With spring turkey season right around the corner, it’s time to get freshened up on your skills with these 7 quick turkey hunting tips.
Without a doubt, Wild Turkeys can be one of the most fun, challenging, and rewarding hunts you can go on. From the evenings spent roosting a bird, to the early mornings spent listening to gobbles; it is truly something that will have you coming back for more.
Unfortunately, it can also be very frustrating if you are not prepared. This is especially true if you’re new to hunting or it’s been a while since you’ve been in the woods. Rather than knocking rust off the old fashioned way, follow these turkey hunting tips to help you get back in the swing of things.
Rule number one, scout. To increase your chances at taking a turkey must know where they’re at. In order to scout effectively, you should start well before the season to locate their established areas. During the late winter, February or so, birds will still be flocked up, so you should be able to find plenty of sign. As breading season nears, Hens will tend to gravitate towards nesting areas where as Toms will split off and begin following the hens on their own.
In addition to scouting for birds themselves, it’s a good idea to look for sign such as feathers, tracks, droppings, food sources, etc. If you can find sign, there is a decent chance you may be able to find birds in the future.
2. Locate Hens
If you read the above this should make perfect sense. If you can find Hens, you should be able to find Toms. Spring turkey season coincides with the breeding season, so anywhere there are Hens there should be Toms in close pursuit.
Less is more. Far too often, people take to the field in the spring and begin overcalling. This seems to be even more true when you get a Tom that gobbles back at you. The thing is, just like guys in real life, Toms want what they cant have. If you want to really piss off that Tom, leaving him guessing whether you’re interested and call a bit less. You will eventually have to do some calling though and for that, it’s a good idea to practice up on the following:
This goes without saying, but we’re going to say it anyways – if you’re going to turkey hunt in the spring, you need to know what a gobble is. It’s the only true mating call of a turkey and is the main call of Toms in the spring.
The yelp is one of the most basic turkey sounds. It’s thought to mean a variety of things to turkeys depending on the tone, pitch, volume, etc. During the spring, their main use is by Hens as a locator or a signal to to Toms that a Hen is ready to breed.
Cluck & Putt
The cluck is a simple one note call that is often used by turkeys to get the attention of other turkeys. It is one of the most common calls you will hear in the woods, but can often be confused with a putt.
unfortunately, a putt is the turkey’s warning call and should not be used by hunters – unless you want to spook any bird in the area. As a general rule, clucks have a softer and more inviting tone whereas putts are a bit harsher, louder, and sharper.
A cutt is a quick series of erratic clucks that Hens use when they are pissed or seeking a Tom to mate with. The cutt is a good call to know as long as you know when to use it. If a Tom in the area is responding to subtle clucks it might be a good idea not to throw a cutt his way. On the other hand, if you’re working a fired up Tom that won’t stop gobbling, throw a few cutts and really get him excited.
Many older hunters will tell you that you don’t need many decoys to turkey hunt. While this may be true, it is somewhat of a older viewpoint. Turkey decoys back in the day were not that realistic and could be a bit hard to find, so people tended to stick to only one or two – usually a Tom and Hen combo.
Fast forward to today, there are tons of hyper realistic decoys available in any style and configuration you want. Hell, there’s even a decoy that rides on the front of your shotgun and lets you sneak up on birds as if you are one – enter MOJO Tail Chaser Max.
While using decoys, you have a few different strategies that you can choose from.
The least intimidating decoy pattern is the feeding pattern. You simply stake a few head down Hen decoys in field as if they’re feeding with a head up jake behind them. A passing Tom will see the Jake and try to spook him off the Hens.
Walking is as it sounds. You put a few Hen decoys in walking pattern heading out of a field or into some cover. A passing Tom will see this and quickly run towards hoping not to lose track of potential mates.
Feeling a bit more aggressive? Place a Tom and a Jake decoy facing each other head up. Add a few other head up Hen decoys around, start wing thrashing, purring, and making other comotion to simulate an ongoing battle.
Readdy want to piss off a big Tom? Place a Hen decoy low to the ground and a Jake directly above as if they’re mating. Make both of them face the direction that you think an oncoming Tom will come from and watch out. Any passing Tom that sees the duo may rush in and try to fight the Jake.
5. Mix it Up
Have that one slate call that you absolutely love? Great! Just be sure not to only use that call. Each turkey is different, and so are the calls that they will respond to, so just because you have killed birds with it in the past doesn’t mean it will always work. Think about it, would you go bass fishing with just one lure?
This goes beyond just calling as well though. Try hunting different locations, different decoy styles, different weather patterns. Some of the best turkey hunters I know are they ones who have spent years mixing it up and trying different things.
6. Know the Weather
Like all animals, turkeys are sensitive to changes in the weather. For example, colder weather will slow down the reproductive responses, so there will be less strutting. Likewise, rain impacts vision and hearing, so turkeys are likely to stay away from the thickest cover. Your best chances will come on those cool, calm, spring days where the reproductive levels will be high and the birds will be very active. Below are a few tips for hunting different types of spring weather:
Above Average Temps
Turkeys may slow down a bit when temperatures heat up too far above average. Think about it like wearing a coat in the spring, except it’s full of thick feathers, you wouldn’t want to do much either. Generally speaking, turkey activity declines as temperatures rise, so keep that in mind.
Average to Below Average Temps
Generally speaking, average to below average temperatures are going to be your best bet for turkey hunting. The cooler weather should give birds plenty of time to move without getting worn out. Be careful though, too far below average and it can slow the birds reproductive phase down.
Rainy weather impacts both the birds sight and hearing abilities negatively. With that, you are likely to find turkeys in fields instead of dense cover and woods. The fields give them the ability to see predators from a ways off without having to worry about not being able to hear them.
Thick fog impacts turkeys, and everything else’s, ability to see. With the overall lack of sight, turkeys are likely to stay in their roost until the fog clears a bit. If you’re a hunter this could be good or bad. On the good side of things the fog gives you the ability to move throughout the woods without being seen – potentially allowing you to get very close to the roost. On the other hand, if the fog doesn’t clear, or takes too long to clear, you could end up waiting for birds that don’t plan to come down anytime soon.
7. Know the Time
This one probably goes without saying, but the best times to hunt turkeys are in the morning and the evening. In the morning, Toms will be coming down from their roost and looking for Hens to mate with. During the middle of the day, birds will likely be resting, but during the end of the day the activity will begin to heat back up.
Trying to find when the turkey season is in your area? Check out this guide published by the NWTF.
Want more turkey hunting tips? Head over to our Turkey Hunting Community to join the conversation today!