By: Greg Kuper
The Wild Turkey can be found virtually everywhere in the U.S. and has few predators in the wild. The predators they do have are usually more of a danger to hens, very young turkeys and eggs.
Turkeys are very large birds with an average weight of 16 pounds. Males can be 46 inches tall with a 64 inch wingspan. Females are a bit smaller at 37 inches tall with a 50 inch wingspan. They make for good eating as you probably know from Thanksgiving.
Hunting any animal presents challenges. If you have never been hunting, you can’t expect to go hunt with success. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t go. Here are some tips for you to follow if you have never hunted for turkeys but want to go.
- Hunt with a buddy. Hunt with someone who knows what he is doing, or at least has done it before. It is no crime to hunt with someone who knows what they are doing. That is how I learned. They will know the ins-and-outs and are usually pretty good about teaching their buddies the ropes.
- Camouflage. Turkeys have great vision, so to avoid being detected, wear camouflage. Cover every part of yourself with pants, jacket or long sleeved shirt, mask, gloves, and boots (Black boots work too). It is a good idea to have a jacket or vest with pockets to hold extra ammo, turkey callers, and maybe even a pocket full of trail mix. Just make sure that above all else, you consider the time of year when choosing patterns and colors. You want to blend in with the forest, so in the spring, wear lots of green. No matter how good your camouflage is, if you move around a lot you will be seen, so sit still.
- Choose an appropriate weapon. You can hunt turkey with a gun or a bow, but if it is your first time, give yourself a chance…use a shotgun. You can use a 10 or a 12 gauge, but I prefer a 12 gauge. Use a full choke with large shot pellets for maximum punch. This will give you a good, clean kill shot up to 45 yards, but your best shot will be at 25 yards. It is best to go shooting with your gun to establish its pattern. You will have to check the target at 25 yards and 40 yards to ensure that at least eight pellets are hitting your target area.
- Choose a good hunting spot. To hunt turkeys, you must first find them. They are tricky birds, very smart. You want to scout the area for the best location. Start by buying a map of the area you will be. Start with a large area and find a spot where it is likely turkeys would be, then narrow it down to a smaller area, then a piece of property, and finally a specific hunting spot.
You can also inquire from DNR workers, sporting goods store employees, area biologists, or hunt club members as to where are good spots. Be courteous and those guys will be glad to assist you. You can look at public or private land, just get permission if the land is private.
To scout, check out ridges, high points, power lines, dry creek and river bottoms, and listen for gobbling. You can use a turkey caller, but if you get a bird to answer you, don’t continue to call him. There are two reasons for this; first, you can spook turkeys when you do that and second, if there are other hunters scouting the area, you might be helping them.
While scouting, look for signs of turkeys. Look for turkey droppings, feathers, scratch marks in the dirt, tracks, and of course, gobbling. Learn More About Scounting
- Calling. Calling well and knowing when to do it are crucial to success. Make sure you practice before you try to call, it isn’t easy. Ask an experienced hunter to help you. Most turkey hunters imitate hens to attract gobblers. In addition to other sounds, hens yelp, and cluck, so learn those two calls and you will be fine. The other calls will come with time. The best calls for beginners are box calls, slate-type friction calls, and push pin calls. This is because they are easy to use. Learn More About Calling Turkeys
- When you are actually hunting. Once you are out there, have your license, your gun and your spot, it is time to get your bird. Your first goal is to spot the bird you want. Your next goal is to get as close as you can without the bird seeing you (If he sees you, you won’t get him). Do not approach the bird if he is within 100 yards away, set up and see if he’ll come to you. Always use the terrain to your advantage. Brush, trees, hills and ridges, anything that will conceal your movement are your friends, so use them.
To set up, use a stump or a tree that is wider than you are at your back and face the turkey with your left shoulder if you are right handed. Keep your movement to a minimum if you make a call. If you call and he doesn’t come, you can try changing your call, or you can wait…he may return later. If you see a turkey moving towards you and then disappears and goes silent, just wait, sometimes they sneak up on you.
When the turkey is within your range (40 yards or closer), aim your shotgun and fire. If he is strutting, wait until he sticks his head out so you can get a clean shot. A one shot one kill should always be your goal.