Everything you need to know this season!
Whether you're a seasoned turkey hunter or heading into your first season, there's always something new to learn.
The assembly call is a series of loud yelps that is used by a hen to re-assemble her flock or young poults. It's more assertive and longer than a standard yelp. It's a good call to use if you've scattered a flock to pull them back together.
The beard is the group of 'hairs' that hang from a turkey's chest. Although they molt their feathers, their beard continues to grow. Typically only toms have beards, but a small percentage of hens can also have a beard (they are usually much smaller than a tom's beard).
There are multiple types of turkey calls, including slate/pot, box, and mouth calls. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages and requires different skill sets. When turkey hunting, it's a good idea to have a couple of different calls to produce different sounds. Slate/pot calls don't work well when it's raining, but produce the best sound (in my opinion). Box calls are fairly easy to use and good for beginners. Mouth calls are convenient, especially for run-and-gun style hunting or if you're aimed up and waiting for the tom to get right!
Using turkey decoys is a great way to get a tom's attention. There are a lot of different turkey decoys, from just a few dollars to hundreds of dollars. You don't need the most expensive decoy! a $10 one from Walmart will work just fine. Using a tom and hen in the early season may entice a big tom to come in and take the hen. Later in the season, a couple of hens or a hen and jake can work well since toms will be worn down and not as apt to fight.
Eastern turkeys are the most widely distributed subspecies of wild turkeys and can be found in 38 states and several Canadian provinces. They have chestnut-brown tips on their tail feathers and white and black bars on their wings.
Tom's use their fan to show off to hens while strutting. The tail also assists in steering and braking when turkeys fly and land.
Gould's turkeys are only found in Arizona, New Mexico, and the Sierra Madres of Mexico. They are characterized by snow-white tips on their tail feathers, long legs, and moderate gobbles and beard lengths.
A gobble is a loud, rapid gurgling sound made by male turkeys; this is the main sound made by toms. It is used primarily in the spring to let hens know toms are around.
A female turkey.
How to identify a wild turkey is an important part of hunting. The easiest way to identify a tom is to look for the beard, and his signature red, white, and blue head. Toms are typically larger than hens, and hens have a blue head. Regulations may vary from state to state, and some states only allow toms to be taken during the spring season. Other states may allow any bearded turkey, including bearded hens, jakes, and toms.
A jake is a young male turkey.
The kee-kee is usually a short, three-note call. This is the call of a lost, young turkey.
Just as it sounds, a locator call is used to locate turkeys. This may be a crow caw or owl hoot. It can be referred to as a 'shock gobble'. Some toms will gobble at train whistles, coyote howls, or even loud dog barks.
Merriam's turkeys are typically found in mountainous regions of the West. They are characterized by light-colored tips on their tail feathers with more white and less black on their wing feathers. They tend to have the weakest gobble of all the subspecies and have short to moderate beard lengths.
Where wild turkey hens lay their eggs. Hens incubate their clutch of eggs for 26-28 days and will roost on the nest nightly until 10-12 days after the eggs hatch.
Osceola turkeys are only found in Florida and are commonly nicknamed 'Swamp Chicken' and 'Swamp Ghost'. They are characterized by dark-brown tips on their tail feathers and mostly black wing feathers with very small bands of white. They have longer legs, longer spurs, shorter beards, and stronger gobbles than other subspecies.
Ocellated turkeys are found in about a 50,000-square-mile area in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, northern Belize, and the El Peten region of northern Guatemala. They are characterized by their colorful iridescent feathering and grey tail feathers with blue and gold tips. . They make a hollow drumming sound followed by a high-pitched gobble. The toms are known for their long spurs, but they do not have beards.
Poults are baby wild turkeys.
The putt is a single or several sharp notes and is generally associated with danger.
Although turkeys have excellent vision, they can also hear very well and easily recognize sounds that could be predators. While hunting, it's important to stay quiet to avoid spooking turkeys.
RIO GRANDE TURKEY
Rio turkeys can be found in the western desert regions of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and other western states as well as in Mexico. They are characterized by tan-colored tips on their tail feathers, equal black and white barring on wing feathers, and moderate gobbles and beards.
The roost is where wild turkeys fly at night; usually in a tree or tall brush.
The snood is the flap of skin dangling from a tom's forehead. Females prefer to mate with males with longer snoods.
Spurs are the hooks on the back of a tom's lower leg. These can vary in size depending on subspecies and age.
The strut is the action of the tom during mating season to make himself look bigger and show off for hens.
A tom is a male turkey.
When scouting or hunting, look for fresh tracks. Turkeys can travel a good distance each day, but many times will circle around to roost in the same spot for several days. Look for tracks to determine their daily routes.
Turkey hunting is unpredictable, so it's important to stay alert during the hunt. On quiet mornings, toms may sneak in. On mornings when toms and hens are very vocal, they may go the other way.
While turkey hunting, it's important to be vigilant and stay alert. Not only for turkeys but for other hunters as well. Since turkey hunters wear full camo, they will be harder to see in the woods. Before taking a shot, be sure that a turkey is a real turkey and not a decoy!
Typically shotguns and bows are used to harvest turkeys. Some states do allow other weapons such as rifles, pre-charged pneumatic air guns, pistols, or muzzleloaders.
X-RAY VISION Turkeys have excellent vision so it's important to wear full camo and be very still while hunting. If they see your movement while hunting, it could send them the other way!
The plain yelp is a basic turkey sound and is usually a single-note sound. It is usually used by a hen to communicate with a gobbler during mating season. If you can mimic the yelping sound, you have a good chance of being able to call in a turkey.
Each state has different zones or units for hunting. Different areas may have higher populations depending on available habitat, food sources, etc.
Sarah Honadel is an avid outdoorswoman from Kentucky, now living in Idaho, who enjoys hunting elk, deer, turkey, pronghorn, and waterfowl. She is a team member at Huntress View, Pro Staff for Browning Trail Cameras, and Brand Ambassador for the GoWild app and BaseMap app. Follow her on Instagram @waddysarah.