2IndexThe Wild TurkeyTurkey Guns and ammunitionTurkey CallsTacticsCallingCamouflageBlinds8 TipsCleaning a wild turkeyCooking your wild turkeyEthicsKDWP rules and regulationsNWTF
3What does a wild turkey look like Size: The wild turkey is the largest of North America's game birds.Adult males, known as toms or gobblers, normally weigh between 16 and 24 pounds.Females, known as hens, are smaller than males and usually weigh between 8 and 10 pounds.The largest wild turkey on record weighed 37 pounds.Feathers:Males: Gobblers have iridescent red, green, copper, bronze and gold feathers. They use these bright colors to great advantage when attracting females during breeding season.Females: Hens have drab, usually brown or gray feathers. They make great camouflage and hide hens when they sit on their nests.Color Phases: A few wild turkeys grow unusually colored feathers. These are known as color phases. There are four color phases, a smokey gray color phase, a melanistic color phase (all black), an erythritic color phase (reddish coloration) and an albino color phase (very rare).
4Head:Males: Males have brightly colored, nearly featherless heads. During breeding season the color of their heads alternates between red, white and blue, often changing in a few seconds.Hens: A hen's head is gray-blue and has some small feathers for camouflage.Caruncles and Snoods: Both males and females have fleshy growths on their heads known as caruncles. They also both have snoods, fleshy protrubances that hang over their bills and can be extended or contracted at will. The snood of an adult male is usually much larger than that of a female. No one knows for sure what these growths are for, but both probably developed as ways to attract mates.Beard:A male turkey grows a cluster of long, hairlike feathers from the center of its chest. This cluster is known as the turkey's beard.On adult males, these beards average about 9 inches long.10 to 20 percent of hens also grow beards.The longest beard on record is more than 18 inches long.Legs:Wild turkey legs are reddish-orange.They have four toes on each foot.Male wild turkeys grow large spurs on the backs of their lower legs. These spurs are pointed, bony spikes and are used for defense and to establish dominance.Spurs can grow up to 2 inches in length. The longest spurs on record are 2.25 inches long.
5Tail:Wild turkey tails are usually 12 to 15 inches long and are banded at their tips. The color of the bands in the tail varies by subspecies.Male wild turkeys fan their tails when displaying to attract a mate.You can usually tell the difference between an adult male (a tom) and a juvenile male (a jake) turkey by looking at a turkey's tail. All tail feathers of adult males are the same length. The feathers forming the center of a jake's tail are usually longer than the rest of the feathers in the tail.ForagingWild turkeys are omnivorous, foraging on the ground or climbing shrubs and small trees to feed. They prefer eating hard mast such as acorns, nuts, and various trees, including hazel, chestnut,hickory and pinyon pine as well as various seeds,berries, roots and insects. Turkeys also occasionally consume amphibians and small reptiles such as lizards and snakes. Poults have been observed eating insects, berries, and seeds. Wild turkeys often feed in cow pastures, sometimes visit back yard bird feeders, and favor croplands after harvest to scavenge seed on the ground. Turkeys are also known to eat a wide variety of grasses.Turkey populations can reach large numbers in small areas because of their ability to forage for different types of food. Early morning and late afternoon are the desired times for eating.
6Wild Turkey Vocabulary The calls of the wild turkey are a universal language. Whether you're hunting Osceola wild turkeys in Florida or Merriam's in the Rocky Mountains, the basics:Yelp — A two-toned call that starts with a whistling "kee" and ends with a quick "oak" sound. This call means, "Here I am, come here" in turkey talk.Cluck — A single, sharp "puck" sound that means, "Here I am, where are you?" in turkey language.Purr — A staccato sound that, when uttered at a low volume, tells flock mates that all is well. Increase the volume and turkeys interpret it as a sign of agitation, frustration, anger or aggression.Putt — A loud cluck uttered when turkeys are alarmed. Putting is most often shortly followed by a hasty retreat.Kee Kee — The whistling sound uttered by young fall turkeys. When a flock is scattered the young turkeys will kee kee to each other and the boss hen until the flock regroups.Cackle — A series of fast clucks uttered when a turkey is flying or when a hen is sexually excited.Gobble — The grandest sound to a turkey hunter's ears, this call is uttered by the male turkeys to attract hens for breeding and to announce to the world that the tom is on watch and ready to defend his territory.
7Physical Senses and Abilities Turkeys are tremendous athletes. They can fly 50 miles per hour, and run up to 35 miles per hour for short distances. Their flight takes extreme coordination. A turkey's reflexes are remarkable...it can be standing still and jump into flight and be 40 yards away before a hunter can react to shoulder his gun.Vision is their primary warning system. They have large, flat eyes on the sides of their head. This means that they have superior peripheral vision. Their only blind spot is a narrow spot directly behind them. For all practical purposes, however, assume a turkey can see in a 360 degree circle all around them because their head is almost always moving to detect danger. Because of the location of their eyes, a turkey's depth perception is not good. They see the world with only one eye at a time. Objects appear to be flat to a turkey. It's hard for them to pick out shapes, especially if those shapes blend in well with surrounding vegetation (like a camouflaged hunter). A turkey's eyes have excellent focusing power and resolution. They see movement instantly and identify objects quickly, because if they didn't, they would be unable to fly down through the trees at 50 mph without getting their necks broken every time Turkeys also see color and reflections like a human. This is why you need to wear full camouflage while hunting these sharp-eyed birds. Any out-of-place color like an uncovered human face or hand, shiny gun barrel, or the like, will instantly put a turkey on alert.The ears of a turkey are located just above its eyes. A turkey is good at locating your calling position. It's been said that turkeys have a sense of direction like built-in radar. It may not be quite that good, but I know that just a call or two to a turkey and it will normally walk within 15 yards of the hunter if it's not alerted and it wants to come to the source of the sound.The woods is a noisy place and it's difficult to hear well in certain conditions, even for turkeys. A turkey's hearing is about as good as humans. A hunter walking in the leaves sometimes sounds just like a turkey walking. I've moved too close to turkeys when setting up only to have them walk right up to me before I even made a call. I know they heard me, thought the sound of my walking was another turkey and came over to investigate. If a turkey hears a strange sound, it Looks for danger, then Runs if it sees something it doesn't like. Usually if it doesn't see something that frightens it, it will relax after a few minutes and go back to doing what it was doing. So, as a hunter if you have to make a mistake, make it an audible mistake, not a visual mistake. If you make a noise, like stepping on a stick that snaps, stop for a few minutes and let things settle down before proceeding. Make certain that a turkey doesn't see you or see any movement when you're calling.To summarize, a turkeys have advantages over humans in that they can spot movement all around them, focus on and identify any shape that is out of place (you), and run or fly faster than a hunter can react to shoot. But, the good news is that a turkey has trouble identifying motionless, neutral-colored objects (like you in camouflage) because they don't have good depth perception. Finally, don't be too worried about their hearing, but I would encourage you to stalk around the woods as quietly as possible and not make any human noises....period.
