5 Lethal Turkey Hunting Tips for the Flop
If you can’t wait to make a turkey flop this season, you’re probably mentally and physically preparing for turkey season right now. If this describes you, you should be following along with the Can’t Stop the Flop campaign. But also, regardless of whether you’re a seasoned turkey hunting pro or you’re brand new to it, you can always learn something new that could make the difference between a limb-hanger and an empty tag. In the hopes of helping everyone out, here are five of Michael Waddell’s turkey hunting tips to get you on a bird soon.
Turkey Hunting Tips
Depending on where you primarily hunt turkeys, specific turkey hunting tips might vary a bit. For example, hunting techniques for the Eastern subspecies in Georgia are probably going to be pretty different than Merriam’s in Arizona. These particular turkey hunting tips mostly apply to Eastern wild turkeys east of the Mississippi, although there is some overlap with other subspecies and locations.
1. Woods for Early Season
If you ask 10 turkey hunters where they would set up a blind for opening morning, probably 9 out of 10 would answer on a field somewhere. That seems to be where you always see them strutting right? But you shouldn’t rely on turkey hunting in fields to kill gobblers all the time. During the early stages of the turkey season, birds are typically grouped up in thicker cover (e.g., in the timber/hardwoods) and they’re not expecting hunting pressure yet. Michael says that at this time of the year, it’s a good idea to push in after them. The idea is to get a gobbler before he makes it to a field with a group of hens. Because once he gets there, you’re going to have a heck of a time pulling him away.
In some locations, big woods turkeys are more common because that’s just the dominant habitat type. Within these areas, roost trees might be deep in a particular forest stand, separated from common turkey strutting zones (e.g., recent clear-cuts, old log landings, etc.). If you can stealthily sneak in closer to the roost, you should be able to catch a tom before he makes it to these areas.
2. Know Your Terrain
Woodsmanship is oftentimes overlooked by many of today’s hunters when it comes to turkey hunting tips – a bit of a lost art. By simply knowing more about the land you’re hunting (e.g., its terrain, topography, habitats, other features, etc.), you get a leg up on the competition (i.e., the turkeys).
For example, let’s say you set up on opening day, and call a gobbler in over multiple mornings, but he keeps hanging up just over a ridge (regardless of how good your turkey calling is). If you had scouted the area before the season, you would have known that there was a creek or barbed-wire fence separating you, which can certainly be enough to stop the bird in his tracks. Instead, you’re left frustrated and scratching your head as to what keeps causing him to hang up.
When it comes to learning your territory or hunting property, there’s really no substitute for lacing up your boots and putting on some miles. Pull up an aerial map on your phone and spend some time exploring every little draw or meandering creek you find. You might find a new spot to hunt based on lots of turkey sign.
3. Try New Things
Some say that they are very successful with their own particular style of turkey hunting. Other turkey hunters, who happen to do things very differently, are also very successful when it comes to hunting turkeys. That’s the beauty of it really – you can hunt turkeys to suit your own style (within the means of the law of course). So while we’re offering 5 turkey hunting tips that have worked for Michael, don’t be afraid to learn from others and apply them to your hunting approach too. And when things aren’t working out for you, it’s almost certainly time to switch things up and try something else.
4. Pay Attention to Turkey Sounds
In general, you should always work to expand your turkey vocabulary. Understanding the basic turkey calls is a good starting point, but you should also learn the small nuances in a turkey’s sounds and what that means for you. If you’re not hearing gobbles, that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s not a gobbler there. Michael has an interesting story related to this turkey hunting tip:
“I learned that on a hunt years ago with Harold Knight. There was a jake caulking down in this holler and I didn’t think there was a gobbler with him. Harold kept saying that there was a gobbler with him because of the way the jake was acting, by the sounds he was making. He said we could come back a little later and kill him, and sure enough we did.”
Related to #3 above, it just goes to show you that you can always learn something new from someone else. Sometimes the little things (like the way a jake is responding) make a huge difference, and could shift your luck if you only knew what it meant. Also, when hunting on public land, try to make out the different sounds that could be from other hunters. If you get in a calling battle with another hunter, you’re both in for a fruitless morning.
5. Be Aggressive, Be Patient, Be Safe
These might seem at odds with each other, but they’re really not. You can (and should) be aggressive in the right situations. Take what you’ve learned about a particular hunting area or the birds themselves and follow your instincts to make calculated moves on certain toms. When the conditions are right on private property for “running and gunning” or stalking up on a gobbler with a turkey fan decoy, especially earlier in the season, seize the moment.
On the other hand, with particularly pressured birds later in the season, it might be a better move to just sit back and shut up. Sometimes, adopting more of a deer hunting attitude and approach can work better. Set up in a commonly traveled turkey route and just patiently hunker down until the opportunity comes to ambush a longbeard completely by surprise.
But most importantly, be safe out there this spring. Use common sense and only take shots at turkeys when you know you’re looking at a turkey. You’ve probably seen videos online of hunters being shot by other hunters, mistaking them for birds. Folks, it’s ridiculous and shameful, but it happens. Be safe, be smart, and have a great time out there using these turkey hunting tips.