March 26, 2015
By Steve Hickoff
Wild turkeys are the most paranoid birds on the planet. In theory, fooling a spring gobbler into killing range of your gun or bow seems easy. In practice, it's harder. You've got to do your turkey hunting homework. Checking out these spring turkey hunting tips
is a great start.
Photo via Camera Corner
How to Find Gobblers
Pre-season scouting and during hunts is an ongoing strategy. New turkeys may arrive from other locations during the spring dispersal. Daily movements of resident birds may change. Often turkeys use the same inviting habitat annually for what it offers them, namely roosting cover, seasonal food sources and spring breeding/nesting areas. That's where you'll find birds.
Turkeys also leave a mess wherever they go -- a bonus for hunters. Droppings, molted feathers, scratchings in leaves where they've uncovered food, tracks in mud or dirt, dusting areas where they've rolled in loose soil, and even wing drag marks from strutting, can clue you in to their presence. Putting this puzzle together gets you closer to tagging one.
Turkey locator calls are used to make male spring turkeys "shock gobble" on hearing a loud sound. This allows a hunter to mark the exact location of a gobbler.
Traditional locator calls include the crow or barred owl. Duck, goose, coyote and even hawk calls work too, among others. Turkey vocalizations are also used to locate gobblers. Excited yelps often shock a tom into gobbling. Just be ready to make your setup if he's close.
Gobblers often sound off on the roost as day breaks. If you haven't heard one that morning, try owl hooting. If this doesn't work, crow call if the timing seems right. Crow calls also work well during the day as you run-and-gun, prospecting for turkeys. However, you should also know how to kill turkeys that won't gobble.
Different Types of Turkey Calls
Different Turkey Calls
Calling a gobbler to your setup includes a range of vocalizations for specific situations. Choosing a particular call is crucial.
This Flextone Thunder Yelper goes for about $16 at your local sporting goods store. Photo by Ron Sinfelt
Mouth Calls: Turkey mouth call diaphragms are made by stretching latex rubber (often described as a reed) across a horseshoe-shaped frame centered inside a plastic skirt. You blow air across the latex reed (or reeds) to make turkey sounds. They're inexpensive. A diaphragm, as they're often called, offers hands-free operation. Just ounces to carry, you can hide one in your mouth.
Pot and Peg Calls: A striking surface attached to a hollow pot -- often with drilled holes underneath to create sound resonance with the inner chamber -- and a peg (often called a striker) form this two-piece, hand-held turkey caller. Striking surface materials often include slate, glass and aluminum. Pegs are made of wood, carbon, plastic, glass and even turkey wing bone.
Box Calls: Most box calls are made of wood. When you scrape the paddle bottom against a side panel's lip (many have two; some just one) the hollow chamber inside the narrow, rectangular box makes a sound -- ideally one a wild turkey would like to hear.
More Spring Turkey Hunting Tips
Best Times to Hunt
The best time to hunt is when the season is open. Seriously though, all phases of legal shooting hours provide opportunities.
In the morning, gobblers sound off to indicate their roosted position to hens. Turkeys may likely move off to a daytime location where the gobbler struts and the hens linger nearby, often feeding. By late morning, if hens are nesting, a male turkey may find himself alone and looking for company. You can capitalize on this by trying to call him to your position. Afternoon birds, where seasons provide, may loaf in shady areas then begin to feed as daylight begins to fade. Put yourself between where turkeys have been and where they'll roost and you may kill one, too.
No luck one day? Get back out again. Pattern unpressured birds to nail down their daily movements. Make your setup along this reliable path. Use a blind if it'll help you sit longer. You can also run-and-gun turkey hunt without a blind. Just make sure you've got the right tools in your vest.
Work the Weather
Weather is often a major influence on turkey hunting success as it affects bird behavior.
Fog can keep turkeys on the morning roost later. Extreme heat may find midday birds loafing in shaded areas near water. Heavy spring snow may keep turkeys from regular feeding and strutting patterns. Clear and calm spring mornings with a bright rising sun often result in good roost gobbling, allowing you to find birds. These mornings are often the most pleasant for you to hunt as well.
