If you are looking for the best turkey hunting tips, you found the right place. Wild turkey hunting has made a resurgence back into the hearts and minds of hunters everywhere.
Here's the thing:
The feeling of hunting turkey is one of the most unique experiences you can have out in the woods.
Not only that...
Listening to the spring woods wake... hearing the gobbles of roosted birds in the distance... calling in a gobbler until that final moment...
What an amazing experience!
And here's what we can't get enough of:
One the greatest shows on Earth might be a strutting and spitting tom that was lured in by your seductive calling, unaware he is being watched down the barrel of a shotgun or bow sight.
Then it's up to you to take that final shot.
Like most outdoor activities, you can hunt turkey for thirty years and still learn something new every time you are out in the woods.
Most of us know this already: Turkeys have a knack at humbling even the most experienced hunter.
This article will not only provide turkey hunting basics, but will also give you the best tips and tactics to get on birds early. These tried and true methods have taken decades to perfect.
Before we start, check out this amazing turkey hunting experience. What a rush!
I'm first going to take you through turkey hunting 101, then we will discuss some more advanced topics. That way you can learn the intricacies of this bird with the knowledge that you gained here.
A Brief Note On Turkeys
Wild turkey can be found throughout the continental Unites States.
They can be grouped into four different subspecies based on geography, but their behavior and the hunting tactics remain consistent wherever you hunt them.
During the spring season, turkeys are focused on mating. We have three major players in this game:
Toms - mature male turkey
Jakes - juvenile male turkey
Hens - female turkey
The jakes and toms will gobble and strut to attract hens to them. In contrast, hunters imitate female vocalizations to try and draw the males to them.
This is counter to a turkey’s natural instinct and requires proper scouting, set up, and calling to bag a nice bird.
Fall seasons find turkey flocked up and focused on feeding.
The strategy for hunting during this time requires physically scattering the flocks into various directions and then using calls to imitate the flock trying to locate each other.
Given this, we will discuss the necessary gear and the basic hunting tactics to successfully bag turkeys during both Spring and Fall seasons.
Turkey Hunting Gear
The weaponry, camo, and accessories available can be extensive with a lot of options that might be overwhelming for those looking to get into the sport.
We will walk you through some of the basic gear needed to bag a turkey this fall and spring season.
Turkey Hunting Shotgun
The 12 gauge is the favored weapon for chasing wild turkey. It can handle heavy loads able to reach out at those distances and still provide enough of a punch to drop the bird.
There are specific models that have been designed and manufactured specifically for turkey hunting, but you can outfit any 12 gauge to kill turkeys with the right choke and loads.
Most turkey guns will come in camouflage patterns. Yes, a turkey’s eyesight is that good.
A lot of hunters accessorize their turkey gun with pistol grips and scope attachments for easier handling and more accurate shooting.
Some popular choices for turkey hunting guns include the Remington 870, as well as some Mossberg options. The 870 is considered by many to be the best gun for turkey hunting, and the number of sales over the years can back up that claim.
A great review of the 870 super magnum is below.
Having the correct choke is essential in bagging birds. You need a choke that provides a tight pattern even at distances over 35 yards.
If you walk out with a choke you use for clay or dove shooting you're not going to drop a turkey unless it’s 10 yards away.
Commercial turkey chokes usually extend out past the end of the barrel to funnel the shot into a tighter pattern. There are several excellent turkey chokes available on the market.
To choose the right one, there are several guides out there on choosing the best choke for turkey hunting.
The most popular shot size for turkey is the #5 lead shot. You can experiment with various types of ammunition out there.
A lot of hunters prefer heavier material than lead. They can shoot #6 or #7 with these materials, have denser patterns, and still retain the stopping power of a lead #5.
We can’t tell you what you will like shooting more, and just want you to know that there are options available to you.
Whatever turkey choke and load of shot you use, be sure to take it to the range to pattern it before using it to bag a turkey this season.
Turkey Hunting Clothing
Turkeys have incredible eye sight. Because of a turkey's eye sight, turkey hunting camo means that you are going to need to be in camo from head to toe. The good news is that you have many options when it comes to turkey hunting clothes.
