In 20 years of turkey hunting here are the 20 top tips I've learned to up
your odds of success in the turkey woods.
Scout -- and then scout some more. Nothing will increase your chances more than
to have a thorough knowledge of the land and the birds you will be hunting, and
to have several options available should Plan A get messed up.
Make sure every inch of you -- especially those parts most neglected, such as
face and hands -- is covered with camo.
Pack A Pruner
A really neat trick is to pack a small hand pruner. As you set up, clip a few
leafy branches or bushes and stick them in the ground around you. It is a very
quick and effective way to enhance your concealment.
Get Great Raingear
This is one of my most important tips. Why? Because sometimes when you want to
hunt, it's gonna rain, and despite common wisdom, turkey hunting can be great
in the rain. But you'll give up once you're soaked to the bone.
Pack A Decoy
Sure, they can be a little trouble, but few things will up your odds of success
in certain situations than a decoy.
Roost A Bird
Always try to roost a bird the evening before. Knowing exactly where a gobbler
is going to be in the predawn ups your odds hugely. If you get lazy or go
fishing, it could cost you your bird.
Use strategic tactics. It's not all about getting into earshot of a tom and
calling him in because most times he will be unresponsive. But if you've
sleuthed his habits and know his travel routes and how to intercept him, you
might not have to call at all.
Use Shock Calls
Those calls designed to annoy a tom into gobbling and giving his location away
have accounted for over half of the turkeys I've taken. One of their best
purposes is to keep you from accidentally stumbling over a silent tom, not
knowing he is there, which is why I use them a lot when I'm moving.
If you're running and gunning, the more ground you can cover the better,
especially when you're still trying to locate the day's first gobbler. A little
imagination can help here -- I once started at the top of a big ridge and
coasted quietly down the forest road on a mountain bike, listening, covering
several miles until I finally located my gobbler.
When setting up to call, make it as easy as possible for a gobbler to approach
into shooting range. Avoid obstacles such as fences, creeks, and thick brush.
Try to be on the level or slightly uphill from the bird.
Approach With Caution -- And Consciousness
Probably the biggest mistake turkey hunters make is to approach a gobbling tom
recklessly and bump him. Always approach with caution, erring on the
stopping-short side. Every time you do approach a tom, be conscious of
everything -- especially learning how to tell how far away a gobble really is --
so you can learn the nuances of stalking a turkey.
Carry Many Calls
I've always said you don't have to be a champion turkey caller to harvest a turkey. But certain calls
do seem to do the trick when others won't. Mouth diaphragms, slates, box calls,
and others all have their advantages. Learn to use, and carry, a variety of
Start Calling Softly
Some birds, especially those "messed with" by preseason turkey scouters,
seem shy of loud or aggressive calling. Start soft and if you don't get
satisfactory results, then increase the volume.
Learn How To Cutt
Turkey calling described as "cutting" -- a fast, staccato, rather
loud and insistent series of yelps -- will often turn on and motivate a gobbler
when nothing else will.
Try Something Different
Don't be a slave to habits and "rules." Among the biggest mistakes
turkey hunters make is to get into a rut and fail to try new things when the
old ways aren't working. For example, you don't always have to stay planted
with your back against a tree waiting for the turkey to come. Sometimes you
need to bust a move!
Use Enough Gun
Most hunters could use improvements in their armament, whether it is a better
pattern, tighter choke, more precise pattern placement, more potent loads, and
the like. Here's an idea most turkey hunters don't do -- take a cue from rifle
hunters, and practice with your gun before going out!
As a serious upland bird hunter I am always amazed that anyone could miss a
standing turkey with a shotgun -- and how often it happened to my friends. Then
it happened to me! It can happen to anyone, and is usually because they get
excited and shoot too soon or not carefully enough.
Be Ready With A Follow-Up Shot
Many hunters that expect to see their bird flopping can only sit and stare in
disbelief as they run away. Be ready for a second shot.
Archers: Take Perfect Shots
If you're bowhunting, take only perfect shots. Turkeys are among the hardest
animals to take by bow because their vital zones are so small. Study turkey
vital zones and how to locate them from different angles under all those
Finally, give it your all. Get lots of sleep, get up early, hunt hard, don't
get lazy, don't give up, and do your part to protect and propagate the resource
for the future.
For a selection of Turkey Hunting gear, click here.
Mike Strandlund is editor of Bowhunting World Magazine and
bowhuntingworld.com, and is a member of the National Bowhunters Hall of Fame.