With way more turkey hunters now than just a generation ago, wild populations are in decline and the sport has become increasingly challenging. From familiarity with the quarry’s territories and behaviors to sharply refined woodsman skills, from having the correct equipment to solid calling ability, preparation in turkey hunting is paramount. Here are some tips to help make your turkey hunting expeditions a success:
- Be Early– this is especially important if it’s late in the season, and the hens have already bred and are sitting on eggs. Make sure you’re standing in your spot before the sun rises, especially if you’ve identified a location where you believe you’ll find a tom or two flying up in the evenings. Just as the first gobbles break the silence as the sky starts to brighten, use the cover of remaining darkness to move in as close to the roost tree as possible.
- Patience Pays– many hunters use the “run and gun” technique in turkey hunting, but this is likely to spook birds and cause them to retreat to where you can’t get at them. It’s much better to set up a ground blind in an area where you know there are some birds, where you can conceal your gun and keep down on the movement while calling. If you’re early, you can scout the property without worrying about spooking the birds.
- Learn to Track Spoor– scratchings, tracks, roosting and dusting areas, molten feathers and of course droppings are all evidence that at least one bird is in the area. Mixed toe tracks indicate the presence of a family. Trees with excessive droppings and molten feathers underneath indicate a likely roost. Oaks, pines, maples and other broad-branched trees are often used as roosts.
- Learn the Art of Calling– this is a crucial skill in turkey hunting. There are dozens of individual calls and even more calling devices. The hunter must also learn which call is most appropriate in which circumstances. There are several mating calls, for example the hen-turkey wing call and the yelp, and there are also calls used to bring the flock together, such as the lost or assembly call.
- Be Careful –it’s possible to encounter other hunters on your turkey hunting trip. Call out to other hunters if they get too close to you – it’s better to spook your turkey and let him get away than to wind up full of birdshot.
These tips don’t guarantee a catch, but they can really help your turkey hunting. The key is to try outsmarting the birds. It’s rarely easy, but the challenge is part of the fun.