8Learn the Breeding Cycle of a Wild Turkey Let's face it, we will never know exactly what a gobbler is thinking. However, we have a good idea of what his motives are during the spring.In one word — girls. During summer, fall and winter a gobbler's movements will be determined, in large part, by where he can find his next meal. As the days grow longer, they turn their attention toward more important things like breeding hens. Learning how a gobbler reacts to hens can help you improve your chances of tagging a longbeard this spring.In principle, spring turkey hunting is not difficult. Find a gobbling bird in the predawn darkness and set up nearby. As the sun starts to break the horizon, let out a few hen yelps and sit at the ready. When the bird flies down and walks within 30 yards, take him.In the woods, however, it doesn't always work that way. Oftentimes, the trick to turkey hunting is finding the right bird at the right time in the right place. The same bird that ignored your calls in the morning may run you over later that afternoon.Here are a few general tips about turkey behavior in the spring:Gobbling is used to bring hens to the gobbler. Remember that you are trying to do the opposite when you are turkey hunting. Be patient and adjust your calling intensity to suit his mood. You will typically want to try and get him fired up.Strutting is a close-range technique to attract hens to the gobbler.Dominant toms usually gobble more than subordinate ones.Jakes do gobble and strut. However, they are often afraid to, especially later in the spring after a dominant bird has whipped them a few times. Just because the spring woods are quiet doesn't mean there aren't any turkeys around.Gobblers are usually surrounded with hens early in the morning. Toward midmorning, the hens will often leave them to sit their nests. The time to be there is when a old tom is alone. Did you ever have a vocal bird at predawn working your calls only to have the bird shut up when he flew off the roost? It is probably no surprise, but he most likely had hens all around him.Gobblers still mate in the rain — they just don't gobble as much or you can't hear them as much due to the noise. There is no reason why hunting rainy-day gobblers can't be successful. Look for birds in fields and pastures when it is raining.A common misconception is that toms sometimes just get tired of gobbling and shut up later in the season. This is not true. Gobbling will peak just before hens are ready to breed (usually just before your hunting season starts) and again after most hens have started to incubate their eggs (usually toward the middle to later part of your season). Late-season hunting is a great time to find a lonesome tom.
9Sub SpeciesThere are subtle differences in the coloration, habitat, and behavior of the different subspecies of wild turkeys. The six subspecies are:1. Eastern Wild TurkeyThis was the turkey species first encountered in the wild by the Puritans, the founders of Jamestown, and the Acadians; its range is one of the largest of all subspecies. The natural range covers the entire eastern half of the United States from Maine in the north to northern Florida and extending as far west as Michigan, Illinois, and into Missouri. In Canada its range extends into Southeastern Manitoba, all of Ontario, all of Quebec, and the Maritime Provinces. They number from 5.1 to 5.3 million birds. They were first named 'forest turkey' in 1817, and can grow up to 4 feet tall. The upper tail coverts are tipped with chestnut brown. Males can reach 30 pounds in weight.2. Osceola Wild Turkey or Florida WildMost common in the Florida peninsula, they number from 80,000 to 100,000 birds. This bird is named for the famous Seminole leader Osceola, and was first described in It is smaller and darker than the Eastern Wild Turkey. The wing feathers are very dark with smaller amounts of the white barring seen on other subspecies. Their overall body feathers are an iridescent green-purple color. They are often found in scrub patches of palmetto and occasionally near swamps, where amphibian prey is abundant.3. Rio Grande Wild TurkeyThe Rio Grande Wild Turkey ranges through Texas to Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Colorado, Oregon, and was introduced to central and western California, as well as parts of a few northeastern states. It was also introduced to Hawaiʻi in the late 1950s. Population estimates for this subspecies range from 1,022,700 to 1,025,700. This subspecies, native to the central plain states., was first described in 1879, and has relatively long legs, better adapted to a prairie habitat. Its body feathers often have a green-coppery sheen. The tips of the tail and lower back feathers are a buff-to-very light tan color. Its habitats are brush areas next to streams, rivers or mesquite, pine and scrub oak forests. The Rio Grande Turkey is gregarious.
10The Wild Turkey 4. Merriam's Wild Turkey The Merriam's Wild Turkey ranges through the Rocky Mountains and the neighboring prairies of Wyoming, Montana and South Dakota, as well as much of the high mesa country of New Mexico, with number from 334,460 to 344,460 birds. The subspecies has also been introduced into Oregon. The initial releases of Merriam’s turkeys in 1961 resulted in establishing a remnant population of Merriam’s turkeys along the east-slope of Mt. Hood and natural immigration of turkeys from Idaho has established Merriam’s flocks along the eastern border of Oregon. Merriam's Wild Turkeys live in Ponderosa Pine and mountainous regions. The subspecies was named in 1900 in honor of Clinton Hart Merriam, the first chief of the U.S. Biological Survey. The tail and lower back feathers have white tips and purple and bronze reflections.5. Gould's Wild TurkeyNative from the central valleys to the northern mountains of Mexico and the southernmost parts of Arizona and New Mexico. Gould's Wild Turkeys are heavily protected and regulated. The subspecies was first described in They exist in small numbers in the U.S. but are abundant in northwestern portions of Mexico. A small population has been established in southern Arizona. Gould's are the largest of the five subspecies. They have longer legs, larger feet, and longer tail feathers. The main colors of the body feathers are copper and greenish-gold. This subspecies is heavily protected owing to its skittish nature and threatened status.6. South Mexican Wild TurkeyThe South Mexican Wild Turkey is considered the nominate subspecies, and the only one that is not found in the United States or Canada. The Aztecs domesticated the southern Mexican subspecies, M. g. gallopavo, giving rise to the domestic turkey. The Spaniards brought this tamed subspecies back to Europe with them in the mid-16th century; from Spain it spread to France and later Britain as a farmyard animal, usually becoming the centerpiece of a feast for the well-to-do. By 1620 it was common enough so that Pilgrim settlers of Massachusetts could bring turkeys with them from England, unaware that it had a larger close relative already occupying the forests of Massachusetts. It is one of the smallest subspecies and is best known in Spanish from its Aztec-derived name, guajolote. This wild turkey subspecies is thought to be critically endangered, as of 2010.
12Choosing the Right Shotgun this Turkey Season The level of sophistication in firearms available to the turkey hunter has followed the same path as turkey calls. As more hunters have joined the sport, manufacturers have responded to their needs by making shotguns with features ideally matched to the turkey woods.Here are a few tips for making sure you have the right gun for the job this season.Make sure the shotgun fits you. There is no sure way to determine gun fit other than seeing a firearms expert. To ensure that your gun fits, pull the gun to your shoulder (with the muzzle pointed in a safe direction, of course). Ask yourself the following questions. Does it swing into place without extra movement or effort? Does the weight feel comfortable? Try adjusting the placement of your forward hand. Can you hold the shotgun steady for a given amount of time? Can you comfortably carry the shotgun for long distances? You should be able to answer "yes" to all of these questions. All these variables play a role in determining gun fit for turkey hunting.Bigger isn't always better. With the new, high-powered turkey loads and chokes available, 20-gauge shotguns have become very popular for use in the spring turkey woods. Better advice than simply purchasing the largest gauge or load size would be to ensure appropriate length, weight and recoil for the person doing the shooting.Pattern, pattern and then pattern again. Take the time to shoot the shotgun with different loads, shot sizes and even choke constrictions when possible. Most shotguns come with several choke options and the aftermarket chokes have shown great success in increasing pattern performance down range.To camo or not to camo? Camouflage is another consideration in choosing a firearm this spring. We all know that turkeys have keen eyesight and getting a shotgun with functional camouflage could give you that added advantage.Saving the best for last. The best advice for making sure that you have the best shotgun this season is to know the limitations of your firearm. Patterning, experimenting with different loads and chokes and practicing real hunting situations on the range will help you learn when to shoot and when the shot may be risky. If using a 20 gauge, you may need to be within 25 yards of your target for your shot. The same distance could be used as a rule of thumb for very young hunters. Making sure you are aware of the capabilities of the hunter, as well as the firearm, can be the difference between success and disappointment.The trick is, you probably have the right shotgun for harvesting that trophy gobbler this season. It may just require some experimentation and practice to determine the optimal choke constriction, load, shot size and distance. If you are in the market for something new, just about every manufacturer is now producing shotguns made specifically for turkey hunters. They all perform well, however, the same considerations must be considered before carrying one on a hunt.