For fall turkey hunts, you need and in most states are required to be wearing hunter’s orange since you are sharing the woods with deer hunters.
Camo used during turkey hunting should reflect the foliage that is present.
You do not want to use camo patterns that are suited for fall and winter woods, as this will present your outline to the birds.
The same is said for wearing spring camo during the fall.
When turkey hunting, never ever wear anything that is blue, white, or red! These colors look like a big ole tom’s head and unsafe trigger-happy hunters might not adhere to safe hunting practices as closely as they should.
Be safe, don't become a statistic.
Turkey Hunting Vest
The amount of gear you haul out into the woods can quickly become cumbersome. Turkey hunting supplies include a lot of things that add up quickly.
Shotgun, brush removal tools, shells, calls, decoys, and blinds would be near impossible to carry during a turkey hunt that often requires a lot of moving your setup as you locate birds.
Turkey hunting vests keep all your gear organized and easily accessible as well as provides padding for extended sits on the ground against trees.
Turkey Hunting Boots
Hunting during the spring season often requires a lot of moving and hunting in wet conditions.
A good all around pair of turkey boots are comfortable, provide high ankle support, and offer some form of water resistance.
The type of terrain and the weather in your area will ultimately be the main factors for the type of boot you wear.
If you will be in areas with lots of snakes you might want to invest in snakebite boots for added security.
If you are in colder weather, consider getting some decent insulated boots. There is nothing worse than freezing feet in the middle of a hunt.
Mucks boots are amazing and loved by most. Check them out at your local retailer.
Misc Turkey Hunting Accessories
There are several pieces of gear that can really tip the odds for bringing in and dropping a turkey.
- Camo face net
- Camo gloves
- Turkey hunting seat
- Turkey hunting chairs
- Hand held pruning shears (For clearing shooting lanes)
- Portable blind (For open areas and multiple hunters)
Best Turkey Calls
Calling to toms and jakes are a necessary and an integral part to turkey hunting. You will be attempting to bring a male turkey to you against all of his instincts during the spring season.
The various types of calls we will discuss imitate a hen that is searching for a mate. There are three main models of turkey hunting calls. We will discuss the pros and cons of each type.
You need experience using all three to get a feel for what you are most comfortable with and understand what type of call might be more beneficial in certain situations.
We will briefly go over each type next.
The box call is usually made from wood and is a great call for beginners because you can create some nice turkey vocalizations after minimal practice.
Box calls contain two parts: a bottom hollow box and a lid that has been shaped with a handle and is attached to the box half on a swivel.
The lid is used to scrape across the top edge of the box portion to mimic the sound of a hen.
Box calls can be used to make a number of different hen vocalizations and it is able to carry across long distances.
A box call is great if you can’t locate any toms or jakes in your area and need to reach out to distant birds.
One drawback is that it’s difficult to work birds with a box call when they are within visual range.
It also needs proper care and most cannot be used in wet conditions because the wood will warp.
Many box calls need to be re-chalked often. Some have rubber bands to hold the lid on that may break or age on you and will need to be replaced.
Primos came up with a new innovation using a magnet for the lid, removing the pesky rubber bands and working better than a normal clasp.
Pot And Striker Calls
This type of call is sometimes referred to as a slate call, but that is not a completely accurate statement.
These calls consist of a round container with a round disc top that is made from slate, glass, or some type of ceramic material.
The sound of a hen is produced from scraping a striker across the surface of the pot. Often, the striker is usually made of aluminum, wood, or a type of carbon alloy.
The type of sound that these calls can make will vary based on the material of the pot surface and striker.
The biggest advantage of these calls is the wide array of hen noises that can be imitated.
Like the box call, its drawback is it requires two hands to use. This call also takes more practice to become efficient at imitating a hen.
Diaphragm calls are often referred to as mouth calls. These calls use latex reeds, sometimes a single layer or multiple layers in different cuts to provide various ranges of pitch and sound.
The vibration of the reeds caused by the expulsion of air and mouth manipulations can produce a wide array of hen noises.
Mouth calls allow you to remain hands free and produce the widest range of calls. They are also cheaper than the other calls listed.
