleeping. This means getting up early and getting into your stand as early as allowed in your area. Most places allow 30 min before sunrise. Get out there and get into position as quickly as possible. If you are hunting a field edge, get to the area you are going to set up, get your decoys out in the field, set down in your spot and ensure you will blend in well with your surroundings.
Turkeys have amazing eye sight and any movement or out of place object will be noticed by them almost immediately. While you are waiting on daylight to come around, take a few minuets to lay out the calls you will be using, verify your shooting lanes and how you will move into position for a clean shot for various areas around you. This will ensure you are ready to harvest a turkey with minimal movement when they are awake and on the move.
Now for my favorite part!!! Sit back and enjoy the pre dawn silence. The woods will soon erupt in sounds of life as the sky begins to lighten. Once this happens, you will hear the trees come alive with male turkeys waking up and gobbling from their roosts. This means its time to focus on the task as hand and be as still as possible. Turkeys will gobble from their roosts anywhere from 10-30 minuets before flying down. If you are close to their roost you may hear them come down. Now you want to be as still and as silent as a statue.
Tip #4 Calling
Once sunrise has arrived and the turkeys are down out of their roosts, they will be on the move. Heading to open areas to feed, mate and hangout. If you set up close to a roost on an open edge, they may come right within range to get a shot. If they choose not to then you may need to entice them to come over by calling. By calling a turkey you are imitating a female and letting the males know you are ready for their company. This is an art not a science and it takes practice to master and have repeat success.
The most important thing is overcalling can end the hunt before it ever starts. My advice is to do 2-3 series of calling and then stay silent for 30-45 min in the beginning. This gives wary Toms a chance to sneak in and check out the area before deciding to expose themselves. If you immediately get a gobble in return to your call, that is a sure fire sign that the tom knows the location and may come closer to investigate. If you can see them, do not call again for a while. Any movement at this point could spook them. This is where a diaphragm call comes in handy. You can use it to make quiet putts and clucks to draw a Tom or Jake within range of your decoys and potentially you. All that is left to do now is stay calm and wait for your opportunity to get a clean harvest.
Turkey hunting in the spring is an amazing experience. From hearing them gobble on the roost first thing in the morning to walking out with your harvest at the end of the hunt, there is no better type of hunting in the U.S. While turkey hunting can be challenging, it is also very rewarding. Like anything else, you will get out of it what you put in and with the proper planning and set up, you will greatly increase your chances of harvesting one of the most elusive birds in North America. If you enjoyed this article, please subscribe to my blog to receive updates on new posts. Thanks for stopping by and good luck this spring.
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