13Fine-Tuning Your Turkey Gun There are some very important aspects of accurately shooting a turkey gun that need your attention before the season rolls around. After you've found a load that patterns well, one that puts over 100 pellets in a 10-inch circle at 40 yards, it's time to fine tune. When you're shooting a tight-patterning shotgun at a small target — like a gobbler's head and neck — you have to be sure the core of the load is hitting precisely where you aim. Similar to shooting a rifle, changing loads from one brand to the next can change the point of impact down range. Switching choke tubes can change point of impact, too.Here's a simple checklist for getting the most out of your patterning sessions.• When sighting-in and testing loads, use a steady rest.• Wear your hunting clothes to make sure the gun fits the same way it does in the field.• Try a few shots from a sitting position with the gun propped on your knee to make sure our eye is lining up the same as it did from the shooting bench.If your turkey gun has bead sights, remember to press your face tight to the stock for every shot, keep the beads in perfect alignment, and your shooting eye focused on the front sight, which should slightly blur the target.What if your shotgun doesn't center the pattern where you're aiming? That's when adjustable, rifle-type sights come in handy. There are several models available that clamp onto your existing shotgun barrel, or you can have a gunsmith install a set. When you've got them in place, it's a simple matter of fine tuning to get everything aligned. Another option is a low-powered scope. A zero to 3X magnification works best. Some scopes have standard cross hairs, while others offer various range-finding reticles, either diamond-shaped or circular, that cover a specified area, which corresponds to different measurements at different ranges. With practice, you can gauge the range to a gobbler by comparing the reticle's center area to a part of the bird's body. For example, if the reticle covers the bird's entire body, the bird is farther away than if the reticle covers only the bird's beard. Whichever scope you chose, make sure that the eye relief is long enough to keep your face away from the rear of the scope. Although I've been lucky, I have seen a few turkey hunters who got too close to their scope and received nasty cuts when the scope came back in recoil.Over the past few seasons, I've had success with "dot" scopes. The illuminated reticle is typically a 3-minute, which calculates to slightly larger than a 3-inch circle at 100 yards. Some models offer a 6-minute dot that's twice the size of the smaller 3-minute dot reticle. Either works well at turkey gun ranges. It's simple to adjust a scope's crosshairs or dot to cover the center of your shot pattern. And, it's easier to keep your gun on target--even in odd shooting positions. Another advantage is that your sights AND your target are in perfect focus at the same time.Once you get accustomed to shooting with a scope, you'll learn what I've learned: Getting lined up on a cagey old gobbler with a scope is every bit as fast as shooting with standard bead sights.
14AmmunitionThe common wisdom is that turkey hunters need as much shot as possible in a shotgun shell to be fired at a turkey. Also, the tighter the choke the better. Ballistics research has shown, however, that problems occur with some magnum loads combined with very tight chokes. Heavy shot loads in a shotshell with mismatched powder can create a blown pattern. If too much shot is pushed by an inadequate powder charge, uneven patterns with turkey-sized holes can develop. The shot string can also be lengthened in this situation, resulting in less shot reaching the target at the same time. With turkeys, even a short delay can be a problem.The only way to determine the best load for your gun is to pattern it with several combinations of shot and powder charges. Performance will probably vary between different brands of shells fired from the same gun. Any serious turkey hunter that fails to plan a good patterning session is planning to fail! Patterning has the added advantage of helping you determine the maximum range at which your gun will consistently kill a turkey with a given load. Any gun/shotshell combination that always places at least 6 pellets in the head and neck of a turkey-sized target at 40 yards is adequate. Even though I shoot a 12 gauge with magnum loads, all but a few of the adult gobblers I have bagged with a single shot were well inside 40 yards...probably an average of about 25 yards. Not many 12 gauge guns will pattern consistently beyond 40 yards with any load. Some guns do not center their pattern to the point of aim, another problem that can only be detected by patterning tests.Try magnum loads in #4, #5, and #6 shot, with various combinations of powder and ounces of shot until you have the best load that will pattern correctly. Sometimes fewer ounces of shot will pattern better than heavier loads. For example, in my 12-gauge a 2 ounce or 2 1/4 ounce magnum load of #5 shot won't pattern as well as a 1 5/8 ounce load. Bigger is not always better when it comes to shells.I prefer a 3-inch magnum load, with buffered copper-plated shot, because these loads pattern better than non-buffered loads. #5 shot is my current favorite shot size.Ladies and Gentlemen.....Pattern Your Guns!
15Box CallsStarting with the first of several friction calls — and one of the simplest to master we'll begin with the box call. Invented in 1897 by Henry Gibson of Dardanelle, Ark., the hinged-lid box call is a simple design. Box calls are basically two pieces of wood; a coffin-shaped tone chamber and a paddle-like striker or lid. The two pieces are fastened together loosely by a screw at one end. Today's box calls are mostly made from cedar, walnut and a host of other hard woods. Chalk or rosin is used to coat the playing surfaces to allow it to strike consistently and vibrate properly, which, in turn, produces sound.To play or "work" a box call, lightly grasp the lid handle between the thumb, index and middle finger of the right hand while holding the box in the palm of the left. (Southpaws should reverse their hold.) Flexing the wrist, the lid is stroked across the thin, top edges of the box to produce any of several turkey calls. (See Wild Turkey Vocabulary below.)For an alternate method of holding a box call, hold it in a vertical position with the hinged end down. Hold your hands straight out in a thumbs-up position. Grasp the bottom of the box in the left hand, while grasping the lid handle between the right index finger and thumb. The forward stroke produces a yelp. For best results, try to keep the lid in contact with the box on the forward stroke and away from the box on the non-calling return stroke. A cluck is made by placing the lid on the lip of the sound chamber and giving it a quick stroke while pulling the lid away sharply.Box calls are best for producing the hen or gobbler "yelp," depending on how the box is tuned. The two-toned yelp is the foundation to communicating with wild turkeys. Box calls produce realistic clucks 8212 another basic call turkey hunters rely on. With practice, box calls realistically reproduce a hen's "cutting" call, which is a staccato series of clucks. Advanced callers can also produce the kee kee of a young gobbler and a rough gobble of a mature tom.
16Slate-type Friction Calls Slate calls, also known as "peg and pot" type calls, are another type of friction call and, today, come in a wide array of surface and striker materials. The earliest calls were made from a flat piece of thin wood or slate. Early strikers, or pegs, were made from hickory and other hard woods or bone. The playing surface of the earliest calls was cupped in one hand while the striker was held (like a pencil) in the opposite hand. The tip of the striker is scratched across the playing surface to produce sound.The evolution of the modern slate call comes from a flowerpot, or more accurately, the round water-catching tray that sits beneath it. The round, shallow shape created a cup or sound chamber to hold a round piece of slate. The pot kept the fingers off the sounding board of the call, which would play havoc with creating consistent sound. It also allowed the slate sounding board to vibrate more freely, amplifying the created tones.Today's calls come with sounding boards made of slate, glass, aluminum, ceramic and a host of other materials. Strikers come in several wood types, carbon, plastic, aluminum and more.To properly use a slate call, grasp the pot in the left hand by forming a "C" with the index and thumb. Hold the outside edge of the pot inside the "C" and use the other fingers to give support to the bottom of the call. Hold the peg like a pencil in the right hand. Draw small circles on the sounding board to produce yelps. Pushing down firmly with the striker and pulling it in a short, straight line will create a cluck. Increase the speed of the rhythm to produce a cackle or cutting of an excited hen. Quiet purring calls, as well as louder aggravated purrs, can be mastered on the slate call. Simply allow the striker to skip across the surface as you softly draw it across the call.