With a mouth call you are able to talk to the bird up to taking the shot without any movement.
The downside is that these calls take quite a bit of practice to produce adequate hen vocalizations.
Some hunters also like to use the following types of calls which can come in handy:
- Owl hoot (locator call)
- Crow call (locator call)
Decoys are one of the most effective tools that can be used for turkey hunting. A good hen decoy may be the deciding factor for bringing in a wary tom within gun range.
A deadly combination includes a hen with a young jake decoy. If an older tom sees this it can bring him in quickly, thinking a young jake is stealing a hen.
When hunting with decoys, especially on public land, be sure to use caution when using decoys imitating a jake or small tom.
Other hunters may mistakenly take a shot at your decoy and you don't want to be down range of their barrel.
Turkey decoys range from inflatable to rubber, to real, stuffed imitations. These vary in price and effectiveness.
The more realistic the decoy, the less chances of a tom figuring out your game and spooking upon closer examination.
Turkey Hunting Tips
Not only am I going to cover turkey hunting tips for beginners, we will also look at some more advanced techniques.
For most states, there are two separate seasons where turkey hunting is legal. This includes a spring and a fall season.
As the tactics for hunting during the two periods differ, we will look at each season individually.
Spring Turkey Hunting Tips
Early in the year, there are a few things to enhance your hunt.
Pattern Your Gun
This tip is important for both spring and fall hunts. There are targets available that have a silhouette of the turkey’s head and neck so you can have an idea how much of your shot pattern is in the critical zone.
You should pattern your gun from 20 up to 50 yards away.
Find The Roost
The best time to get a bird hot and bothered is right after he comes down off the roost (tree) in the morning.
When the birds fly off roost they will look to hen-up as soon as possible.
Once they are with a hen your chances of pulling them away are slim to none.
Roosting a bird the evening before a hunt is quick and will provide you a better chance at bringing in a bird the next morning.
Owl and crow calls will trigger a gobble and will give you an idea of where the turkey is roosting.
Maximize Your Setup
If you have a bird roosted, it’s not going to matter if you have a bad setup.
If the roosted bird seems to be close to a field, setting up a few trees back into the woods with a clearing of the field in front of you gives you excellent view of the surrounding area and a lot of shooting lanes.
Be sure not to set up with the roosting bird right behind you or even directly under the roost tree!
A tom blowing your hat off from 25 yards right behind you, while a fun rush, usually results in a spooked bird.
Instead, have your decoys set up 20-25 yards in front of you and far enough in the field for the incoming birds to have a clear view of them.
If you have to set up deeper in the woods, you need to pick an area that will provide decent shooting lanes. Having an idea of what obstacles lie between you and the bird will help you pick a better location.
You don’t want a lot of rises and depressions between you and the bird. Some hunters will even tell you streams or heavy brush will hang up a tom.
While it is near impossible to account for all these variables you can maximize your setup to give you the best chance of bringing in a bird.
For beginners, one of the common and costly mistakes is calling too frequently. You have to remember that what you are doing to bring in birds goes against their natural instincts.
The big toms are used to gobbling and waiting for the hens to flock to him. If you’re not a great caller and continue to yelp constantly, he is going to shut up and walk in the opposite direction.
Call enough to get him interested and then play hard to get. Set a time limit for yourself. If you get him talking after a few calls, force yourself to remain silent for ten minutes and then hit the call again.
If a bird does clam up don’t abandon your position immediately. A lot of times the birds will go silent, but still make their way towards your position.
This is another reason setting a time limit in between calls can be to your advantage. If he shuts up, stay where you are for at least another half hour before moving on to other birds.
Aim For The Head
If you’ve never had it, wild turkey breast is some of the best game meat available and you don’t want it filled with lead.
These are tough birds and shots taken at 40 yards at the body probably aren’t enough to bring him down.
Aiming for the neck and head is the optimal area for a clean kill. If the tom is strutting, a quick yelp on a mouth call can make him stick his neck out, giving you a cleaner shot.
Locate Other Birds
Sometimes you roost a bird, have a great setup, have them talking, and not see a single tom strut into gun range.