Still this favorable weather trend can challenge turkey hunters, especially if hens are still around and not nesting. Gobbling pulls female turkeys to a male turkey's roosting location. There breeding birds get together and move off as a group, leaving you wondering what you did wrong. The answer: nothing.
The best weather for turkey hunting like a pro is often determined by your ability to know what birds will do in a particular situation, no matter how blue or gray the sky might be.
This Year's Best Guns, Loads & Gear
Finally, your shotgun or bow needs to do the job when a strutting longbeard steps into the killing zone. You've earned this moment. Your heart is racing. Calm down if you can. Enjoy the scene; it's what you've worked so hard for. Now take the shot.
To shoot well, handle and use your shotgun or bow before the season. You could even crossbow hunt turkeys. Selecting the right turkey choke and shooting targets can give you an edge. When the gobbler steps in range, you'll be ready.
Just as finding the right gun for turkey hunting is important, finding the right shotshell is equally important. Be sure to pattern your gun and make note of how the load performs before you go afield.
Decoying Made Easy
Once you've interested a gobbler with your calling, using the right decoys for the situation may be an option.
Ranch and Farm Country: You're hunting out west where gobblers and hens can see great distances. A big spread of turkey fakes -- say several dozen -- could pull birds in from far off.
Ridge Tops: You're hunting Eastern gobblers on hillsides and mountains. Stake fakes before fly-down time. Call when birds hit the ground and pull them up to your decoys.
Swamp Hunts: In the South, dry land decoy sets in bottlenecks and travel lanes between watery tree roosts and fields can draw turkeys in for a look. Be there waiting.
Strut Zones: Know that gobbler's strut zone? Put a big spread of dekes there covering it up. Something is bound to happen.
Our Favorite Recipes
Wild turkeys are different than store-bought frozen roasters, for sure. No, they're not gamy. Yes, they're delicious. It all depends on the cook of course. The right wild turkey recipes are a great way to start.
Photo by Holly A. Heyser
You can basically use breast meat in any recipe that includes store-bought domestic chicken fillets or farm turkey. It's that simple. Many hunters simply opt to finger the meat, roll it in egg batter then flour, and fry it in cooking oil.
You can also parboil the drumsticks in a tall pot of boiling water. After 90 minutes or so, you can remove the legs, cool them and pick the meat for use in soups. Breast meat and legs now removed, you can do the same thing with the upper and lower de-feathered and skinned body of the turkey (snap it into two pieces).
Using all the turkey this way extends the hunt and provides tasty meals.
"Talkin' Turkeys" host Matt Morrett knows a thing or two about gobblers. Photo courtesy Zink Calls/Avian-X
Pro Advice From One of the Best
We caught up with Zink Calls/Avian-X turkey pro Matt Morrett, to get his thoughts on favorite places to hunt, scouting birds, calling turkeys and his best turkey hunt memory.
Favorite Place to Turkey Hunt
"My favorite place to turkey hunt is in the northeast and my home state of Pennsylvania where I grew up hunting â€“ it may not be the best region or the worst but it's my home. I'm fortunate to hunt all around the country. When I'm hunting PA it brings back all those memories of where I grew up turkey hunting."
"When you scout in the pre-season â€“ even during the season in a new location â€“ get to know the land and the area first. What's really important is to do it right, five or six days before you hunt â€“ even the day before if you can. Sometimes you can over-scout, but doing it right before your actual hunt works best. Find where turkeys roost, feed, strut and so on."
"I try to go with less is better. If I'm trying to sound like a hen, and get no response, I crank it up a bit -- if no response, I've got to amp it up even more. I want to get a gobbler cranked up, then stop calling and let him come and find me. Once he's coming, my advice is to let him come. You might have to call a little again. To me though, getting him to the point where he's gobbling hard, then letting him look for the hen he thinks I am is what I want."
Best Turkey Hunt
"In all honesty, if they gobble good and come hard, they're trophies to me. The best turkey I've ever been a part of is my daughter Madison Morrett's first one. She killed the Pennsylvania gobbler at 15 steps with .410. Afterwards, she screamed with excitement for five minutes. As a parent I then knew exactly how my dad felt when I shot my first turkey."