17Diaphragm Calls Push-Pin Calls Diaphragm calls are some of the "oldest" modern turkey calls. According to research, in 1867, Samuel McClain invented and patented a bird whistle that held a thin membrane inside a horseshoe-shaped, thin metal frame. In 1921, Henry Bridges of Maryland patented his own "sound producing device" specifically to call wild turkeys. Again, Bridges affixed a membrane material inside a horseshoe-shaped frame, which was to be held to the roof of the mouth and blown across to create a sound.Predating these patents was the use of leaves or grass as a reed material for improvised turkey calls. The leaf was held between both hands and blown across. Early pioneers learned the craft from indigenous Americans to bring wild turkeys close for the shot.Today's mouth diaphragms use thin latex rubber as reed material in place of green leaves. The reed material is held inside a horseshoe-shaped frame and is most commonly taped with waterproof tape. The call is placed in your mouth with rounded side to the back and is pressed to the roof of the mouth with the tongue. Huffing breath across the reed, which causes the reed to vibrate and create sound, makes the call sound.Because of their versatility and range, mouth diaphragms are the most widely used calls in turkey calling competitions. Realistic yelps, clucks, purrs, kee kee whistles, cackles and more can be made with some practice.Push-Pin CallsAlso called "push-button box calls," the push-pin call is a wooden or plastic friction box similar in shape to the paddle-type box call. Instead of having an external hinged lid, it incorporates a lid that rides on a dowel that sticks through the end of the box. A spring or rubberband is used to give the paddle proper tension as it rides over a pillar inside. Pushing the rod causes the paddle to scrape over the internal pillar, which vibrates to make turkey-like sounds.Push-button calls are the easiest turkey call for beginners to learn to use. To use a push-button call, simply hold it in either palm and push the operating rod. Slow to medium rhythmic strokes produce yelps. Quick taps on the rod produce clucks.
18Set upAfter a turkey gobbles, deciding where to sit and call from can be the most critical decision you make. Inexperienced hunters, and some seasoned ones too, regularly sit in places turkeys just won't come to. Or, they put themselves in places where they won't be able to see or shoot from if a turkey does approach. Always try to get as close as possible to a gobbler without spooking him, no matter what time of day. This will help you from having a hen or another hunter cut in between you and the tom yards or less is best...and sometimes you can get within 60 yards, especially if you know right where he is and you can move within being heard and seen. You're plenty close when his gobble sounds low and guttural, like he's gobbling in a barrel.Stay out of and away from brush piles. You may be able to stay well hidden in them, but you can't see or shoot very well when you're concealed in one. Also, you may not be able to maneuver your gun into shooting position easily if the tom appears in a place you didn't expect. Areas with heavy underbrush are not good either. Gobblers prefer to travel through open areas when coming to a call. I've watched plenty of them hang-up on the other side of thick brush. For best success, the SECRET is to pick an open area. A place where you and the turkey can see for at least 50 yards. In this type of location, a bird can not sneak up on you without being seen. An area that is too open, such as a small clump of trees in the middle of a field, can be too open, causing a tom to hang up because he can see everything. He may not see what he's looking for....namely hens. In a very open set-up like that, be sure to use a few Hen Decoys for added realism. In this way, he may feel comfortable coming over to investigate.Sit against a tree at least as wide as your shoulders for protection, camouflage and comfort. Face the direction you expect the bird to approach from, with your left shoulder pointed in that direction (if you are a right-handed shooter). In this way you have a wider swing with your gun in case he doesn't appear where you expect him to. Before you settle in, cut any brush, branches, and roots that will interfere with your comfort and handling of the gun. A good pair of Pruning Shears will do the job quickly and quietly. Last, sit on a Seat Cushion or Seat for comfort. Sit with your knees drawn up and your gun ready in both hands. Rest the gun on one of your knees. Don't lay down---it's uncomfortable, fouls up your sight picture when a shot presents itself, is noisy when shifting position, and restricts your vision.When your gobbler finally appears, don't shoot at him when he's strutting...it's a poor shot because his head and neck are screwed into an "S" shape, restricting the size of the target. Make a sharp cluck or "alarm putt" with your mouth call, or clear your throat, and he'll come out of strut and jerk his head up....take him in the head and neck now! But, don't make him come out of strut like this unless you have the gun aimed at him and are ready to shoot....otherwise he's gone and you lose
19Strut zonesSo-called strut zones are areas where gobblers go to strut and attract hens. They usually are flat, open areas where visibility is good and where there is a food source. They are not necessarily small, confined spaces as the name implies, but may be as large as an open ridgetop, a secluded field corner, a large harvested field, or a flat creek bottom. Many authors and hunters feel that these "hot spots" are places a gobbler picks out to do his strutting to attract hens. While this may appear to be true, strut zones are actually places that hens choose as good food sources. Hens routinely go there and gobblers know that. This is why gobblers will go there, and gobble and gobble to attract hens...or they will go there and strut, waiting for a hen to appear.Hunters find it hard to understand why gobblers that are apparently alone, come off roost and leave them rather than come to their calls.In some cases, hens come to them and lead them away. Often, lone toms go to strut zones where hens frequently visit them for breeding.They hear and may gobble to your calls, but they expect you to come to them at the usual rendezvous.A gobbler may have several favorite strut zones and use none of them frequently enough for you to determine a pattern. Other toms use a single spot habitually.If you work the same gobbler several days in a row and you hear prolonged periods of gobbling from a single spot, he is probably waiting for you in one of his favorite strutting areas. You may never be able to coax him away from a spot where he is used to receiving hens no matter how sweet your calls. Scouting for strut zones before and during the spring hunting season is a SECRET tactic that many hunters never bother to do.By spending several mornings and late afternoons in the area you intend to hunt, you will locate toms by listening to them gobble, seeing them, or both. This information should be noted on topographic maps of the area. These maps, with your year-to-year notations, is a road map of turkey activity. In future years, just refer to the map to begin your hunt. Gobblers are very predictable when it comes to strut zones. If habitat is not changed, strut zones remain consistent for years
20RoostingPutting a gobbler to bed doesn't guarantee success the next morning (you won't even be able to do it every night), but it does give you a leg up on your feathered and camouflaged competition the next morning. Roosting is especially worthwhile if the weather turns sour over night, you are hunting in the part of the breeding season when hens are with gobblers or if you hunt a popular area where getting to a gobbler first is important.If you have found some consistent roosting areas on your pre-season scouting trips, be near one an hour before sunset. Wear camouflage, move quietly and avoid the temptation to use hen calls if hunting is not allowed in the afternoon. I prefer to stay on logging trails and out of the brush. You don't want to spook turkeys that you plan on hunting the next morning. Turkeys will go to roost within a few minutes of sundown, earlier on dark, overcast days. Listen for wing flapping, occasional cackles or clucks of hens as they fly up and settle down. The wing beats of a turkey going to roost are a subtle sound many novices miss, but you can learn it if you stand quietly and listen carefully. With experience you can sometimes distinguish the heavy flapping of a gobbler from the lighter sounds produced by hens.You can use these sounds to tell if turkeys are in an area even if a gobbler refuses to sound off. If hens are around, a gobbler will be near by. After 10 minutes or so of settling down, the gobbler may gobble on his own to tell hens where he will be in the morning.If he doesn't gobble, try to Make Him Gobble with a locator call. I prefer the natural sound of a barred owl, coyote howl and gobble, but you can try any of the locator sounds if these don't work. If a gobbler responds but is not close, you can keep him gobbling by hooting with an Owl Locator Call every 2 or 3 minutes as you move toward him. If you call more often, he may quit responding.Ideally you want to get close enough to pinpoint his tree. If you know the terrain, you can decide where to set up in the morning.Choose a level spot on or about the same contour as the gobbler, preferably between him and a good Strut Zone. Don't believe that turkeys can't be called downhill or across water. Where ridge tops are narrow or brushy, toms and hens may go to bottoms to strut and mate, particularly if there are open fields there. If you have detected this pattern, during your scouting, set up below the gobbler.If you end up closer than 200 yards from the tom on roost, sit quietly until dark and slip out cautiously.If you are not on a trail that you can find easily in the dark the next morning, mark your path with bits of tissue stuck on branches or with surveyors' marking tape. Be in position one hour before sunrise the next morning for best results.