It’s okay and happens pretty often to every hunter that steps foot into the turkey woods. It doesn’t mean your hunt is over for the day. This is where walking can come into play.
Stick to elevated areas and yelp a few times or use locator calls to try coaxing a gobble. Sound can carry oddly when in the woods and if you are in low elevations you might not hear birds only a few hundred yards away.
If you do locate a bird, utilize the tips about maximizing your setup.
Take your time after you locate a bird. Setting up hastily might put you in a poor position and result in a gobbler hanging up or spotting you early.
Don’t Mind The Rain
Turkey hunting in the rain can actually be beneficial to the hunter. Scouting is even more important in this scenario and roosting a bird can increase your chances in foul weather.
Set up on the edge of large clearings. Turkeys rely on their sight for protection from predators, and when visibility is low, toms will almost hang out exclusively in large clearings to look for hens.
Just make sure you can keep you and your gear dry and avoid getting hypothermia. Also, be cautious about sitting under trees if there is lightning.
Fall Turkey Hunting Tips
Hunting turkey during the fall requires several different tactics. During the fall, turkeys have grouped together into flocks.
Hens, toms, and jakes will all flock into their various gender and age groups. These birds main drive is to feed.
Be sure to check your state’s turkey hunting regulations. There are several states that do not allow turkey hunting in the fall.
Some states are strict on the amount of hunter’s orange that must be worn as fall turkey coincides with some deer firearm seasons. Remember, safety first.
Scout, Scout, And Scout
The great thing about fall turkey hunting is that it usually coincides with deer season so while your chasing bucks, keep an eye open for flocks of turkey. Where are they feeding and roosting?
These birds will mostly keep to the woods around large nut deposits or in clearings next to the wood lines where there are scattered grain seeds.
If you are in a meat crisis and have an idea of where the birds are feeding, then you can always set up with a blind to ambush them. That’s not near as fun as the next tip.
Bust The Flock
These flocks can range from a few birds to well over 30. The goal is to scatter the flock into several directions with at least a few of the birds being singled out.
You will need to be fairly close to the birds before flushing them. If you start running at them from 200 yards away they are going to stay together as they retreat.
When you bust the flock, be aware of the direction that single birds or pairs scatter to. These will be the birds that will respond and come into calls more willingly.
Call Them In
Turkeys are still very vocal during the fall, but the seductive yelps of a hen are not going to be as effective at bringing in scattered birds.
If you have an idea of where single birds or pairs have escaped to, set up to work those birds around 30 minutes after scattering the flock. You also do not want to set up in the area you initially busted the birds up.
Use a variety of different sounding calls to mimic different birds. This makes it sound more like a flock locating lost friends.
The call you will use depends on the type of birds in the flock. If they are hens you are best served with high pitched lost hen yelps and a type of call known as kee-kee.
For gobblers, the best call is to actually gobble. These type of calls are available, but should be used sparingly and not at all when on public land. You will not only be gaining the ear of lost turkey but of other hunters in the area as well.
You should be warned now, after a gobble blows your hat off you’re going to be addicted.
Turkey hunting can do that to a person. It will lead to practicing your calling on the ride to work and during your lunch break.
It will lead to calling in sick to get an extra day in the woods. It’s a curse and a blessing. You can learn a lot in the Turkey woods. Mostly humility, but other lessons as well.
We hope this guide will provide a resource for the novice turkey hunter or for a veteran looking for a refresher.
We covered the basic turkey hunting gear and accessories. We discussed tips and tactics for spring and fall hunting. With the basic gear and hunting knowledge you should be able to get a bird talking and maybe even draw a bead on a strutting tom.
Always remember that safety comes first. Practice good gun safety rules. Be aware of other hunters out there that might mistakenly shoot you, and also be aware of your own shots to make sure they are 100% safe.
Before you head out on your drive to the woods, make sure you've got some coffee in your thermos.
Huston has spent over 18 years chasing trout, deer, turkey, and game birds across the Southeast and Midwest United States.
As the founder of Discovery & Learning Writing Service, he enjoys helping businesses generate trustworthy and quality material in the outdoor, science, and education fields.
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