When you first start hunting, you will get turkey hunting tips from everyone. Even people who don’t hunt will tell you about all the turkeys they’ve seen in their backyard or along the highway. Non-hunters will tell you how easy it is. Hunters will tell you how hard it is.
All this is enough to make your head spin. You won’t even feel like hunting after being told to “call aggressively” by one expert hunter, and then told to “soft call sparingly” by another. So let’s do like Kent Murphy and “break this thing down from a fundamental standpoint.”
Today, I’ve got just five basic turkey hunting tips for you. Follow these and you will be well on your way towards putting that boot on a turkey head. Let’s get started.
Tip #1- Find a Really Good Place to Hunt
This is the absolute, fundamental building block of turkey hunting success. It’s the head honcho of all turkey hunting tips. If you are not where the turkeys are, you are not going to kill a turkey. It’s that simple.
But let’s go even further. The higher the turkey density and the lower the hunter density, the better the turkey hunting will be. If you find a honey hole of turkeys that no one else has access to hunt, you can take your dog’s squeaky toy to the woods and call in toms. Conversely, if you’re hunting a highly pressured public land with low turkey density, you can be a NWTF World Champion caller and struggle to get one to ride home in your truck with you.
I don’t say all this to discourage you if you only have access to public land. I say this so that you will work your butt off to find land with lots of turkeys and very few hunters.
On public land, this might be hiking way in away from easy access roads. It might mean putting on your waders and going through a swamp or river that other hunters deem impassable. Maybe you find a place that other hunters overlook.
At the same time, you’re generally going to have higher success rates on private land. Ask everybody you know in a hunting club if they have turkeys on their lease. While club rules can be strict for deer, lots of clubs have far fewer turkey hunting members. You might be allowed to hunt in the spring for free or for a small fee.
Write letters to landowners in a rural county near you. If you can prove that you are a responsible person and perhaps butter the owner up with a gift or payment, you might gain access to a good turkey hunting area. Many farmers actually view turkeys as a nuisance. See if you can help them out by taking a few birds off their land.
You may not be able to find a perfect turkey hunting oasis. You can still increase your odds by hunting as frequently as possible. This not only helps you learn the land, but it also gives you more chances to be there on the day that tom is feeling especially lonely.
Tip #2- Don’t Do Stupid Things that Scare Turkeys Away
Turkeys are some of the wariest of animals in the woods. The smallest things can send them scurrying to the next county. So let’s not do things that scare them if we can help it.
When you are beginning to turkey hunt, you’re likely not going to have a good idea of turkey patterns on the land you are hunting. Therefore, I recommend keeping your movements limited and slow.
Let’s start first thing in the morning. You pull up and park your truck. Don’t slam your door, jump out talking to your hunting buddy, and rack a shell into your gun at warp speed. The turkeys are still in the roost. Be cautious as you traverse the woods. You never know if you might be walking under a tree full of turkeys. When I’m proceeding to a listening area or roosting area, I try to take the path that is least likely to have turkeys along it.
As the morning progresses, if you haven’t heard anything, you will probably want to traipse around the woods looking for turkey sign and cutting on your box call as loud as you can. My recommendation is to spend at least an hour in each spot you call from. Trust your scouting. Move 200 to 400 yards at a time, set up, and call again. If a tom heard your calling earlier, he may come back looking for you later in the morning. You don’t want to be too far away.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten up to move and spooked a turkey. They don’t always gobble when they’re coming to check you out. In fact, a lot of turkeys come in silent. You’re gonna bust them every time if they see you moving.
Let’s say you hear a tom in the distance. Your instinct will be to run as fast as you can to get to him. Use caution, my friend. That tom may be coming to you. Give him some time to come to you. Don’t call to him like crazy either. If he gobbled to one of your previous calls, he knows where you are. Shut up for at least ten minutes. There’s no need to make a move or amp up your calling until you are certain his gobbles are moving away from you.