21Gobblers with hensProbably the biggest problem turkey hunters face, but one that many aren't aware of as it is occurring, is that hens are with the gobbler. It's unrealistic to expect to call him away from the real thing. When he has been answering your calling, suddenly shuts up and doesn't appear in the next 30 minutes, chances are good that you have competition from hens. Hens with gobblers will always spell trouble for even the most experienced hunters. The hens will even actively work to defeat your calling. I have often watched hens feeding peacefully with a gobbler in a field promptly walk away when I began calling, taking the gobbler with them. My calling can't be that bad! These seem to be deliberate acts, as if the hen didn't want to share the attention of the gobbler. There was no indication that they were about to leave before my calling started.I have watched plenty of gobblers (two or more together) in the open go into strut to each other, with no hens present, and refuse to move to my calling position. I have also watched gobblers that were coming to me get intercepted by another gobbler, only to have all of them walk away ignoring my calls. Gobblers are unpredictable, but you can be fairly certain that if they have hens they won't leave them to look for you in the brush.A couple of SECRETS work sometimes, but not always. If you direct your calling to the hens they may become curious or irritated enough to come investigate. Call loud and aggressively, and concentrate on commanding calls like Cutts, Cackles, and long strings of Yelps. If a hen answers your calls, come back with the same call she makes, except make it a bit longer and louder---more intense.If you can get the hens talking and a bit curious, they will often start coming your way, but it may take them quite some time to make the trip. The gobbler(s) will usually tag along. Often, a lot of calling is required before they start coming your way and they will have your position pinpointed. When the hens get close, stop calling so they will pass by or stay in front of you and resume their contented behavior. But, also be prepared for them to walk right into your lap, since you've been doing so much calling they know right where you are. If a hen spots you and starts Putting nervously the gobbler will disappear like a ghost. If he is close when the hens spook, you will only have an instant to shoot when he comes out of strut. Your shot will only be a good one if you had your gun on him as he approached. You'll not be able to jerk the gun up and have a good shot, because you'll be shooting at tail feathers flying or running away at top speed.With enough scouting both before season and during season, you should have a good idea about where flocks and gobblers are likely to be at different times of the day. Try to position yourself in these strategic locations before the hens and gobblers arrive. Then with patient calling, a few decoys set out, and a lot of luck, the entire flock may just move right past where you are. With enough scouting these Spring Behavior patterns can be determined.Don't give up on gobblers with hens....consider it a great challenge...because it is!
22Bad weatherMy first bit of advice is to continue hunting in all weather conditions except during life-threatening thunder storms. Turkeys will continue to follow daily patterns on windy or rainy days. On a windy day, take a position on the lee side of a ridge where you can hear well and where your calling can be heard. Protected areas like this are where turkeys may go especially if good Strut Zones are present. Since you may have only a few days to hunt in the spring, you should take advantage of every available day.If it's raining, go to a roost area early--about an hour before sunrise. You'll be able to move quietly and get closer to roosted birds than on a quiet, dry day. It's often easy to get within 60 yards of a gobbler in these conditions. When it thunders, listen for a responding gobble from a roosted tom. They will often gobble well to thunder claps. This allows you to move into position without attracting attention. During heavy rain, turkeys usually stay on roost longer, but will eventually fly down and go about their daily activities. Open fields and very open woods are often places turkeys go when it's raining or snowing. They appear to dislike the wet, dripping underbrush of the woods when it's raining. If you encounter a gobbler that won't leave the roost during bad weather, just stay with him until he does fly down---it may be an hour or more of waiting. During your wait, try a few quiet calls like tree yelps, clucks, or soft plain yelps to let him know you are still there. You're trying to sound like another roosted turkey. Occasionally, you might try a fly-down cackle to let him know that "the hen" has flown down.On windy days, which is a turkey hunter's worst weather condition, find a sheltered valley, or the lee side of a ridge to set up. Find a good strut zone in one of these areas where you can hear and where turkeys will be able to hear your calling. Set up and call about every minutes. Be prepared for a bird to approach silently, without saying a word. In conditions like this, construct a natural blind around your location or use a portable blind to conceal yourself.Despite the weather, turkeys go about their business on a daily basis. Severe wind, rain, or snow will restrict their movements, and prevent much of their calling from being heard by a hunter. Toms gobble much less frequently in these conditions than on a quiet, sunny, quiet day.Find a good strut zone that is protected from the weather, and stick with it for the best chance of success on a gobbler during the spring season
23Decoy TipsThe reason to use decoys is to draw a gobbler's attention away from you and to entice him into close range. Use decoys that look realistic and ones that will stand up to hard use. Collapsible decoys, both a Hen and Jake are preferred by Master Turkey Hunters because they're quick and easy to set up, lightweight, and are noiseless when carried. Despite the most realistic looking and acting decoys, your experience with decoys will vary and there are a lot of tricks to keep in mind when using any decoy.Early season gobblers are still quite aggressive with any other male in the area, which is why male decoys work through mid-season. Later on in the season, most gobblers have lost their aggressive behavior and replaced it with great caution. Then is when a Movement Hen Decoy can really shine. You can and will have mixed results with decoys. I've watched gobblers run the other direction when they first spotted a decoy. Younger gobblers (jakes and two-year old adults) are often quite wary of a full strut decoy, jake decoy, or a group of decoys because they have been dominated, spurred, chased and generally made to feel not-wanted by older gobblers during the spring season.Positioning a decoy is critical. If it's too far away, say 25 yards, and a gobbler comes in on the far side, spies it at 25 yards, he may hang up. He'd then be out of range at 50 yards and probably won't come closer. For maximum effectiveness, place your decoy(s) no more than 15 yards away.Being near a decoy can be dangerous because other hunters may mistake your calling and the sight of a decoy for what they think is a real turkey, causing them to take a shot in your direction. This is particularly true when using a male decoy, or a movement decoy. To protect yourself, sit in an area with flat terrain and against a tree larger than your body. Place your decoy(s) in front of you, not to the sides or behind you. Then, the danger zone has been significantly reduced to the area in front of you which you can watch. To further reduce danger, tie a small piece of blaze orange material to a decoy.DON'T USE DECOYS WHEN OTHERS MAY BE NEAR OR IN HEAVILY-HUNTED PUBLIC AREAS!! The risk may be too high regardless of the precautions you take. PLAY IT SAFE! Practice Defensive Turkey Hunting to protect yourself
