Turkey Hunting Tips
The morning was quickly passing me by as I drove away from the rising sun. I was late to the roost and was sick thinking about the consequences. It was my only day of hunting alone this season and it was already in the favor of Mother Nature. Upon my arrival to the site I had an incurable case of the fumbles. My shells were falling on the ground, my calls weren’t in the correct pockets, and I was doing everything in the loudest form of quiet imaginable. It reached the point where I just had to grab my gear and go. As I locked the truck and walked off, I thought of decoys. “I don’t need them; I’ve got to get goin’.” I immediately turned back knowing that if I didn’t have them I would most certainly need them. So I grabbed dekes and took to the woods.
Each year my friends and I get together before turkey season to swap old stories. We talk about those huge longbeards we saw from our stands during whitetail season, and our flawless plans to harvest them this spring. The stories fly about those state record gobblers that always hang up just out of range. We talk about proven techniques and the newest innovations that make us all such great hunters, and each year we pick fun at the old muzzleloader over the fireplace. Discussing how outdated it is and how impossible it would be to down one of today’s wily ol’ gobblers with it.
With the efficiency of today’s turkey guns and their capability of throwing super tight patterns, shot placement is becoming more and more crucial. The turkey hunter is beginning to move into a realm similar to that of a target shooter. Going to the range with my friends to pattern our guns prior to season brings out the same competitive qualities as if we were shooting rifle at 100+ yards. Each of us boast of having the tightest pattern and the highest percentage of shot in the vitals. Our patterns have evolved to a point were it is easier to miss a bird between ten to twenty yards than it is to miss between twenty and thirty.
You blew it. You were in the woods the first two weeks of turkey season but for one reason or another, you failed to fill all of your tags—or worse, you didn’t fill any! You had a couple of longbeards scouted out, took several days off work to figure out and capitalize on their daily patterns and you even had a few working to your calls, but still, no prize.
While not every hunter swears by turkey decoys, they can be a great asset in many situations. For one, they give a suspicious tom looking for the source of the calls he heard a turkey to see. And, if the turkey decoy is set in an open area such as a mature oak bottom or along a field edge, those decoys can act as a visual call to birds who may spot them from a distance, but has yet to hear you call—especially when you are calling sporadically (or like many hunters are prone to do on a slow day, napping).
This would be our second stop of the morning. We had hunted a bird off the roost at first light, but were unable to get the tom to leave the hens that he had flown down with, so we regrouped and headed to a second area.
With all the different types of turkey decoys on the market, how can we know what to use and when. Does it really make a difference if it’s a male or female? Will they run the other way if the head is up and not down? Will a gobbler really come in and try to kick the tail off a strutting decoy? These are just a few of the questions that you may be thinking about when looking to buy a decoy, or maybe when you’re looking to pick one to bring into the field the next morning.
Turkey Calling Tips
Basic Understanding of the Pot and Peg Call:
Call makers use different woods, molded plastics, and some are using metal to create unique “pots” capable of different sounds desired. Hard and Exotic woods tend to give a sharper, crisper sound, while softer woods give a more mellow tone. Some plastics and metals produce a higher pitch. Whether you are using slate, glass, aluminum, copper, or plexi, each of the calling surfaces have their own characteristics to make different sounds depending on what type of “pot” they are set in.
At the heart of a turkey hunter’s calling arsenal is the mouth call. While more challenging to learn than a box or slate, this call, also called a diaphragm, allows a hunter to make an entire repertoire of turkey sounds, keeps his movement to a minimum, works well in any weather and is relatively inexpensive.
The tube, or barrel style call is easy to use and is set up with a mouth piece that directs wind over a hole on the side of a small can sized tube, usually about half the size of a soda can. The sound is made by the air passing over the hole, and sounds similar to blowing over a bottle top, but is tuned to mimic the sounds of the barred owl. Some have multiple holes that can change the tone, or even slightly increase or decrease the volume as desired.
Each day as I head out into the woods I carry many locator calls in my vest, but none of them make me feel like I am at a disadvantage if I don’t have them, except for the crow call. The crow call is a great locator, but a master for allowing an undetected change of position.
Have you ever wondered why sometimes that old longbeard will gobble at one call and not another? How many times have you been sitting in the woods calling to a bird that knows you're there, only to get no response? So you decide to try a different call and you finally get a response. The answer why, may be as simple as the frequency or pitch of the call your using.
