Consistent successful turkey hunting for toms requires a high degree of skill and the right advice, equipment and clothing that can only be found at a specialty store like ours. Wild turkeys are extremely wary and possess keen color vision and good hearing ability, but the proper gear and tactics will make the difference.
Where To Hunt
Finding a place to hunt turkeys in the spring is the first issue. Are you planning to hunt nearby or planning a trip? Some states require special permits for spring hunts, while the majority of turkey populations can be on private lands in others. You must have permission to hunt turkeys on private property. U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or Bureau of Land Management land with public access is open to hunting with the necessary state licenses and permits. There are also privately owned properties and clubs that offer hunting for a fee. Our staff can help point you in the right direction. Then it's time to hunt! Many thanks to the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department for putting together the tips below. We know they will put you on more gobblers.
The More You Scout, the Better the Hunt Turns Out
Once you have have found an area to hunt, finding turkeys is the next problem you must face. Almost all successful hunting comes down to spending a lot of time in the field scouting. Preseason scouting for sign left by turkeys is the best way to find a good hunting area. Signs to look for are roost trees, droppings, feathers, scratch and dusting areas. Also, listen for gobbling. Make a note of feeding areas. In timbered areas, preferred roost trees are tall, old and/or dead pines that are sheltered from high winds. If there is a high ridge, bluff or butte with a view of open park areas, scanning with a spotting scope is a good way to spot turkeys .If any toms are in the vicinity, chances are good they will be out in the open going through their spring courtship display. Try and find more than one area to hunt. You never know who else has scouted the same birds and it is always good to have an alternative.
When You Find the Birds
If you are scouting during the season or the day before the opener, once you spot a tom, mark his location and arrive there early the next morning before he leaves the roost tree. Some hunters use an owl hooter during the early morning to get roosted birds to call back. Hooters are commercial mouth-blown devices that imitate a large owl's hoot. Once a gobbler is located, the hunter can move in quietly, set up a decoy, then hide and use his turkey call.
If you don't hear a bird gobble of its own volition, move through the woods and make several hen yelps every 300 to 400 yards. Such calling should be done only from a location where you can hide quickly and also have a good view of the surroundings.
Here Are Some Other Tips For Spring Success:
- Be in the woods by the crack of dawn because this is when the breeding-age toms begin sounding off with lusty gobbles audible half a mile away on a still morning. Breeding-age toms do most of their gobbling during the first two hours of daylight, but during the height of the mating season, an occasional gobble may be heard at any time of the day.
- If you hear more than one tom gobbling, move in on the closest tom as fast as possible. Stalking a more distant tom may result in a busted stalk.
- When calling to a tom on the roost early in the morning, a couple of soft, sleepy clucks works better than the hen yelp. A tom is reluctant to respond to a love yelp so early in the morning.
- Whether you wear camouflage or not, your clothing should blend with the foliage around you. Although some hunters swear by facial camouflage and clothing, good hunters know that nothing spooks turkeys more than movement.
- Where should you take a stand? After a gobbler sounds, try to move within 200 yards of his position and then choose a stand in a fairly open area. As a general rule, turkeys avoid thickets that could conceal an enemy. A turkey likes a certain amount of ground cover within the timber to make it feel secure. However, the ground cover must be open enough to instantly afford the turkey good vision, allow it to walk without touching or coming into bodily contact with thick ground growth and assure it quick wing action and passage if need be. Turkeys are like any other animals-their behavior is mostly directed toward survival.
- Once you are on a stand, sit still and be patient. Smoking, coughing and other unnecessary movements simply do not fit into the strategic plan for hunting turkeys.
- Try to get uphill and on the same ridge as a gobbler. It's the easiest place to call from. Turkeys are a lot easier to call uphill than downhill.
- When selecting a calling site, look for a tree with a good thick base. Sit in front of it, and use it as a backrest.
Weather Or Not To Hunt
Weather conditions play a big part in the success of the spring gobbler hunt. A day that starts with a clear, cool morning and no wind is a good choice for hunting turkeys. Cold weather, especially when coupled with a foot of snow, usually dampens the amorous attitudes of gobblers, making calling almost useless. If such conditions occur, stay home, practice your calls, read up on the life history of the wild turkey and hope for a better day.
The Right Tool To Finish the Job
Some states offer special bowhunting seasons for turkeys, but rifles are not a legal weapon for the spring season in many areas. Most turkey hunters prefer using a 12-gauge shotgun with a full choke and shells loaded with No. 2 or No. 4 shot. Turkeys are big, tough birds, and their vital organs are tucked away beneath heavy, metallic-colored feathers. Breeding-age toms also have what is called a breast sponge, which acts like a flak jacket. It's a large mass of fatty tissue that helps them remain in prime physical condition during the breeding season. Wild turkeys also have blinding speed afoot, and even a broken wing seldom results in a turkey in the oven. Because a turkey's body is nothing less than a miniature armored-tank, preferred areas to shoot at are the head and neck.