24Afternoon huntingThis gives you a chance to try for gobblers that were abandoned by hens at midday and are looking for company. But, before you do this, make certain afternoon hunting is legal in your state. If it's not, you can still scout in the afternoon to locate turkeys for the next morning and to learn about their habits and behavior. Afternoon is normally a time for feeding and rest. There will be much less gobbling, but a tom that can be convinced to gobble will be very likely to come to your call, especially if it's mid afternoon or after.During the afternoon feeding period, you are likely to see turkeys around timber edges, in pastures or in other open feeding areas that are relatively close to good roosting areas. These locations may very well be the same Strut Zones that you identified for morning hunting. Stalk into your calling location quietly and slowly because turkeys may be close by. You may want to start your calling with a Cackle to imitate a hen as she leaves her nest or flies across an obstacle. A gobbler knows what that means...(a hen is on the move) and may answer with a gobble. Unless a gobbler is actively gobbling in response to your calling, you should call sparingly.The afternoon gobbler will normally come to you silently. For this reason you may want to call only every 10 to 15 minutes and remain very alert for a bird to appear out of nowhere. Between calls you can Cluck a time or two to see if a gobbler will respond with a Cluck, Gobble or Drumming sound. Use the same calls you tried in the morning, namely Clucks and Purrs, snappy Yelps, an occasional Mating Cackle and Cutts.Mix in plenty of low volume Feeding Calls (Clucks, Purrs, Soft Yelps). If you are lucky and a bird begins to gobble regularly, work him just like you would in the morning but don't expect him to come in very fast.An afternoon hunt is very much a wait and see type of hunt. If you are near a good roosting site you may unknowingly call a gobbler close to your set up and he may roost near the "hen". If your afternoon hunt is unsuccessful, you will already be properly positioned to try to make a roosted gobbler sound off at sundown.Another afternoon tactic is to walk through the woods stopping occasionally to call in the hopes of getting a gobbler to respond. This can work well especially if you know where gobblers are likely to be. If nothing else happens you will have had a recent scouting trip in that area and will have learned a bit more about turkeys
25Turkey callingTurkey calling is the most confusing and frustrating part of turkey hunting for many hunters, even experienced ones. Turkeys make dozens of calls or sounds, but you don't need to know them all to be successful. Master the cluck, yelp and purr, with a few variations and you're ready for the woods.Calling is the most overrated part of turkey hunting, although the part that most hunters focus on. No secret calling sequence or calling device is guaranteed to "bring em' in" every time.There are three SECRETS to turkey calling strategy:1. Know how to effectively operate your calls.2.Make the right call at the right time.3.Call to a gobbler that is by himself....one that hopefully wants company.Calling A Roosted Gobbler I recommend a standard approach to calling a roosted gobbler. Let him know you're a hen just waking up and looking for company. Play a little hard to get to start off. Begin with a few soft tree yelps, a cluck or two and purrs...just what he expects to hear from a hen on roost. If he answers with a gobble, wait 10 minutes before calling again. Repeat the call if he's still in the tree after 10 minutes. If he answers again, put the call down. You'll know that he's still in the tree by the sound of his gobble. It will sound strong, clear and all from the same location. Don't call too much to him when he's in the tree. You want him to come down. By calling too much, he generally prolongs his stay on roost, making him gobble more, which attracts hens or other hunters and lets him know precisely where you are. He expects you to come to him. When you see or hear him fly down or if the next gobble sounds muffled but in the same general direction, you should assume that he is on the ground. Immediately make a fly-down cackle, followed with a short series of yelps or cutts. If he gobbles at that, you have his attention. What you want to hear nom is his gobbling getting closer and closer as he moves towards you. And...sometimes it actually happens that way!If you hear him spitting and drumming, he's almost in gun range. Make a few soft clucks and purrs to let him know you are close too. That is what he expects to hear.
26Turkey callingWhat to do if he doesn't come right in? There is no secret call or tactic to drag him in, despite what the call manufacturers tell you. Each situation is different. Each bird is unique and will respond to different calls in different ways. Turkey calling is very much an art.It helps to have a lot of experience. But...be patient if he doesn't prance right up to your location. If he's getting closer, but not coming in very fast, make no move. Keep calling patiently about every 5 minutes or so. Try to sound like an excited hen with snappy, yelps, clucks and cutts with an occasional cackle. Don't give up on a slow moving gobbler for at least an hour. Call only loud enough for him to hear you.If you call too loudly, he will think you should move towards him. Keep your calls low at this point...make him curious. Call often enough to keep his attention. If he is gobbling several times a minute, and some will first thing in the morning before they join up with hens, it's a mistake to answer every gobble.I like to answer him about one time per minute. But, if he's gobbling only about once per minute, I'll answer every gobble early in the morning. And...I suggest you wait to hear him gobble and then answer him. In this way, you know exactly where he is and it will help you make the decision on how to respond. It's fun to call and have him answer, but I prefer to know his location before I call, because he may have approached and be in my lap and a loud call to him at that time may cause him to hang up.You'll Eventually Decide To Move If you decide to move, make one more excited series of calls to try to stimulate him into gobbling so you know where he is. When moving, do it quickly, quietly and stay out of sight. Move into another, better position.If he's been close...say 100 yards or so, move back 50 to 100 yards and try calling again. Make him think you are leaving. If he's far away, try to cut the distance in half. Keep using the same calling patterns you did before.The best advice on calling strategy is to select the proper strut zone and stay there for several hours. I strongly believe that hunting in no more than two good spots each morning will produce more consistent results than moving every hour or so.
27CamouflageThe basic need of all turkey hunters is to stay hidden from a turkey's probing eye, yet remain in an exposed position where it is possible to shoot effectively regardless of where the birds decides to present itself. Camouflaging your clothing and gear is the only way to do this. A hunter wearing complete camouflage who has the discipline to sit Motionless will virtually disappear in the landscape, even from a turkey. Clothing and gear that is not camouflaged will probably be noticed by a turkey. A hunter in complete camouflage may get away with an ill-advised move, but one who is not camouflaged will be constantly spooking turkeys.Try to match the color of your clothing to the color of the surroundings. The experienced hunter has several outfits to match the changing foliage. In early spring, before leaf-out, use predominantly brown or gray colors. As the woods begin turning green, change to a normal woodland color. When leaves have opened fully, a pattern with a heavy green emphasis is best. None of the dozens of patterns on the market now have been proven superior. Most of the camo clothing manufacturers have excellent patterns that will work when matched to the terrain you will be hunting in. I understand the manufacturers' need to come out with new patterns every year. I buy new camo when my old outfits have faded or I have torn them upA bare face or hand stands out like a beacon in dim early morning light and is an immediate tip-off to a sharp-eyed turkey. Wear camouflage or dark-colored gloves. Concealment of your face is accomplished in one of two ways. Face paints or a Headnet. Face paints are effective, but they require cleanup and perspiration or rain may cause them to smear or run off. Headnets, on the other hand, are easy to use, very effective and require no cleanup. I exclusively use a head net for turkey hunting.Persons who wear glasses often have difficulty finding a suitable remedy to the light reflection from their glasses that can give their position away on a sunny day. If you can't wear contacts, the Headnet described above will work fine to conceal your glasses, leaving a narrow portion of the glasses you need to see, through exposed to sunlight. Wear the Headnet over the top of your glasses.Keep your hands and face concealed if you want to be Consistently Successful.
