A step by step guide to Turkey hunting
Hunting is an often-misunderstood sport or lifestyle.
It is a great way to learn a skill, spend time in nature, spend time with friends, get a feel of how our ancestors lived, but you will only get true satisfaction if you actually get something at the end of it.
So, let’s go through what you need to do to make Turkey Hunting successful.
What are they and what do you need.
Wherever you intend to hunt you need to be fully aware of all the rules and regulations of the intended area you are turkey hunting. Ignorance is not an excuse.
Rules and regulations are there for your safety and for the safety of others, so you should respect them.
Are you a member of the National Wild Turkey Federation, does the state you are hunting in require a hunter’s education certificate, what hunting license is needed, what weapon licence do you need, can you only hunt at certain times of the day, or certain times of the year, is there quotas on how many animals you can kill.
There are many things to consider, but they are all pretty easy to find out with a google search or phone call.
Does Turkey hunting have a season
There are two main turkey hunting seasons, the original hunting season was actually the fall. Which makes sense when you think about what you eat for Thanksgiving.
The other season, which is now the most popular and widespread season, is the spring.
The reason why some states only have spring hunting and not spring and fall hunting is to protect the population of the Turkeys.
It always makes me laugh when people tell me stories about how they went somewhere that is well known for hunting but couldn’t find a damn thing.
Or, they spent 4 of the 5 days they were hunting finding the best spot before going home with very little.
I always scout ahead before hunts. I love walking, hiking, and camping. So, I will spend enjoyable time in nature and outside getting fresh air. If I am doing this, I might as well kill two birds with one stone.
Therefore, I do my walking, hiking, and camping in places I will be hunting in.
This enables me to get an idea of the terrain, and where animals will likely be. Afterall a Turkey, just like our caveman ancestors are just looking for shelter, food, and water. Find these places and you will find the birds.
You are also giving yourself a competitive advantage over other hunters, as you are more likely to find places others do not know about.
What are you looking for
I wouldn’t say Turkeys are easy to shoot, but they certainly aren’t particularly stealthy. It is pretty easy to get on their trail on a scouting or Turkey hunting mission.
Once you have found their trail, they are pretty easy to follow if you know what you are doing.
They leave heavy and distinctive tracks, they produce a lot of scat which is really soft if fresh, they have a habit pf dragging their wings across the floor, they clean their feathers by rolling about in dirt.
You are also looking for trees with strong branches as Turkeys roost in branches and they are big heavy birds, but they don’t like to be in places with dense undergrowth and timber, they like to find open greenery because they feed on insects and bugs, and they are social creatures, so they need big open spaces to communicate and strut around like an animal version of Ric Flair.
Turkeys move around quite a bit, so the best advice is to try to establish where they roost. If you are just scouting, this is a great time to put up some cameras, so you can track how many there are and when they return to roost.
If you would rather keep an eye on them yourself. Then you should wait until they have left their roosting areas for the day, and set up in a place as close as possible without upsetting them.
Let them come back to roost, then you can leave, if you need more information, come back very early in the morning before they wake.
How to get them in range
Once you are happy with your spot, and you have all the information you need. Then you need to get them in range to shoot.
There are two main ways to do this:
This is where you try to mimic the sounds of the birds to either locate them or bring them closer to you. You can learn to mimic their sounds yourself, or you can buy callers instead, for example box calls, slate calls, and locator calls.
Turkeys are social animals, and they have hierarchies which you can use to your advantage.
For example, you can peak the sexual interest of a male Turkey with a beautiful sultry hen decoy, or you can antagonise the alpha male by putting out a strapping young lad decoy.
There are no hard and fast rules with this, and you will have to learn by experience.
I suppose the only thing you do need to know is to leave the decoys somewhere they will be easily seen by the Turkeys but not to be in the line of sight off another hunter.
What to wear
Hunting isn’t that glamorous really, a lot of it is moving from resting areas to hunting areas without been seen, and a lot of long spells waiting very quietly.
