Turkey hunting is an affliction, a malady that for some continues long after frosty pre-dawn mornings welcome the season and a sweaty, hot afternoon sunset closes it weeks later.
We battle heartache and frustration, elation and joy. From the first flapping of wings or a solo gobble on the roost before daybreak, we’re hooked like bluegills looking at fat crickets. We slam our caps to the ground, curse and shake a fist, run to put a boot heel on a head and hope like hell a spur doesn’t nick us in the leg. Then we laugh, text or call friends, carry the bird home and do it again.
It’s a love affair that few can describe. The advice we get and give, too, cannot be adequately related via words on print or a computer screen. Even the most sage wisdom handed down through generations must be tested in the fires of the woods. Trial and error is the turkey hunter’s teacher and even then, what happened yesterday or last season or 10 years ago or when Granpappy trod the trail back in the day may not be what happens this morning.
Every day is different. That’s the best advice I got from more than one veteran turkey hunter back when I started years ago, and I’ve taken it to heart. I like to hear things transpire in the mornings to see what may happen. Will I succeed? Will I get my butt kicked? Dunno.
Every sunrise, every gobble, every strut and pirouette, every wary eye cast from afar is new and exciting. Frustrating, too. Can’t forget that. And we love it.
Our Grand View Outdoors staff chips in with some of their best turkey hunting tips gleaned from others or their own experiences. Good luck this season!
Just Stay Put
I once had a turkey guide tell me I was the most patient hunter he’d ever sat with. I don’t know about that, but I do like to take a sit-and-wait approach rather than running and gunning. So many hunters jump up and chase gobbles all over the place, and they get antsy if they’re working a bird and he shuts up for 30 minutes or more. Just stay put. He might be coming in quiet, or you might have been calling in another bird that gave you no indication he was even there until his head pops into view. The way I see it, the more you get up and move around the woods, the higher your chances of busting something.
A couple years back on the last weekend of turkey season in Pennsylvania, in late May, I was sitting on the edge of a field about 10 yards inside the treeline. Dad was with me to do the calling, and the 10-gauge pump gun was getting heavy in my lap. It was so late in the season that we didn’t have very high hopes, but we seldom get to hunt together and it we wanted to give it a shot. By 10:30 in the morning it had been two hours since we heard the last gobble. A truck door slammed out in the distance, probably on the far side of the field, which was shielded from our view by the rolling terrain. As we watched a possum ambling through the leaves, we pretty much decided turkey hunting was a lost cause for the day. But it was a beautiful morning, so we sat. And then a rustle in the field caught my ear. I jerked my head over just in time to see a half a dozen turkeys stampeding over the hill, not 20 yards away — presumably spooked out of the field by the slamming of the truck door a few minutes ago. Without thinking, I swung the gun through and killed the gobbler on the run.
Now, was that a function of us staying put, or was it pure luck? Luck is, after all, a dang important factor in hunting. All I know is, we wouldn’t have been there to take advantage of it if we’d been moving around that morning.
— Hilary Dyer, Group Managing Editor, Grand View Outdoors
Searching may not be the best tactic
When I get on a bird or birds gobbling early in the morning, but can’t seem to turn them or their harem of hens my way, I’ll typically stay put. When I was younger, I would chase them as they went away gobbling or try to make some kind of move. I don’t recall that working and I would usually leave the woods empty handed.
However, if I’ve had a gobbler respond to my calling early in the morning and he won’t commit, I’ll sit tight and softly call every 10 minutes or so, just to let him know I’m there. He might not be gobbling anymore, but if he hasn’t moved on, rest assured he’s listening and knows where you are. And even if he has moved on, he’ll be back once he’s done breeding hens. It might take several hours before he returns, but he’s hanging out in that area for a reason. But you better be looking and listening intently! Many times these wary gobblers will show up unannounced looking for the “hen” they heard earlier.
If you spot the gobbler moving in your direction, don’t call and wait until he’s in range before shooting. I’ve killed some mature gobblers by sitting quiet and letting them hunt for me after they went quiet on me an hour or more earlier. One of the best turkey hunters I know kills more gobblers every year by sitting in his original location and waiting for these mature birds. One of his legs is amputated, so he doesn’t run and gun like he used to. But he has gained a tremendous amount of patience that has allowed him to fill his 5-bird limit annually — and they are typically all stud gobblers!
— Mark Olis, Editor, Grand View Outdoors
WATCH: Bauserman’s Father-Son Turkey Hunt is a Success
Bowhunting turkeys requires super stealth
Shotgun hunters know the advantages of run-and-gun longbeard hunting, but bowhunters often overlook the tactic. Why? Simple. Turkeys see too well and getting drawn is often impossible. Enter the bow-mountable turkey decoy from Heads Up Decoy. This full-strut decoy mounts to your rig, allowing you the ability to take the fight to the birds you’re chasing.
I’ve had birds come on a dead run to this bow-mounted setup, and when you draw, that big ol’ tom is none the wiser. I prefer to use a real fan, and recommend getting very aggressive when using this decoy. You won’t believe what you can get away with and the fun you’ll have. Twice I’ve shot birds at less than three yards. Be careful using the decoy on public tracts when shotgun season is open, though, and check state regulations about decoy use.
— Jace Bauserman, Editor, Bowhunting World
If you walk in under darkness and, once daylight breaks, find yourself set up in a little plot of marijuana, don’t smoke it. Just stay focused on the turkey roost and smoke the turkey instead.