My own personal opinion is that yelping, or calling if you prefer, is hugely overrated and that it is no more than 30 percent of turkey hunting. I would rank it considerably behind the ability to sit still…-Colonel Tom Kelly, Tenth Legion
Now about that 30 percent, Col. Kelly…
Tip #3- Learn Clucking, Yelping, and Cutting on One Friction Call
When I started turkey hunting, I had one crappy mouth call, one crappy pot call, and one crappy box call. I was trying everything from fly-down cackles to kee-kee runs on my calls. I wasn’t good at anything. I didn’t kill turkeys for a long time. I don’t recommend this approach when you’re first starting out.
Save your money for one quality call. For most people mouth calls will be the toughest to learn. Start with a friction call. A quality pot or box call will get you a long way. While many consider the box call the easiest to learn, I think the pot calls shorter range of motion makes it easier to build muscle memory and, therefore, consistency in your calling.
David Halloran makes a really good pot call. His Sugartown Sweetness call is glass on one side and slate on the other. This is an extremely versatile call especially when paired with two or three quality strikers. The slate will be easier to get a good sound on for most people so start with that side.
Now that you have your call, let’s learn some sounds. You don’t need a huge repertoire to kill turkeys. Start with the yelp, the cluck, and some cutting. That’s it.
The cluck should come fairly easy to you. Cutting is just a series of clucks that you will need to learn the rhythm of. From there, listen to real hens yelping as much as you can to master the tempo. Figure out how to call soft and loud.
Practice with your call, but listen more. It’s like learning the lyrics to a song. You have to do both. It won’t be long before you start feeling pretty confident in making these three sounds with your turkey call. If you’re looking for a way to listen to turkey calls, check out my article on turkey calling apps.
Between two sides of your pot call, several different strikers on each, three different calls, multiple volumes, and the ability to combine calls, you will have plenty of options to call in a gobbler. You don’t need much more than that. You just have to strike the right chord with the right bird on the right day.
Tip #4- Invest in a Quality Choke and Shell
You don’t need to spend a lot of money here. However, you do need to do your research and make sure that the shell and choke combo you have suits your gun and the area you will be hunting.
For the most part, the shotgun you choose doesn’t matter. People kill turkeys with single shots, double barrels, pumps, and semi-autos. You can spend a couple of hundred or several thousand and they should all kill the turkey the same amount of deadness if you have the right choke and shell.
If you don’t have a turkey choke yet, read my article on how to choose one. Try different shells with your choke until you find a combination that really patterns well out to the range you plan to shoot the most. Then test it at different ranges to see what it does.
Trust me. You don’t want to finally get a turkey in range and then blow it because you just picked up the first box of shells you saw at the store. Practice shooting until you are confident that the gobbler you get into range is a dead gobbler.
Tip #5- Be Patient and Hunt til Your Butt is Sore
Unless you are a very lucky person or hunting under the tutelage of a really good turkey hunter, you’re probably going to have to put in some hours to take a longbeard. Even if you’re not hearing the gobbling right at first light, don’t give up.
For me, a couple of hours after fly down can be just as good to hunt as fly down. This is when the tom has bred or lost interest in the hen he was with earlier and is looking for a new partner for the dance. That’s where you come in.
As mentioned above, turkeys don’t always gobble right to the barrel for you. Many, many times they will come in silent. Always keep your movement limited and your eyes open. Listen for the footsteps of approaching birds.
If your state allows afternoon hunting, you can hunt all day. While toms may not be as receptive to calling in the afternoon, you may get one curious enough to come into some social calls. You could also intercept one as he moves between feeding, watering, strutting, and roosting zones.
Don’t be the guy with his facepaint still on, sitting in the corner booth of the Waffle House at 8:30, telling everyone how they were “henned up” today. Be patient and hunt as much you can. You can’t kill them from home!
Put These Turkey Hunting Tips to Practice
Turkeys are very tough animals to hunt. This sport can be complicated. That’s part of what makes it fun. But don’t get overwhelmed with all the information out there. Follow these five turkey hunting tips and you will be well on your way to throwing one over your shoulder.
If you’re a veteran turkey hunter, what turkey hunting tips do you think are the most essential when you’re first getting started? Let me know in the comments below.