The vocalizations of the wild turkey are broken down call by call. Explanation and descriptions are given for each, along with a tip on how and when to use them in the field.
Many people learn how to use a mouth call, or a box call, or maybe even a slate call, then head to the woods throwing every call they know at the birds. Sometimes it may work, and others it may not. Knowing what you are saying to the birds may just help you up the odds in your favor next time you start a conversation with a talkative tom.
A mouth call is a fairly simplistic call, as far as construction is concerned. The science is found in both the stretch and cuts of the reeds. The stretch and cuts in the reeds are what create the tonal qualities of the call, and what differentiate one from the other.
The box call is one of the most widely used turkey calls, and for good reason. First and foremost, they sound like a turkey. Then, they are easy to use, can cover a lot of distance because of the volume they can produce, some have two sounds in one call, you can use it in conjunction with a mouth call, and on, and on. There are as many reasons to carry a box call as there are turkeys in the woods.
Wild Turkey Species
It’s regarded as one of the proudest accomplishments a turkey hunter can achieve—the Grand Slam. Collecting all four huntable United States subspecies—the Eastern, the Osceola, the Rio Grande and the Merriam’s—can take you virtually from coast-to-coast providing the hunter with not only an incredible variety of hunting challenges, but also an opportunity to tackle diverse terrain and conditions in pursuit of that ol’ longbeard.
Merriam’s historically have been the most isolated of the subspecies, its original range thought to fall within Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico. It has successfully expanded to suitable habitat and is now hunted in Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington, California and parts of Canada.
The Osceola wild turkey, also known as the Florida subspecies because it is only found on the peninsula of the Sunshine State, has by far the smallest range and population of the four primary wild turkey subspecies in the United States. Populations are estimated at between 80,000 and 100,000 birds.
The Eastern subspecies is by far the most numerous and wide ranging. Located throughout the Eastern half of the United States, this subspecies is found throughout New England and southern Canada down to Florida and west to Texas, Missouri, Iowa and Minnesota. It has also been successfully transplanted to pockets of terrain along the West Coast. It’s found in 38 states and five Canadian provinces. According to the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), Eastern populations are estimated to exceed 5 million birds making it by far the most populous subspecies.
Rio Grandes are the second most populous subspecies with an estimated excess of 1 million birds stretching from Kansas to northern Mexico with established pockets of birds found as far north as the Dakotas, over through Colorado, New Mexico and Utah and in California, Oregon and Washington. Rios also offers great hunting on the big island of Hawaii. Many hunters regard the Rio as one of the “easiest” subspecies to hunt.
The turkeys of North America are divided into five distinct subspecies. They differ slightly in size, color, and habits but the geographic regions where they inhabit also helps to distinguish them.
The Merriam’s wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) is one of four subspecies of wild turkey within the continental United States. The Merriam’s Turkey currently occupies most of the mid-western states from Canada down to Texas.
This a listing that will describe each of the wild turkey's vocalizations. But keep in mind, that birds will mix these calls up and string them together pending on the time of year, or to emphasize the meaning being put forth.
Turkey Hunting Product Reviews
Rocky Snake Boots:
Rocky has hit the turkey woods running with their snake boots. These boots offer virtually everything the turkey hunter could ask for when chasing longbeards in the spring of the year. They offer a couple different soul designs that offer a grip on all types of terrain, whether you’re climbing loose gravel ridges, muddy swamp bottoms, or grassy hills, they can handle it. The soles hold on tight to the stuff you want and release the stuff you don't because of their self-cleaning design. The 15" Cordura uppers are backed with Gor-Tex to keep you dry on the way to the roost, especially walking through tall grass or small creeks that were deeper than you thought. All and all, these boots are lightweight, waterproof, comfortable and snakeproof, a must for the turkey hunter that doesn’t always tread lightly.
Tukey Hunting Buyer's Guides
All turkey hunters strive to perfect the mouth call, or the diaphragm turkey call, and yet its mastery alludes so many of us for so many reasons. It doesn't fit right, it makes me gag, my mouth starts to water, it tickles, or ... I just can't get it to sound like a turkey.
Sitting down with your first mouth call and trying to make it sound like a turkey right off the bat can be very frustrating. Knowing exactly how a mouth call, or diaphragm style turkey call, works can certainly help alleviate some of the trials and tribulations in the learning process.
