Let's Talk Turkey: How to Turkey Hunt
September 14, 2020
Turkey is an excellent game to hunt. However, it requires proper gear and a basic understanding of scouting and calling–plus, the methods of using decoys to get the gobbler all riled up over his territory. It’s lots of patience and work, but in the end, the challenge of a turkey hunt can also be a ton of fun.
Ready to carve your own turkey? Learn how to turkey hunt and bring home a great big gobbler.
Essential Turkey Hunting Gear
Before we go through the basics of how to turkey hunt, it’s essential to talk about gear. Here is some of the more common equipment to consider bringing along on a turkey hunt:
- Shotgun/Rifle– Take a gun with a non-reflective finish or use temporary camo tape. Some hunters prefer lightweight single-shot shotguns, pump-action shotguns and semi-automatics. Many turkey hunters prefer shotguns with shorter barrels (26 inches or less) for portability. Gun cases and, specifically, rifle cases can help you keep your gun protected from the elements.
- Shells – Popular turkey hunting shell choices are a twelve-gauge 3 and 3½-inch magnum and a lead shot in sizes 4, 5 and 6. Keep them secure in a watertight ammo case.
- Gun Sling – For walking all day in the woods.
- Head-to-toe Camo – From hat to gloves to boots, disguise with camouflage.
- Turkey Vest –Store calls, strikers, snacks, shells and more. Many have a detachable seat for resting.
- Calf-High Rubber Boots – Tread water and mud as you track turkeys. A high calf protects against snakes, too.
- Hen and Jake Decoys – More on how both are useful below.
- Ground Blinds – These camo-patterned pop-up hunting blinds are mostly intended for bowhunters, but come in handy for both hunting weapons. You don’t even have to brush them into the setting. Simply pop it open in the middle of a field.
Turkeys require a diverse habitat with nearby food, water and shelter. While they might find food near fields of grain, they also need trees to roost in. While this might seem to make scouting trickier, if you can determine areas with all three, you have hit the jackpot. Look for large trees where they roost, but also with sparse timber. Somewhere nearby should be open, non-forested land. You can also hunt public land with a booming turkey population. Even if turkeys feel more hunting pressure, they have lots of room to roam.
Scouting for Turkeys
When scouting for turkeys, follow the gobblers. To do so, you typically need private land permission and public land access to determine their habitat. Once there, look and listen.
Keep your eyes peeled for signs such as turkey tracks left behind in mud, snow or sandy areas. Scratching is also a clear indicator, especially around oaks, beech nuts and other mast trees, and point to a flock. Droppings are also a giveaway. Look for older droppings now, but fresher droppings later to determine a good scouting standpoint. Look for dusting areas in loose soil or sand where they tend to roll around and drag marks where they strut, dragging their wingtips.
Listen for gobblers in the early dawn hours. If you can find some elevation to watch them come strutting into view, this is your prime spot.
Attracting a Turkey: Decoys and Calls
When to Use Hen and Jake Decoys
Mature tom turkeys become territorial when other jakes harass their harem. And it’s this gobbler’s protectiveness that can work to your advantage. To catch the gobblers’ attention, especially young 2-year-old ones seeking a mate, combine the hen and jake decoys together to invite some competition.
Strutting decoys can invoke a challenge, too, inviting the dominant gobbler into your sights and full aim. However, the more sub-dominant longbeards will be turned off, not wasting their time. Don’t use a decoy when hunting in deep woods, as turkeys are near-sighted and can spook once they find the decoy. Also be wary of any over-hunted areas where the turkey might have seen their fair share of decoys already.
How to Call a Turkey
Once you scout an excellent hunting site, find a close spot along their route where the turkey will hear the call. Make sure there are open shooting lanes where the turkey will step into range. Use your calls to imitate turkeys, calling your game into view.
The most common turkey calls are the plain cluck and the hen yelp. While there are over 30 turkey calling sounds in the wild, these are the most time-tested for hunting turkey.
- Cluck –A single sound made by both gobblers and hens, spaced out over two to three seconds.
- Hen Yelp –These high-pitched, three- to eight-note long yelps lure gobblers. Turkeys yelp slower and often in threes.
Ready to take down a granddaddy gobbler? Hopefully, this introductory guide can get you started on your next turkey hunt. Before you know it, you’ll be proudly serving up freshly hunted turkey at Thanksgiving.
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