Are you planning on a turkey hunting trip and questions like ‘’how to hunt turkey? When to hunt? How to close in? ‘’ are coming up in your mind? Then this article is for you. I assure you this confusion is a mandatory prerequisite for beginners but once you overcome this, turkey hunting is very rewarding and exciting. I grew up hunting and it is still as thrilling and exhilarating for me as it was on the first day. Turkey preys are very engaging and smart that keep you on your toes throughout. Add to this the smell of fresh spring air. A turkey gobbler that you are aiming to hunt looks like this:
My goal with this article is simple to answer your question of ‘’ how to hunt?’’. I covered the basics and added relevant links to articles and videos that you will definitely benefit from. A few pro-tips that are included will make your hunting experience even more effective.
There are two turkey hunting seasons, spring and fall and you will need to collect a permit for either. Spring is the mating season for turkeys so gobblers (male turkeys) respond to the call of gun range sound which mimics the sound of a hen while in fall turkeys are in flocks so they can be targeted. Turkeys find home in North American regions and in parts of Mexico and Canada. Here’s what I using hunting practice.
Become an early bird:
Since most of the turkeys are able to detect your position in day light, it is preferable to get up before the birds and secure your spot. You can set up behind a tree or a bush to avoid turkey’s prying eyes. When tough weather conditions keep the turkey from gobbling, it is best to build a temporary blind form a natural cover while waiting. After setting up your goal is to listen to gobblers gobbling as they come off the roost.
When you hear turkey gobbling, call to them. Turkeys are very vocal preys and use sound to communicate. The gobbler will answer your call and giveaway his location. You can utilize air calls such as wing bone calls, turnip yelpers and trumpets or you can utilize friction activated calls using box calls, push pin calls and pot and peg calls. Practice yelps, clucks and purrs on your chosen calling instrument. No set pattern is specific when it comes to turkey so you can shuffle the calls and learn what works. You can learn how to call using instructional videos like these.
Decoys can also be used, they work wonders on field toms. My experience with hunting has taught me use a hen or a Jake decoy or a hen and a tom decoy. Using only one hen decoy results in prey staying outside the shooting as they wait for the hen to come to them. It is best to not use decoy areas of dense cover or heavy timber because by the time gobbler spots a decoy it is already within the shooting range. Overall, calling is half the fun.
Decoys such as these work best:
One strategy is to anticipate the path of the prey and then block his way. The kill zone with turkey hunting is very small so you should keep the pattern as tight as you can. Try different turkey chokes and load to see what works best for you. While hunting, start by closing the distance and reach till 25 to 50 yards in the gobble’s direction and then don’t move too much and raise your gun when his head is obscured (if possible). Even if the bird’s head is not obscured, adjust your aim slowly and deliberately toward the tom’s head and fire as soon as you get on target, unless you enjoy spitting pellets during the dinner. A single well placed shot should be enough but in case it isn’t quickly shot a follow up shot. Don’t forget to place a tag and take pictures!
Another method I use to hunt is go the old fashioned way by using a bow. Since you have to hold the bow for a great distance and time, a pro-tip is to use a bow with less poundage. You can use mechanical or fixed blade broad heads, whichever you prefer. A pop-up ground blind is perfect for staying concealed while turkey hunting with archery equipment. Head shot with a bow is hard, especially if you are using mechanical broad heads in this case, only take body shots.
When it comes to equipment my motto is simple; it is better to have it and not need it rather than need it and not have it. You should use equipment in correspondence with the season because they have different hunting styles. Hunting gear essentials include the following
- Full body camouflage with cameo headset, hat and gloves. This during hunting is a necessity as the prey has sharp eyes and will notice you otherwise and runaway. You can use split finger gloves so you hold the gun firmly. Such as this:
- Locator calls, pot and peg calls, box calls, double reed mouth call, diaphragm call or any other type that works for you. With using calls focus is on pitch, volume and the movement required to use them. Each of these work best in a specific time and situation but box call and double reed call are must haves. You can further increase your options by carrying slates made of different material. Here are the various types of locator calls that are used widely.
A box such as this can also be used:
- Shot gun. 12 gauges is the standard gobbler gun, one chambered for 3 ½ inch shells and #5 shot works best as it generates a higher pressure resulting in greater speed and velocity. An extra full turkey choke is a must with a cameo finish and sights. When it comes to barrel, I hunting use one that is neither short nor long. The length gives you velocity but makes it harder to move. A pistol grip on the shotgun will keep your wrist and hand in a comfortable and natural position, therefore I prefer it. The aim is to put as many pellets as you can on the turkey’s head, the size of which is like a small hand fist. Find your maximum range (where you are able to shoot at least 5 pellets on head or spine) by practicing at a target. Practice until you can shoot three patterns. The guns that are commonly used include these:
Other equipment required for hunting turkeys include lights, knives, hunting vest, ThermaCell (to keep the bugs and insects at bay), hearing protection, cleaning kit, gun sling, gear bag, 16 ounce water bottle ( Because turkey hunting makes you thirsty).call care kit, shower kit and gun case.
After the shot, keep the feathered bird prey in a cool place so as not to spoil the meat. The field dressing process begins right after shooting. A bow killed turkey should be dressed within an hour of hunting as the bow ruptures the intestinal tract. Flip the turkey onto its back, grab the beard as close to the turkeys body as possible and pull it away from the breast. Start by gutting the turkey by cutting a slit from breast bone to anus. Remove large intestine, gizzard, lungs, heart and liver by cutting a complete circle around the anus and then rinse the body cavity. The steps go like this:
A pro-tip is to cover the resulting gap with aluminum foil when you cook the turkey to keep the meat from drying out. If you are going to mount the bird then your dressing work is done but if not either skin or pick the bird. Use a small knife to skin the turkey. Scalding water or dry picking both can be done but advantage of dry picking is that it preserves the skin which helps to keep the bird moist while cooking. This video by Indiana DNR summarizes the process well
You can find all the respective pictures and tips here on georgiapellegrini.com which is a blog article by Georgia Pellegrini.
Turkey can be cooked in various ways the most famous being the traditional thanksgiving; baked in the oven and basted with your own secret sauce. Roasting, smoking or whole deep frying are preferably done with skin still on turkey while frying or grilling pieces of turkey are better done with a skinned bird. Older turkeys often taste better when cooked with a moist-heat method such as a Dutch oven, soup etc. while younger birds can be grilled or fried. The truth is whatever way you cook a wild turkey, and it turns out good. You can delicious turkey recipes here.
A pro-tip is to slice off the outer muscle layer of breast as this keeps the meat tender. Save the tail feathers, they can be used as a headdress. Also save the carcass for stew or simple stock. Another tip is to use the legs, spurs, beard, wings and plumage as decorative items after preserving them with dab dry preservatives such as borax. Non-glossy coatings look better than glossy types. Their natural color looks best. These also work as trophies and reminders of a great catch. A typical turkey hunting trophy look like this:
I grew up hunting with my father and these are tips from years of experience and quite a few strict scoldings from him. Turkey hunting is a fast growing sport. New hunters enjoy the thrill of hunting, the sumptuous dinner that comes with it is another incentive. To quote a seasoned turkey veteran, “These are the good ole’ days in turkey hunting, so enjoy the many opportunities available for harvesting and tasting this majestic bird.” So be a part of the tradition.
I hope that now you are ready for an enjoyable and safe hunting season. Do remember to respect property owners and other hunters and I assure you that you will find new friends.Did you enjoy the guide? And was it useful? Have you learned about how to hunt a turkey? Do share your thoughts by commenting. We look forward to your feedback and share it further to anyone you think will benefit from this. Cheers!