Tips for spring turkey hunting are mostly common sense techniques, but there are a few you might not have in your bag of tricks or may have forgot about. Using these back to basic turkey hunting tips will increase your odds of success while chasing spring gobblers this season.
Don’t push it. If you can’t call a reluctant tom in close to you, back off and wait. Give him some time and come back later. Most of all, don’t aggressively call a turkey that is not responding. A lot of times, that big gobbler who ignored you all morning might just charge you in the afternoon when his hens are ignoring him. Making a few gentle hen calls might just be enough to entice him.
Don’t lose focus when it’s quiet. Jakes do strut and gobble but they’re less likely than a dominant tom to show off, especially later in the breeding season when they’ve been whupped on by the big toms. If you don’t hear any gobbling anywhere, don’t assume there are no turkeys around.
Hunt the edges. Just like with deer hunting, you’ll often find turkeys along the edges between wooded habitat and open fields or meadows. Turkeys year-round are looking for good feeding areas with their primary food sources of insects, berries, seeds, or nuts. For a while in the spring, the breeding birds will focus a bit less on food sources and a bit more on each other, but you’ll do well to focus on areas close to good feeding areas. If you’re out in rainy weather, pay special attention to fields and open areas. Turkeys do exhibit mating behavior on rainy days – they’re just a whole lot quieter about it.
Try to put turkeys to bed. If you are out late in the day and you can identify roosting trees where turkeys are spending the night, you’re way ahead of the game. Come back a couple hours before dawn and set up in a spot where you’re likely to have a shot when they come off their roost.
Calling a reluctant tom. This technique works only with a hunting partner. The shooter should be set up in a spot where he is well hidden – backed up against a big tree, root wad, or a tangle of brush. The caller sets up about 10 yards behind the shooter and is also well hidden. The goal is not to call the bird to the shooter, but past the shooter. If the turkey’s attention is focused on the call, he’s far less likely to detect the shooter. Make sure you are ready – some shooters have nearly been run over using this maneuver.
Call like a turkey.
- Use clucking sounds. A cluck is a turkey’s way of getting another turkey’s attention. Hens cluck to let a tom know they’re waiting for him.
- Purring, if you do it right, is a soft and contented sound that hens make when all is well with their world.
- Do not make turkey putt sounds. A turkey putt is an alarm call, consisting of several quick notes. It signals danger to the other birds.
- A hen’s yelp means just about the same thing, but it can have other meanings during the breeding season.
- A squealing hen call mimics a breeding hen getting mounted by a tom and could start a breeding frenzy.
Don’t use a fly-down call. Turkeys make this cackling noise when they fly down from roosting trees in the dark or right at first light. They make the same sound when they fly over a creek or take off from a ridge or high spot. It signals movement, so don’t use it. You should, however, be very familiar with this call because when you hear turkeys do it at dawn – you know they’re likely to be on the ground.
Decoy safety tips. Never transport an uncovered turkey decoy – it’s a great way to get shot. Be sure you set up in a spot with a tree or other large object behind you that is wider than your shoulders and taller than your head. Set up your decoy about 20 yards from your spot and make sure you have a clear line of sight for at least 50 to 100 yards if possible. If you spot another hunter, call out and let them know where you are.
Take care of your calling tools. If you use a box call, keep it clean and keep your fingers off the striking surface. Do not use sandpaper on a box call. Don’t use anything but box call chalks – carpenter’s chalk or teacher’s chalk works fine but don’t use it on the beveled edges. If you use a slate call, keep your fingers off the striking area. A slate call (which might actually be made of aluminum or glass) will last for many years if you keep it clean and store it in a plastic bag in a cool dry place. You can sand the surface of a slate call with sandpaper, a stone, or steel wool but don’t rub it back and forth – you should sand in just one direction.
Make safety a priority. According to the National Safety Council, hunters suffer fewer injuries than athletes involved in tennis, cycling, and even bowling. The most common turkey hunting accident is a hunter who gets shot – because he was mistaken for a turkey. According to the International Hunter Education Association, there were only 5 fatal accidents (across Canada, the U.S. and Mexico) involving turkey hunters, and 107 non-fatal accidents. Just 6 percent of two-party hunting accidents were fatal, but you don’t want to be a statistic.
Basic safety rules for turkey hunters:
- Don’t aim anything but binoculars at a turkey before you identify its head and beard.
- Be certain of your target but also of what’s behind it.
- Don’t ever shoot at movement or sound. Until you see a turkey, assume it’s a hunter.
- When you’re moving around before or after you set up in a stand, wear orange.
- Flag your stand with orange tape – whether it’s an actual ground blind, tree stand, or just the spot where you’re sitting.
- Do not wear turkey colors – hunters wearing red, white, or blue are more likely to be shot.
If you give a spring gobbler a little space and don’t push him, he’s more likely to come to you in the afternoon or on the next day. Seek out good feeding areas and focus on the edges of habitat to increase your odds of finding birds.
Know how to call properly and how to take care of your calls. Focus on safety – you don’t want to be a statistic. Practice these spring turkey hunting tips and increase your chances of success this turkey season.