Turkey hunting is no different, the main skill of Turkey hunting is to never be seen by the Turkeys.
You need to get to and from your hunting spot and remain there without spooking even one bird because if you spook one you can bet you will spook them all.
Head to foot camouflage clothing is the order of the day. This is another area where scouting helps, various locations and terrains can look very different to each other, and even the same place can look totally different depending on the time of year.
Therefore, the more you know about the area you are going to hunt in, the easier it will be to get your camo to match the area you are in which increases your chances of a successful hunt.
Turkeys have pretty poor long sight, but they have very good short sight, and they aren’t daft so they will be able to sense if something isn’t right.
So, you do need to make sure you get your camo right, you are hidden, and you stay quiet.
I am also a big fan of camo Turkey vests. These allow you to keep everything you need close at hand, the less you have to move about and look for things the less likely it will be that you are heard or seen.
Go for the kill
If you have done everything right and you have luck on your side, then it is time to take the shot.
Every animal has an area where you should aim to hit, firstly to ensure a quick and respectful death to the animal, but to also ensure the meat isn’t spoiled.
With Turkey’s, going for the kill means going for the head. This kills them instantly, disables the central nervous system, and keeps the meat in good condition.
What to use
The two main weapons to hunt turkeys are:
This is by far the most popular and the easiest skill to learn of the two, as shotguns are notoriously easy to master.
Remember stealth is the name of the game here so shotguns should have a matte finish and blend in, the barrel needs to be a manageable length so you can carry it and hold it in position for long periods if needed, also take advantage of accessories like slings to make your life easier.
Make sure you choose the right chokes and pellets too. You just want to take out the head, you do not want your turkey breast riddled with pellets do you.
Bow and Arrow
This provides a greater barrier of entry; you are really going to have to be serious about hunting and willing to put in thousands of practise hours if you are going to try to hit a Turkey’s head with an arrow.
It isn’t impossible though and is arguable a cleaner and more ancestral way to hunt. I suppose it is about how involved in the artistry and history of hunting you are.
If you are going down the bow and arrow route there are specialist arrows you can get, and I would recommend a bow with a light draw as you may be holding that position for a while as Turkey’s are notoriously antsy and don’t like to keep still.
Sharing your story
Hunting is legal if you follow the rules that are in place. Therefore, you have done nothing wrong, and it is your right to share your story and experiences.
Other hunters will be interested and want to hear all the aspects of the pre, during, and post hunt.
However, if you are posting on social media just be aware there could be a lot of people who are against hunting even if they have never come close to doing it or understanding it.
This does not mean you should not share your stories on social media, but you should tailor it to the medium used and present hunting in the best possible light.
When I do this, I make sure I go into detail of all the scouting, prep, and practise I do beforehand so it is clear I am not just some hillbilly who likes running about with a gun and shooting stuff.
I do put some pictures up of my kills, but I always make sure they are cleaned up and are presented in a respectful manner. Some people will still complain, but that’s up to them because I know why I hunt and how I treat the animals.
In my opinion a bird should be gutted as quickly as possible in the field, after a kill. This is especially important if you are hunting in the spring, as it can get pretty warm in some states.
I would say if the temperature is over 80 degrees then you should be looking to gut the bird immediately.
It is all about temperature control, you want to keep the bird as cool as possible. This will limit bacterial growth and prevent the meat from spoiling.
Removing the guts is an excellent step in reducing the heat of the bird, as a lot of body heat is stored in this area.
Then if you are well prepared you should have some ice and an ice box close by. You stuff the ice into the cavity where the guts were, and you place in the ice box. Keeping the meat safe for the journey home.
Personally, I like to age my meat before eating it, it just allows the meat to settle a bit, and it improves the flavour, texture, and tenderness. I hang it in my shed for 3 days.
You can hang it anywhere that stays under 50 degrees and has no sunlight.
I hope you have enjoyed this article, and all there is for you to do now is go out and try it.
All I would like to add is be safe, and be respectful to fellow hunters, the animals, and the land.