I’m on a mission this spring. My goal: get each of my kids a tom turkey. However, there’s a bonus roaming out there in the turkey woods and every turkey hunter who predator hunts should keep their eyes open. What’s the bonus: predators. You and I like a thick Butterball slab of turkey dripping in gravy and predators are no different. Although fox may occasionally target a wild turkey, it’s bobcats and coyotes that really put the power moves on the forest putters. If you set up in a predator-rich environment with an open season, be ready. You may just get a furred bonus before the feathers fly.
You can’t really plan for a predator encounter while turkey hunting, but you can be ready. First, make sure you beef up with a load that can tip over a tom and a coyote without reloading. Most turkey loads are heavy duty, but can you really overdo it with a shotgun? Stick with a heavy-duty load such as the Hornady Heavy Magnum No. 5 Turkey load or even up it and go to a coyote-tailored load. Again, can you really overkill a turkey? This way you’ll not only be prepared to tip over a turkey, but deal with a tiptoeing predator as well.
Next, use decoys. Every coyote I’ve ever shot while turkey hunting keyed in on my calls, but when they arrived on scene they stalked my decoys. Having decoys out not only attracts the attention of incoming toms, but predators, too. As they stalk the decoy it gives you more leeway to adjust, aim and pull off a shot under scrutiny of the wariest eyes in the woods.
You should also set up in thick cover, but with a downwind shooting lane. Regardless if I’m hunting elk, turkeys or predators, I want them to hunt me. If they can clearly see the site where the sound is coming from and not see any noisemakers, it makes them nervous, suspicious and all the more likely to vamoose before I can steady my aim. And since most predators will circle downwind as they approach a brushy setting, keep an open shooting lane in that direction. It’s likely the location where your shotgun will puff some fur.
One of my most memorable turkey hunts took place in southeast Montana. Turkeys were common throughout the pine hills and I knew it was only a matter of time before one strutted in front of my shotgun. On a morning setup a hen with a gobbler in tow eased toward my decoys and just as the planets and stars were about to align a gray streak stalked in from the right. It was a coyote. The turkeys started putting a warning, but the coyote was eyeing my decoy since it wasn’t in retreat like the live birds. When the coyote was about to take a bite of foam turkey butt I ended the meet-and-greet with a migraine-pounding load of No. 5s.
The rancher later thanked me after he visited the scene of the crime. The female I laid low was carrying four pups. That equaled five less coyotes for him to deal with amongst his new crop of lambs and I’ve always had a standing invitation to turkey hunt his ranch ever since.