Spring turkey hunting can be one of the most fun hunts you’ll ever go on. Unfortunately, if you’re not prepared, it can also be one of the most frustrating hunts you’ll ever go on.
Even more frustrating is that the difference between success and failure often has to do with minor details like whether you set up in the right spot, were you camouflaged enough, or did you shoot at a bird too far away. Luckily, if you remember and practice a few things below you can increase your odds a taking that big Tom.
Spring Turkey Hunting Basics
Turkey Mating Season
Unlike turkey hunting in the fall, spring turkey hunting is during mating season. With that, sex will be on the mind of all birds in the woods and should be your primary focus as well – not bird sex on your mind, but using that knowledge to imitate a Hen turkey and lure in a Tom.
Identifying a Tom
Being that it’s mating season for turkeys, it also means that you will be limited to taking only Toms. Toms are mature male turkeys and can be identified in a number of different ways such as the presence of a beard, a snood, spurs, and being more vibrant in color than other turkeys. A few of the more identifying characteristics are below:
Turkey Sounds & Calls
Wild turkeys have a fairly complex vocabulary containing 20+ different sounds. Not all of these sounds are important to hunting and hunters usually only focus on a few. We recommend doing this by heading to youtube and searching for the following calls:
Distribution & Types of Turkeys
North American is home to one species of wild turkey, but within that one species are 5 different subspecies. They are the Eastern, the Merriam, The Gould, the Osceola, and the Rio Grande. Depending on where you are hunting, the subspecies will change. Below is a map of the the turkey distribution in the US:
Gear & Prep
Turkey Hunting Camo
Turkeys have great eyesight, so being completely hidden is key. That means you are going to want to be in camo from head to toe that matches your surroundings.
You’re also going to want to make sure that you cover your hands and face as much as possible. Even the slightest movement will spook that big Tom you’re after.
When it comes to weapons you will primarily have two options – a shotgun or a bow. The vast majority of people use a shotgun to turkey hunt. This is due to the birds great eyesight making drawing a bow difficult without being seen. You also want to aim for the turkey’s head to ensure a clean kill that doesn’t damage much, if any, meat; which is a fairly small target to consistently hit with a bow.
The ideal place to shoot a turkey is in the head. That’s because it leaves you with a clean kill that doesn’t damage any meat. Unfortunately, it also leaves you with a relatively small target. To ensure that you can reliably hit this target you should pattern your shotgun.
To pattern your gun you should set up a large target from 25-30 yards and shoot at it from a steady rest using the choke and shells that you plan to use in a real hunting situation. The pattern should surround the bullseye, in this case a turkey head, evenly. If you do not get an even pattern you should try a different load to see if it patterns better. Once you get a consistent pattern you are ready to hunt.
Ahh, the age old debate of public vs private land. Truth be told, you can take a nice Tom on either type of land, you’re just going to want to be a bit more careful on public land due to the lack of any orange coloring or other visible giveaways.
Regardless of where you end up hunting, you should plan to respect the land and leave it the way you found it.
There are 3-4 main types of turkey calls that you will come across when spring turkey hunting. They are:
- The push button call
- The box call
- The slate call
- The diaphragm call
The type of call that you use is really a matter of personal preference. Most hunters seem to start out with a push button or a box call because they’re easier to use and then migrate towards slate and diaphragm calls as the progress, but that’s not always the case.
Since turkeys rely on their great eyesight quite a bit, having decoys is very important when spring turkey hunting. Typically, you’ll want at least one Tom and Hen decoy to get live birds fired up that there’s a competitor in their territory taking their Hens, but it’s not uncommon to see people use Jakes as well. To get a sense for what works, play around with it a bit. There are many different layouts that you can use and there’s not necessarily a wrong way to use decoys.
Other cosiderations for gear would include:
- Turkey Vest
- GPS Maps (OnX is great)
- Sharp Knife
- Mosquito repellant (depending on location)
Want more information? Head over to our Turkey Hunting Community to join the conversation today!