Outdoor Articles

Turkey Techniques: Choose Your Equipment Carefully Before the Hunt

by Pursue The Outdoors on March 2nd, 2006 in Turkey Hunting

One of the advantages of turkey hunting is that it doesn’t require a truckload of equipment. With a whole spring turkey season in front of you, there’s plenty of time to get out and get a tom without having to worry about spending a fortune get it done.

A good goose decoy spread may fill the bed of a one-ton truck, but all you need for a turkey hunt is a call, a shotgun or small-caliber rifle and a good set of camouflage clothing, including a face net. A decoy or two would be helpful, but it’s not a requirement for a successful hunt. If toms are coming to a call, a decoy can help convince them to keep coming. But if they’re not responding, no decoy will help.

Camouflage is important, but the best way to stay hidden is to minimize movement. A gobbler can come up to you in full strut, then be gone in a blur of feathers if he spots the slightest movement. He’ll turn and run into the brush, and he’ll do it so quickly you won’t have time to react.

The best way to keep from spooking the birds is to work in groups. Place your decoys in the open, then put the hunter in a bush, blind or other cover about 30 yards away. The caller naturally has to move to work the call, so the caller should be about 10 yards behind the hunter and should also be well concealed.

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The idea of placing the caller away from the shooter is to draw the turkey’s attention away from the hunter. The birds can pinpoint the source of sounds surprisingly well, and if the caller is too close to the hunter, the turkey will notice the movement required to bring the gun to the ready. If that happens, it will be gone before the hunter has a chance to take a quality shot.

Camouflage will help break up your image, but it won’t do any good if you can’t sit still when the birds can see you.

The right equipment is important, too. Like anything else, using the right equipment gives you the best chance for success, but knowing how to use that equipment adds to the results. Practice with your calls, pattern your shotgun and wear your camo clothes around the house for several hours. If any of the equipment doesn’t do what you want it to do, get rid of it. It’s better to find out at home that your headnet blocks your vision out of your shooting eye than to realize it as you’re drawing a bead on a bird.

Another pitfall for many hunters is the gadget syndrome. Don’t rely on the newest, most advanced gizmo on the market. It won’t do you any good if you don’t know the basics of your quarry. Learn how turkeys behave in the spring. Find out how they respond to calls. Read about what they eat and how often they need to go to water. If you don’t know how they’ll respond to hunting pressure, no GPS on the market will help you get a turkey.

If you have time, a good way to ensure you’ll have a good shot at a turkey is to find where they are in the afternoon, then watch them roost near sundown. The next morning, before sunup, go back to where you saw them settle in for the night and hunker down. As the sun rises, use your box call to get their attention, then wait for them to come your way.

If you can’t devote that much time to the hunt, you can try to use your call to locate the turkeys. Take cover on a hill overlooking a likely area, then gobble a few times with a box call. If you get an answer, try to spot the birds with your binoculars, then find a good place to set up near where the turkeys are. Once you’re in position, you can try to call them in.

Probably the piece of equipment you should practice most with is the call. Many calls come with an audio or video tape that will produce the sound you should try to duplicate. Box calls are probably the easiest to master, but they still require practice to become proficient.

Spring is the best time to use calls, because the birds may be mating and will be more territorial and more interested in chasing off rivals or gathering hens.

But even in the spring, you can’t take it for granted that the birds will come to your call. The birds often will find cover and hole up, and if the habitat is good, they are nearly impossible to spot.

When they are responding to the call, a decoy can be a huge asset. Many hunters carry two decoys — a tom and a hen. If you have both genders, you can cover all your bases. A tom coming to your call may be looking to run off a rival, or he may be looking for a hen to settle down with. If you have both staked out in front of you, chances are good that the incoming tom will come to one or the other.

The other benefit to decoys comes in the form of distraction. When a turkey is lured by the call, he can pick out the source of the sound easily. The decoys can help shift the tom’s interest from what’s making the sound to what he sees in front of him. If he bites on the decoys, you’ll have more freedom to get your gun up for a shot.

Play It Safe While Hunting Turkeys

The most crucial element of an enjoyable hunt is safety. If you’re hunting on public land, you’re more apt to run into other hunters than if you’re on private land.

In either case, never put the sneak on a call unless you can visually confirm it’s a live bird making the noise. In that case, get as close as you can, then set up and try to call the bird to you.

Chances are you’ll spook the turkey if you try to sneak up on it, and it’ll run or fly away or take cover in dense brush, and you won’t get a shot anyway. If it’s another hunter making the noise, you’re putting yourself in danger of being mistaken for a turkey.

If you happen to call in another hunter, don’t stand up, wave or make other movements to alert him or her to your presence. Announce yourself in a speaking voice, but don’t shout or make any other startling noises.

Avoid red clothing and handkerchiefs, because these items may appear to another hunter to be the head of a gobbler.

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