28BlindsAlthough blinds are not required in order to routinely bag gobblers with a gun, they can provide several important advantages if you're willing to pack them around the woods or take time to set them up in good Strut Zones. The primary reason to use a blind is to camouflage any movement you need to make while you are set up and calling. The movement of operating a friction call, your fidgeting around, or adjustment of your position against a tree will all spook a gobbler. Another good use of a blind is to help conceal two or more hunters who may want to hunt together at one location. If you bring a novice along on a hunt, a blind will make it possible for the person to move around, remain comfortable and not foul the hunt up.A natural blind made by pushing cut leafy brush into the ground all around your tree can be effective if you have time to set it up. Use a good quality pair of Pruning Shears to do the job quietly and quickly. For those who want a commercial camouflage blind, there are many to choose from. They can be set up a couple of weeks before season and camouflaged with natural vegetation. Although it's nice to set them up in advance, turkeys will not notice a well camouflaged blind even if it was set up the day before. I prefer to set them up early simply because I want to let the area cool off from my intrusion for a few days before returning to hunt. On the other hand, I have set up blinds quietly in the morning and had birds within bow range the same morning. These larger blinds are perfect to use when you have guests along on the hunt, especially non-hunters. They also work great in very open areas where there may not be a suitable tree to sit down against. I've also set them up against large, round hay bales in a pasture to fool turkeys that like to stay out in the middle of those types of fields. Try one along a fence which can act like a funnel to direct turkeys right to your location.With a blind, your confidence will improve, especially if you strategically locate it in the proper place. You will be able to remain Patient for the hours that it often takes to have success. To further aid your hunt from a blind, I strongly recommend a good chair be part of your gear.
29PatienceYou have heard the expression, "patience is a virtue." In addition to being that, it is a critically important characteristic of the Master Turkey Hunter. Discussed often but seldom understood by the less-experienced, patience is a SECRET tactic of most accomplished turkey hunters. More hunters fail to bag turkeys due to lack of patience than to any other factor. Most turkey experts talk about it only briefly. Patience-patience-patience is the SECRET to success. I learned the importance of patience while bow hunting.Chasing Gobbles My early years of turkey hunting found me moving around a lot with a shotgun. I chased gobbles. By this, I mean running to get in position on a bird that is gobbling. Doing this gives you a low probability of success. Many times you get there and can not find a suitable set up location. Usually the bird shuts up about the time you get there. Then less than 30 minutes later another bird gobbles somewhere else and the chase starts over again. This can lead to a frustrating morning of hunting as you constantly leave a bird that has stopped gobbling to get to one that is "hot". Carried to the extreme, this can result in lots of flushed turkeys that were silently coming to a call, spooking birds that you didn't know were there on your way to a new gobbler and covering a lot of territory without really giving birds a chance to work. Not to mention the fact that turkeys that happen to hear or see you will usually shut up for an hour or more until they settle down. Constant movement through your hunting territory is almost guaranteed to shut down most toms from gobbling.How To Remain Patient What is the best way to remain patient? Comfort is the SECRET to help you stay in one place for any length of time. Probably the most important piece of equipment needed for comfort is a High Quality Air-Filled Seat Cushion. Most foam cushions on the market will make your butt sore in a matter of minutes. Even the cushions that come in turkey hunting vests don't do an adequate job. Many gun hunters are now using a quick-to-set-up Personal Blind , providing comfort, more camouflage so they can move, and it is quickly moved. Hunters are beginning to understand that Portable Blinds are required equipment for anyone who wants to be a Master Turkey Hunter with bow.Putting It All Together The proper location for a long stay is important. In the spring, pre-season scouting to determine the best feeding and strutting areas is mandatory. Sitting in the wrong spot for weeks will not work. Staying at the correct location for a few hours is the SECRET that will generally provide an opportunity for a shot. Find out where the birds gobble and strut most during the morning hours and set up in one of these locations. Turkeys won't come to each spot each day, so have several good spots picked out. While in your location, remain patient. If you hear a bird gobbling on another ridge, simply stay in your location and make note of it on your topo map. Don't stop calling just because he is on the next ridge. You can call birds across creeks, rivers, ravines and downhill if you stay PATIENT. Most of the time this is not done due to lack of patience by the hunter.I've proven to myself many times that the "impossible" can be done by remaining patient
308 tips for hunting turkeys Experience in the turkey woods will teach you plenty of things. Chief among them: turkeys don’t read rule books. After years of chasing longbeards, I’ve learned some lessons the hard way and overruled some ‘rules of thumb.’ But it doesn’t take a lifetime of turkey hunting to hunt like a veteran. Start here, by putting these 8 turkey hunting misconceptions to rest.1. Spooked Turkeys ReturnBump a turkey and your day’s hunt is done, some say. Don’t you believe it. On a recent hunt in Missouri, a hunting buddy and I watched a strutter and his hen do their thing far across a wide field. We made plans to reposition and crash their party. Problem is we bumped the lovebirds. What now?” my partner hissed. “Let’s go sit tight exactly where they were,” I said. We called softly and waited. “Strutter to our left,” I whispered, easing the shotgun toward the longbeard. Boom. Down. Nice bird.2. Turkeys Cross FencesWe’ve all seen those pictures of gobblers puzzling over hog-wire obstructions, stone walls and barbed wire—stopped on the other side. Turkeys won’t ever cross fences, some say. Although some turkeys seem obstinate about crossing fences, usually when you are trying to call them to your side, others have no such qualms. Over the years I’ve seen many gobblers come to the calls, stop at a fence, fly up and sail over to my side.3. Many Calling Tactics Work“Call softly every 15 minutes and wait that bird out.” That’s what veteran Pennsylvania turkey hunters at roadside diners told impressionable youngsters like me back in the 1970s when I first turkey hunted. Well yeah, that works, sometimes. Now, all these years later, I initiate contact with turkeys on a bird-by-bird deal. Some need that old-school soft sell. Others require that you hammer them with everything in your vest—early and often. Hear them out and feel them out. They will typically tell you what they like and don’t like.4. Weather Doesn’t Always MatterIt’s too hot, it’s too cold, it’s too wet or it’s too dry. Excuses are many, but few truly impact turkey behavior. The birds need to be out in it regardless. You need to be out in it as well. If it’s raining, camp out on a field edge. If it’s too cold, tuck a few hand warmers in your pocket. Weather rarely impacts gobblers for any extended period of time.
318 tips for hunting turkeys 5. Post-Miss RedemptionMiss a shot? That gobbler won’t come back to the same spot, some say. At least that’s what they told me. Sure, the feeling you have in that moment is sort of like dropping an end-zone pass. Maybe it’s you who wants to leave this location. Shake it off. Turkeys deal with loud noises all the time, with predator attacks and suspicious stuff. Chill out and regroup. Let the woods settle down for a while and try using some soft calls once they do. You may even be able to call that bird back.6. Camouflage Is RequiredDon’t get me wrong, I love my camouflage. The truth: You can wear almost anything in the woods, so long as you don’t move. Sure, camouflage allows you to become a tree. It builds confidence. Wiggle like an NFL cheerleader while wearing it though and that gobbler still might run away. It’s the one constant rule in the turkey woods: Sit still, period. Movement alerts turkeys, and even spells potential danger.7. The Un-Callable GobblerI’ve heard this one many times in turkey camp regarding a hung-up bird that won’t come: “That must have been an old gobbler you were working—we’ve been hunting him the last 4 or 5 years.” All due respect, but my guess is that you’ve been chasing more than one turkey during that time in your preferred habitat. It may even have been a hard-to-sell jake. Older doesn’t always mean more difficult.8. Mistakes Are MadeThat turkey can only make one big error and it’s over. You can make plenty and will. Keep at it. Never stop until the season closes. The highs and lows of turkey hunting are many. Don’t beat yourself up too much. Enjoy it.
