How to Hunt Turkeys
Posted by Grant at June 3rd, 2012
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Getting Everything in Order
Turkey hunting is a fun and EXCITING sport! Before you hit the woods, be sure to visit your state’s wildlife webpage to review the rules and regulations for hunting in your area. The Grand Slam Network also helps you find information about turkey hunting in your state. There you will find information about turkey hunting seasons and regulations in your state. It is very important to know the rules and regulations before going hunting. Some states will require you to have a hunters safety course, so you’ll need to get that completed before season!
Turkey Hunting Times
Most states have a spring turkey season, and some even have a fall season. Its best to check your state’s DNR page for the turkey hunting times in your state. You’ll also want to take note of the time of day you can hunt. Some states allow you to hunt all day while others only allow you to hunt from daylight until noon.
Locating Land to Turkey Hunt
Most state haves a plethora of public hunting land to turkey hunt. Some of the land will be called Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs), state or federal land. You’ll need to do your research, so that you’ll understand – not only your states regulations – but the regulations for the public hunting land as well. The Grand Slam Network has done some of the research for you. Visit our state specific hunting pages for more info! CLICK HERE!
You can also join a hunting lease, or lease your own land from timber companies. To find land to lease from timber companies, just search Google for “Timber Land Recreational Lease.”
Scouting for Turkey
The terrain for turkey varies from state to state. Do some research on the web, or by talking with other turkey hunters to determine the best turkey habitat in your area.
Turkey love to roost near water. In North Georgia, I find TONS of turkey sign near small creeks coming from higher areas of land. I use Google Earth to help me scout an area before hand and print out maps. I look for fields, saddles or cuts coming down mountains. Some of the cuts have small creeks running down them. They’ll flow down the mountain, often joining other creeks and find their way into the bottoms. Most of the time, I’ll find turkey scratching where turkey have been feeding up and down the creek – coming to or leaving the roost.
Turkey also love to strut in fields to attract hens or to feed on grain and insects. Ease to the edge of a field with binoculars to glass the area. MANY times I’ve looked through the brush near the edge of the field and never see the birds until I use my binoculars! A field is an AWESOME place to hunt turkey after a rain! They love to gather in the open areas after a rain to feed and dry their feathers.
One of my favorite tactics is to visit a dirt road soon after a good rain looking for turkey tracks! You’ll notice a tom’s track is much larger than a hens! This is a good way to see where they are hanging out and crossing roads. On dry days, look for scratching in the road where they like to scratch the dirt and dust their feathers.
Turkeys shock gobble at owls and crows (and any other abrupt noise) during the Spring! I use an owl call early in the morning or late in the evening, and I have even heard birds gobble at owls mid-day. Most of the time during afternoon hunts I use a crow call to locate turkey. Just hit the call and wait quietly for a moment. If a bird gobbles, you’ll know where he is and can go setup on him.
Some hunters use a hen cut or yelp to locate birds. This works great too, so just change it up to see what makes him gobble! During late season hunts, I like to locate turkey using a gobbler yelp, which is a slower raspy yelp.
Here’s a video of Ryan and I roosting turkey in New Mexico.
How to Call Turkey
The most widely used turkey call by both turkey and turkey hunters is the hen yelp. At the same time, I’ve seen TONS of hens cluck and purr as the work their way through the woods. Let me start by saying, there is no sure fire way to call in a turkey. In some areas, turkey like to be called to a lot, and in others, its easy to over call and cause him to hang-up – which means he won’t commit to coming in to shooting range. But in most cases where I hunt in Georgia, it goes something like this…
Hopefully the night before you roosted a turkey, which means you went out about 30 minutes before sun down and hit the crow or owl call and had a bird or two gobble. So, you know [approximately] where he’ll be in the morning. Its even better if you know which group of trees he’s in – but be careful, you don’t want to get too close and spook him!
The next morning I will get into the woods an hour or so before sunup to listen. Before sunup, if I haven’t heard one gobble, I’ll hit the owl call, and if its a good day birds will gobble off the roost! Then you’ll want to move in and setup on him. Earlier in the season, you don’t have as much cover from foliage, so don’t get in too close!
Once you’re setup, you might provide him with a few tree yelps to let him know you’re there. This can be a good or bad tactic. Its good if he knows you are there, but bad if you alert the hens that are probably roosted near by. Many times, when the hens fly down, they’ll lead Mr. Tom in the opposite direction!
You can also do a fly down cackle and make the sound of wings hitting brush with your hat or a wing.
Now, just wait for him to fly down – and when he does – the battle begins! Sometimes, he’ll come right at you – and other times he’ll respond to your calling, but stay just out of sight. In nature, the hen goes to the gobbler, so don’t panic. This is where your practice pays off. Give him some purrs and clucks or excited hen helps! Just change it up to see what he likes!
These are just the basics, but you’ll learn lots of calling tips at the Grand Slam Network!
When to Shoot!
Each and every turkey shotgun has a different effective range! You need to pattern your shotgun before turkey season to discover your guns range. The max range for one of my guns is around 40 yards, so I know if he’s at 40 yards, I can kill him. I’d prefer he be at 25 to 30 yards. But be careful! If he’s less than 20 yards, and you’re shooting a turkey choke, it can be easy to miss at such a close distance!
I have to really keep myself from shooting too early and not rush the shot. Wait for the good clear shot! Missing a bird is no fun!
I aim at the base of the turkey’s neck where the wattles meet the feathers.
When you shoot a turkey – they FLOP! Be careful because if you try to pick them up, they can spur you or flap you with their powerful wings! Most hunters just step on the turkey’s head until he stops flopping, and then pick him up by his legs.
You’ve Killed a Turkey, Now What?
I always take a moment to reflect and give thanks to God for the successful hunt. What a blessing! I also use the time to take pictures and send them via my cell phone to friends and family. Bobby Parks has also published a nice article on GSN about taking great photos of your turkey.
You can carry the turkey over your shoulder or put it in a turkey vest. Some people stick leaves or a paper towel in his mouth to keep blood from getting on your gear as you tote him back. If you want to take more pictures, when you get home or back at camp you’ll want to hang him by his feet, so that his feathers stay fluffy.
After pictures, you can skin your bird and place the meat on ice or in the freezer.
You can also cape your bird, or just keep the fan, beard, and spurs, which are easy to preserve and make for nice decorations in your home or home office!
Category: Turkey Hunting TIps