Six Keys to a Successful Springtime Turkey Hunting
The season’s upon us!
It’s that special time of the year when gobblers are sounding off, hens are traveling in packs, and hunters clad head to toe in camouflage, moving into the woods with their old shotgun or high-performance compound bow in hopes of bagging a wily old tom.
If you intend to hunt, you need to know the absolute big picture basics of bagging a bird. Yes, you’ll need to sit. Still, you’ll need some effective camouflage and you’ll need an efficient way to kill the bird. Those tips all fit into the key points below.
If you can’t nail these six items, you won’t kill turkeys consistently no matter how effective your ground blind is, how far your gun shoots, or what call you throw out.
The Six Keys
You can’t Kill ‘em from the Couch
This is the “No, duh!” answer that many hunters need to get through their head. When you hunt, you may have to hit the woods and come up empty handed for a few days before you hit that lucky morning where gobblers are sounding thick as flies on a bumper.
If the hunting were easy, there’d be no turkeys. One of the keys of turkey hunting is hunting when it’s hard. Often, it’s on a rainy morning, the week of bad weather that lets up, or the holiday morning when you have the woods to yourself. That’ll be the morning you get your bird.
Go to the thick swamps a mile or more from the parking lot, or the extra 20-mile drive to the isolated farm surrounded by non-hunters. If there’s one absolute truth of turkey hunting, it’s that you have to be where the birds are if you want to kill them.
Scout like the Tom’s Life Depends on it… because it does
We already covered that you need to be where turkeys are to kill one. Obviously, the next step is to determine where the turkeys are, and where they will be. These questions are answered when you’re scouting.
Most turkeys can be killed without a single call. All it takes is the opportune ambush point, and you can hunt turkeys just like deer. Things to look for are roost trees, primary food sources, nesting cover, strut zones, dusting bowls, and pathways between them all.
Find them, mark them out on a GPS or map, and figure out how to slip in and out without being detected.
When a turkey sounds off on a nearby ridge, you should already know where that big guy is headed, what he’ll be doing and where you can set up to kill him. Make accurate notes and spend ample time preseason and during the season to be updated on the turkeys’ whereabouts.
Preparation = Success
If you head to the woods unprepared, then you’re certainly going to have a harder time than if you took a Sunday afternoon to get ready. The key to preparations is spending time on what you need to do.
Turkey hunting requires more prep work than other types because you have to hone your skills and equipment.
If you head to the woods with a shotgun and don’t know your effective range based on patterning your gun, what do you expect to happen when you break the shot? If you only know a single type of call and the turkeys don’t respond, what’s a man to do?
Learn as many calls as you can, pattern your gun with the best ammunition you can convince your wife to let you buy, and for the sake of your hunt, go scouting!
Your hunt will be easier and more fun if you just get ready.
Hunt Smarter AND Hunt Harder
You have to give some “Oomph!” when you’re in the field.
You may have to walk a mile or so, you may be rained on, be eaten alive by mosquitoes and come up empty handed. At the same time, busting through the woods like a wild beast with no sense of what to do will be a death knell for your efforts.
The right balance of knowing what to do, and having the stones to do it is the name of the recipe for turkey trophies.
A perfect example would be burning out your best spot on opening morning. The truth is, many toms will be henned up and you’ll have a rough time getting them to come into the call.
That doesn’t mean you have to burn it up every weekend. Wait for the opportune moment and keep a cool head about yourself until that moment comes.
Be Flexible & Resilient
You can never hunt a day in your life that goes exactly as planned. There are too many moving parts in the woods to predict everything. Be resilient and go with the flow.
If that old bird doesn’t come in, you may have to let him slip off and reposition your setup to kill him before he leaves for the day. Just wait for the best time.
The smarter you are about the way you hunt and the more options you allow yourself to have, the more effective and consistent you’ll be in the turkey woods.
Look for setups that force the hand of the turkey. But if he decides not to come in, you can still slip out to reset. Carry and use multiple calls to sound like a flock but don’t be discouraged when it doesn’t work. Know when to be completely silent too.
It’s all part of killing toms and being in the springtime turkey woods.
Be a Woodsman!
If you love turkey hunting, then you probably also love the forest. You love the hunt because of where it is, and being engulfed in nature is priceless.
The best thing you can do to help your turkey hunting successful is turning that passion for the outdoors to learn about the woods at large. Know about the trees, the birds, and the terrain. Know what turkeys eat, how they behave in different weather and different terrains.
A woodsman is a true outdoorsman that can handle most situations and still come home with a filled tag. It starts with knowing your gear and using as little as possible.
Progress on learning the behaviors of all the big game in the habitat you’re hunting in and how they affect each other and move onto the primary food sources of those game animals in the area. Before too long, you’ll have a Ph.D. in woodsmanship.
These are the key, the big picture high ticket concepts you need to master before you can be a true turkey hunter. The tips and tricks for turkey hunting will come in time but as a beginner, look at the big picture and understand the fundamentals of hunting.
Enjoy your time in the woods this spring. Make sure to do your part in looking after the turkey woods and conserve the population we all love to chase so that we can chase them forever.