There are almost as many variations of mouth calls as there are turkeys in the woods. Different sizes, number of reeds, cuts, tensions, etc. Although this may create a slight amount of confusion for the consumer, it's not a bad thing to have variation when heading to the woods. Having the variety not only gives hunters an opportunity to find the call that works best for them, but it also allows them to carry multiple calls that all sound different. Which means one of them might just be the one that ol' gobbler you've been hunting wants to listen to
There are three major components to a mouth call, or diaphragm turkey call, and understanding these parts and how they work together can be the beginning steps in learning how to use one.
The box call is a friction style turkey call that has been around since around the late 1800's. A simple call to use, the box call has most likely been the reason for more turkeys being taken than any other type of call. Used by professionals and novice callers alike, it has found its place in just about every turkey hunters vest across the country.
The box call has been calling turkeys for decades, and will continue to do so for as long as there are box calls to be used, and turkeys to be called to. It's a friction style call that is very effective in the spring woods, and extremely user friendly. In fact, it's such an easy call to use, that someone that had never used one before should be able take it from its package, and be making turkey sounds within seconds.
There are many different combinations of suface and pot styles to choose from. In today's age of technology, manufacturers of turkeys calls are using all different types of materials to reproduce the vocalizations of the wild hen turkey. It is no longer just slate. Materials such as aluminum, copper, glass, crystal, are a common site, while manmade and manufacturer specific materials such as Slate-tek, and Frictionite are finding their way into the hands of turkey hunters as well.
Turkey locator calls consist of, but are not limited to, a few basic styles. There are crow calls, owl calls, coyote calls, and pileated woodpecker calls that can all strike a gobble from an unsuspecting gobbler, and most turkey call manufacturers makes some if not all of these.
There are as many forms of turkey decoys out on the market today as there are turkeys running around the woods. They are made of foam, rubber, plastic, and fabric, and come in hard body, collapsible, inflatable, and silhouettes, in the form of hens, jakes, and toms, strutting, relaxed, breeding, alert, and on and on and on. There is certainly no shortage of turkey decoys to chose from.
Video Transcript - You know as turkey hunters we have to deal with a lot of adversity. We've got terrain. We've got weather conditions like snow, rain. But the most adverse condition that I could think of that as a turkey hunter that we have to deal with is the wind.
Video Transcript: Pre season scouting can be the ticket to being a successful turkey hunter. But some hunters try to take the shortcut to pre season scouting. A shortcut that goes something like listening from the roadside for a gobbler to sound off the morning before the season opens. You may hear a gobbler and be able to get a general idea as to where he's gobbling from but the real information you want to know is where he likes to spend his time.
Video Transcript: With the turkey population at an all time high, thanks to the efforts and dedication of the National Wild Turkey Federation and it's volunteers, more and more hunters are flocking to the spring woods each year. With more hunters and more turkeys the chances for an accident become higher and higher. The National Wild Turkey Federation has come up with a checklist that will help you become a more defensive and safe turkey hunter.
Video Transcription: That bird's still quite a ways out and I'll tell you what, these hard hunted lake gobblers are really tough to get on. They've been called to all season, just real difficult to get to even commit to you. What I like to do in this situation that I put myself in here, this bird is down in a hollow. He's been hanging out here all season.
Video Transcript: You know, we've been in here all morning long. We've been working this long beard and we saw him this morning. He worked pretty good in the tree, worked really good when he hit the ground for a little while. You know we were thinking about calling and he was gobbling on us already.
One of the things I'm going to look at here when I'm setting up on this bird is the area around me. I've got a field off to my right. And I've got a stream over my shoulder to the left. I've got open hard wood straight out in front of me. I have a feeling the bird's not going to come this way because it's just too thick and I have the stream behind me.
Folks if you missed your show last week, we talked about the transition periods turkeys go through. Pick a state; pick a date. We've got the United States broke down into three zones. You tell me what zone you're in, what dates you want to hunt the turkey and we're going to figure out exactly how to hunt those turkeys.
Harold one of the things I'm excited about in doing our spring airing this year is talk about the transition periods turkeys go through. I don't want that to sound difficult, but you have about five different transitions these turkeys are going to go through. And that's going to be transition one, two, three, four, five.
Folks, what we're talking about is transition periods of turkeys. There's five different transition periods these turkeys go through. Last week we discussed transition period one and how to call up those turkeys. This week we're going to talk about transition period two.
