Turkey Hunting Tips from Tim Herald
Turkey Hunting Tips from Tim
By Tim Herald
More American hunters participate in turkey hunting than any other spring hunt, and this is just a wonderful time to be in the woods after a long winter. It’s also a fantastic way to get youth and new hunters into hunting. There is lots of exciting action to keep them engaged, and again, it’s just a fantastic time to be out and enjoy the great outdoors.
Over the past 3 decades, I have been lucky enough to hunt turkeys all over the US and Mexico with some of the absolute best turkey hunters and callers of all time. Through these travels I have been able to take 25 wild turkey grand slams and be a part of hundreds of successful hunts. Below are a few tips that I have picked up along this long and wonderful journey that have helped me take spring gobblers on a consistent basis.
- Do your homework! This one is pretty simple. If possible, thoroughly scout out your area and the turkeys you will be hunting. Find regular roost sites, where birds fly down and strut early in the morning, travel routes, where they spend mid-day, and how they approach the roost in the evening. If you know these things, you will know where to set up at different times of the day, and it’s much easier to call a turkey to where he already wants to go!
- Setup and pattern your shotgun with care. Today’s turkey guns are incredible when you pair them with a good choke, shell and optic. They shoot super tight patterns that are lethal out past 60 yards, but they have a very small pattern at 15 yards. I suggest a “dot” type sight that allows full field of vision but pinpoint accuracy. I have a Trijicon MRO with a green dot on one of my turkey shotguns and a RMR Type 2 on the other. I make sure to pattern the guns at the range with different quality shells, find the one that produces the most dense and even pattern, then shoot at 20, 40 and 60 yards to adjust exact point of impact with my sight, and so I know my guns’ capabilities. This will save you from missing a hard-earned bird at the moment of truth.
- Vary your calling. Don’t go out and call the same way on the same call every day. I have been with a lot of hunters who sound like a broken record when they call. Don’t go out and use the same call and say the same thing every time you call. It will not sound natural at all if you go out yelp 7 times on a slate call, wait 3 minutes and yelp 7 more times on the same slate, and do it over and over. Real hens don’t do that, and neither should you. Learn to use a number of different calls like box, pot style, mouth diaphragms, tube calls, etc. This will give you different hen voices to work with. Also learn to master many turkey vocalizations like yelps, cuts, purrs, clucks, cackles, gobbles, etc. Vary your calling, and you will take more turkeys
- Use the best decoys you can. Turkey decoys have come a long way in the past few years, and they will really up your odds of taking more toms. Acquire 2-3 of the most realistic decoys you can and use them whenever possible. I personally prefer a strutting jake or ½ strut jake and a couple of hens. Many hunters would be better off with just good decoys and no calling until they learn to call well. These ultra-realistic decoys also help a lot in field situations. Turkeys have great vision and expect to see another bird where they hear calling, and these decoys take care of this. I personally think that high-quality decoys are the biggest advancement in turkey hunting gear in the past ten years, so get on board and use these great tools.
- Learn from your mistakes. You will not kill a turkey every time you go out. If you did, this sport wouldn’t be nearly as much fun. What you should do every time you go out is bring home some knowledge you didn’t have when you began hunting that day. If you are on a bird and things don’t work out for a harvest, think through the situation and try to figure out what you may have done wrong. It could be setting up in the wrong place where a bird had to cross a creek or other barrier, you may have called too much, you may have moved at the wrong time and spooked the bird on approach, you may have setup too far away or too close to the bird. No matter, think through the situation, try to figure out what went wrong, learn from it and put that in your knowledge bank for future hunts. Also, when things go right, assess your success and store the knowledge of what you did right so you can use that in your turkey hunting arsenal in the future.
Turkey hunting can be a like a game of chess where you have strategies and make moves that can make or break the outcome of the game. These are just a few tips that will help spring hunters be more successful, feel free to share some of your tips with us as well. We can all learn from each other. I try to learn something every day I go in the turkey woods and every time I hunt with someone else.