32Cleaning Your Wild Turkey Cleaning your turkey is the first step, and regardless of whether you plan to skin, pluck or breast out and cut up your bird, doing it properly is both quick and easy. Just follow these simple steps.1. If you don't plan to cook your bird whole, start by laying the turkey on it's back. Remove just enough breast feathers so as to expose the skin.2. To remove the breast filets, pull or cut the skin back from the breast. Make cuts along each side of the breastbone as well as on the inside of both wings or the clavicle. To save the wings, peel the skin back and remove the wings from the cavity by cutting through the joint.3. Find the breastbone and make an incision down each side of the breastbone to loosen the breast filet from the bone. Work from the rear of the breast forward, fileting off the breast by pulling the filet and using the knife as needed. Repeat this for the other side of the breast.4. To remove the thigh and leg, cut through the thigh muscle where it attaches to the back. Then grab the thigh or leg and pull up until you can feel the joint pop loose. Keep cutting through the thigh until it comes free from the turkey's body.Plucking vs. SkinningConsidered the traditional style of cleaning a wild turkey, plucking is a perfect way to prepare your bird to be roasted, smoked or whole deep-fried. Before you remove the entrails or field dress the turkey pluck the turkey's feathers to help keep the moisture in the turkey while cooking it whole. Remove the feathers after dipping the bird in hot water. Some people use boiling water but it has been said that 140-degree water is optimal for plucking a bird. Plucking does take time and produces more of a mess than does skinning; however, the taste of deep-fried or roasted turkey skin is worth the effort.Many of today's turkey hunters prefer skinning to plucking. Skinning a turkey allows you to cook the bird by frying or grilling the pieces of meat. You can skin and fillet the turkey breasts, and slice as much meat from the legs and wings as necessary. Make a cut just along one side of the breastbone. Then, it's just a matter of working the skin off the breast halves, down the back and over each of the legs. In some states it's illegal to only fillet the breast out, leaving the rest of the carcass behind. Always check your state's hunt regulations, and make sure your turkey is properly tagged for transportation.Field DressingIn hot weather hunting conditions, field dressing your bird is a good idea before you clean it for the table. If you decide to field dress your bird, start by placing the turkey on its back. Find the bottom of the breast plate and insert your knife, making a cut to the anal vent. Remove the entrails from this opening and then reach into the cavity to sever the windpipe, heart and lungs. Cool the cavity by placing ice inside the chest.
33Do’s and Don'ts's of cooking wild turkey Cool it, clean it and refrigerate or freeze it ASAP. Don't drive it around in your truck to show you pals. Take a picture instead.Don't stuff it. It doesn't do anything to the flavor and prolongs cooking time. Don't baste it. It doesn't work either, but it will make the skin crispier. When plucked, carefully separate the skin from the meat. Starting at the neck, work your fingers between the skin and breast. Cut up some partially-cooked bacon, onion, garlic and herbs and place between the skin and breast.If you're going to roast the whole bird, roast it breast side down. Cut up some wedges of apple, onion and/or potato to keep it from falling over. Do cook the breast to an internal temperature of 150 degrees. Overcooking will dry out the breast. Cook turkey breasts and legs and thighs separately. Legs and thighs take a couple of hours to cook, preferably with liquid to help loosen them up. Breasts cook very quickly. When stir-frying sliced turkey breast, first remove the fibrous membrane within the breast. It can be tough and chewy. Use the turkey carcass and drumsticks to make a flavorful stock. Roast them in a large pan with celery, carrots and onions until brown. Then toss into a large stock pot and cover with cold water. Add some herbs, garlic and peppercorns and simmer for several hours. Strain through a colander for turkey stock. A tough old bird may need a little more work. The jake is the better eating bird, but I know you're going to shoot the big boy. If the bird is especially tough, try braising or slicing lightly pounding the breasts before cooking
34EthicsTurkey hunting has the potential for being very dangerous because you are making turkey calls and sounds like a turkey and are wearing camo clothing, making you nearly invisible. Other hunters may be attracted to your location or mistakenly identify you as a target. For your personal safety, wear a camo turkey hunter's vest that features blaze orange panels you can display when moving around.Eliminate the colors red, white and blue from your turkey hunting outfit and gear. Red is the color most hunters count on to differentiate a gobbler's head from the hen's blue-colored head. White can look like the snowball-colored top of a gobbler's head. Leave those white T-shirts and socks at home. Not only will these colors put you in danger, but they can be seen by turkeys as well and will alert them to your presence.Never move, wave or make turkey sounds (calls) to alert another hunter of your presence. A quick movement may draw fire. Yell in a loud voice and remain hidden until you are sure the person recognizes you as a human.Be particularly careful when using a gobbler call. The sound and motion may attract other hunters. Using one in a heavily hunted public area is especially dangerous.Select a calling position that provides a background as wide as your shoulders,and one that will completely protect you from the top of your head down. Small trees won't hide slight movements of your hands or shoulders which might look like a turkey to another hunter who might be stalking your sweet calls. Position yourself so that you can see at least 180 degrees in front of you.Never shoot at sound or movement. When turkey hunting, assume that every sound you hear is made by another hunter. Be 100% certain of your target before you pull the trigger. You can never take the shot back if you make a mistake.
37What is the NWTFThe NWTF — a national nonprofit organization — is the leader in upland wildlife habitat conservation in North America. On March 28, 1973, the Commonwealth of Virginia issued incorporation papers to a fledgling organization in Fredericksburg called the National Wild Turkey Federation. The NWTF has come a long way since its founding chief executive, Tom Rodgers, took $440 out of his own pocket to put this organization in motion. And what it has turned into is nothing short of phenomenal.NWTF Helps Rescue Wild Turkeys From Brink of Extinction Founded in 1973, the NWTF is headquartered in Edgefield, S.C., and has local chapters in every state and Canada.Who Are We?We are sportsmen, women and children who care deeply about our natural resources and the wild places we love to hunt.We cherish the memory of the ridge top gobbler we hunted last spring and fondly remember the cornfield where we saw that big buck at sunset two years ago. Collectively, we come from all walks of life to engage in conservation and preserve the hunting heritage we all hold dear.We're hunters...Some of us follow bird dogs through waving stands of grass from south Georgia to Montana in pursuit of bobwhite quail and pheasant. And most of us would rather spend a bitterly cold winter morning knee deep in a flooded oak flat or beaver pond than waste that morning in a warm bed... champions of conservation.According to many state and federal agencies, the restoration of the wild turkey is arguably the greatest conservation success story in North America's wildlife history. Through vital partnerships with state, federal and provincial wildlife agencies, the NWTF and our members have helped restore wild turkey populations throughout North America, spending more than $412 million to conserve nearly million acres of habitat. That area is larger than the state of West Virginia.Wild turkeys and hundreds of other species of upland wildlife, including quail, deer, grouse, pheasant and songbirds, have benefited from this improved habitat.Our dedicated volunteers bring new hunters and conservationists into the fold — about 100,000 every year — through outdoor education events and our Women in the Outdoors, Wheelin' Sportsmen and JAKES youth outreach programs.