Folks, we're talking about transition periods again today. We're in number three. We've been through the previous first two transitions and these are the times turkeys change. Every 15 days there's some kind of a transition they go through, all dictated by the hen. The gobblers are just there following along doing whatever the hens tell them to do.
Well, folks, once again we're here today to tell you about changes that the turkeys are in from one transition period to the next. We're in transition period four. We've already gone through three of them in the past three or four weeks. This week we're going to talk about when these turkeys get lonesome. They get call shy. They got all the things that's going on with them and they get tough to call up. Harold tell us exactly what these turkeys are doing in transition period number four.
Folks, we're discussing transition period number five today that turkeys go through. We've already gone through the first four. You pick a state, pick a date and pick the zone that you're in and we're going to tell you exactly what transition period those turkeys are in and how to hunt them. And Harold, this could be a tough time; it can be an easy time. What are these turkeys doing this time?
Here's something a little different for you on a locator call. You know, owl and crow calls have been the number one calls to locate turkeys for years. I use a goose call.
Alright guys, we've got a turkey gobbling down the other end of the field, just through this hedge row which connects to another field. We're going to talk a little bit about why I'm set up right here. As you can see, we've got good cover out in front of us. I've got good back cover here. I'm in a little bit of the shadows. It's allowing this real tree camo to work the way it was designed.
Hi, I'm Jay Churchill. I had an awesome spring turkey hunt this year, probably one of the best I've ever had in my whole entire career. I got into the area really early. We walked in, struck our birds, scrambled to get a good set up, we were actually on the side of a rocky outcropping, that had a beautiful vista in front of us, hard woods, wide open.
I'm Seth Bogdan and today I'm going to give you a couple of tips on how to use decoys while hunting spring turkeys that hopefully will make you more successful in the woods next spring.
These short trigger sticks we got just for that, for sitting on the ground. You can get steady on a turkey, come in and really get down and aim like you're supposed to.
It's an absolutely beautiful morning out here in April. Our season starts in a couple weeks and I'll tell you a great way to get out there and really tune yourself up for the season. If you notice, there's not a lot of leaves on the trees, so you're cover is really slim. You really got to be careful how you move in on birds. One thing that I really, really enjoy doing is getting out preseason and working some birds. But believe me, not on the properties you're going to go hunt because you're going to educate.
Um, you know, there's a lot of opportunities for using decoys for different reasons and all that. But today there was a special scenario that we had in mind to really attack these gobblers. Why don't you talk to us a little bit about what we used and why.
You know, what another awesome hunt today. This morning, when Matt and I got out, you know, we got the birds gobbling on the roost. (turkey noises) One bird actually, we only heard one bird that we think this morning gobbling on the roost. And what really made us successful today was that kept one thing in mind and that was variable change.
57 The Florida wild turkey, also known as the Osceola, is found only in the peninsula of south Florida. (turkey call)(turkey noises) Its name comes from the Seminole chief Osceola. The Osceola is similar to the Eastern turkey, but smaller and darker in color with very little white on the bars of its wing feathers. Like all turkeys, the feathers are iridescent, which means that as light hits the feathers, the feathers display a spectrum of rainbow like colors.
You know, on all these pretty, green, beautiful hills here in Tennessee, people's got cattle on it and these turkeys love cattle. They like to be around cattle for some reason. I think one of the main reasons is turkeys like to get out here where these cow patties are and this time of year in particular, insects get under all these cow patties. They'll scratch and turn over, look, lots of scratching here where they've turned over and got the insects.
We had an amazing day today. I'm here today with field staff Dave Griser for TurkeyHunting24/7 and I'll tell you we ran into a situation today that was absolutely the ultimate obstacle that we've ever, ever had to deal with. And Dave, talk to us a little bit about how this went down and dealing with obstacles overall with turkey hunting.
One of the new crazes today is using full body or full strutting gobbler decoys. And one thing I like to do to make them look extremely real is I use a real fan.
It's spring turkey season here in Vermont. We're approaching the top of a ridge. One thing I like to do before I come up to the top of a ridge and before I crest any sort of knoll or any sort of hill in the woods is I like to give a little bit of a call before I get there. I'll call a little bit; I'll use my ears and I'll listen and what I'm listening for is I'm listening for those turkeys. Turkeys like to hang out up on the tops here. I'm listening for scratches in leaves. I'm listening for that spit and drum is really what I'm listening for.