With the turkey hunts about to get under way, I’ve compiled a list of ideas, tips, and gear that I personally use helps me in the field. Now I don’t claim to be an expert, but I hope some of you can benefit from a few things I’ve learned over the years. Being an archer, I prefer hunting turkeys with archery equipment, but whether you’re going to use a gun or a bow, the ideas are still the same.
Patience, patience, patience. I know people say this all the time, but what does it mean to really be patient while turkey hunting? I’ve learned from trail cameras, and firsthand experience is this: if your setup and you have a tom gobbling back at you and as the day goes on it goes “silent.” At bare minimum give it an hour before giving up on him. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve given up sitting my blind and went home. Just to check my trail camera the next morning to find out 2 big toms came strutting by right in front of my blind about an hour after I left.
Call, but not too much and don’t call too early. I have been guilty of this often - I setup in the dark near their roost tree, and as it starts getting close to first light the temptation to call and hear them gobble back is almost too much. As satisfying as it is to call in the dark and hear them gobble off their roost tree, you got to try and refrain. I’ve found I’ve had the most success when I sit quietly and wait until I hear the hens wake up and start talking. Try to mimic exactly what the hens are doing and begin competing with them by slowly ramping up your calling as it gets closer to “fly down.” By competing with the hens on the roost rather than calling back to the toms, you might just get lucky enough they’ll decide to fly down right on top of you. Once the birds have flown down and are on the ground, keep your calling to a minimal, refrain from being that hunter that is calling every 30 seconds.
A tom that gobbles back to you after 11 a.m. is a dead bird. When you get to understand what turkeys do throughout the day, this will make more sense. But, in a nutshell what I believe happens is this: the jakes and toms fly down off their roost at first light in search of a willing hen. If you don’t happen to convince them to fly down and strut your way, then the toms will stick around the hens until the hens leave the toms to sit on their nests. I’ve found this happens at about 11 a.m. This is when you should be patiently waiting. That tom will remember exactly where you were calling even hours earlier. It’s remarkable how close a tom can pin point your location and eventually work his way that way. Most of my successful hunts have been in the middle of day, while most others are back at camp taking a nap.
Gear: Like I mentioned before, I’m an archery hunter so here is a list of my go-to items when I go afield after turkeys.
Magnus & G5 T3 Expandable broadheads. The Magnus broadheads have a large cutting diameter and are meant for head shooting. In my opinion head shooting is a much easier target when archery hunting turkeys. When aiming for the body with a regular cutting broadhead, it’s sometimes hard to know exactly where to aim on the body, while aiming for the head you know exactly where to aim. When aiming for the head, it’s either a clean miss or a dead turkey, there is no in between. With that said, I do pack my G5 T3 broadheads as well in my quiver in case my shot is over 30 yards. The magnus broadheads fly well up to about 30 yards, after that I would not use them, but rather my expandable head that I know flies true.
When I’m not hunting from a ground blind, I always use a cover on my bow so I’m able to draw back without the turkey seeing. I use the Hideabow brand which is just a sheet of camo that covers my bow just enough to get the job done.
I prefer any type of slate call, I feel like I’m able to be as quiet as possible, or plenty loud enough for a tom to hear me in the wind. I also have a diaphragm call for when the turkey is in the red zone and I need to get my bow ready.
I use one, sometimes two Avian-X hen decoys. I don’t like to risk scaring off a younger tom by bringing in a Jake into the setup. Although I have witnessed a Jake and hen decoy setup work great too. If you’re hunting birds that are very pressured, I’d leave the decoys at home. Just last year I watched a couple toms come into my calls but turn and circle around me the second they saw my decoys. Pressured birds in heavily hunted areas get quickly decoy shy.
I like to layer up when turkey hunting because you never know when you will be running and gunning or sitting for a long time. I wear the XKG Merino bottoms with the XKG Ridge Pants. For my top I use the XKG Transition Jacket along with the XKG Lone Peak Jacket. This combo together is perfect for the crisp early spring mornings, and after shedding a layer it works great for mid-day.
I hope some of my tips can help some of you close the deal on that big tom that has been occupying your thoughts for the last couple months. Now get out there, be patient, and shoot straight! If you have a favorite piece of gear, share it in the comments.