Even though most of the country is suffering from the winter blues, there's a bright spot on the horizon: spring turkey season is almost here! It's one of my favorite times of the year. After being stuck inside for the winter, getting out for those early mornings, watching the woods wake up, and hearing those gobbles is like nothing else.
One of the most frequently asked questions we get at Huntress View is, "Do you have any advice for a beginning turkey hunter?". So we've put together a list of tips, gear, and strategies to help you notch your spring turkey tag!
Scout as many areas as possible. Identify roost areas in the trees by looking for feathers and accumulated droppings. Find foot tracks and place cameras to see what you've got in the area.
Spend a few mornings and evenings in the woods listening. In the morning, listen for gobbles, and also listen for crows, owls, barking dogs, train whistles, and other loud sounds that might cause turkeys to shock gobble. In the evening, listen for birds flying up to roost. You may not see them, but it's pretty loud when they fly up.
Use BaseMap to identify turkey range areas, e-scout to look for water, wooded areas with open fields or clear cuts nearby, and possible travel routes.
"Get a variety of calls to try out, such as slate, box, or mouth call. Practice and use what feels most comfortable," recommends team member Kelly Cohen. Box calls are probably the easiest to use for a beginner but do require both hands. Mouth calls are the most convenient when hunting but take a good bit of time to master the right sounds.
Pattern your shotgun with the shells you plan to use while hunting. Not sure what shells to use? Ask around or try a few options to see what your shotgun shoots best. Get a paper turkey target and shoot that to see what shells get the most pellets in the brain.
Camo is important. Not necessarily the pattern, but being fully camouflaged. Gloves, a hat, and a face mask are all needed in addition to your regular camo clothes. Turkeys can see color, so stay away from lots of pink, orange, teal, purple, etc.
"Hands down, my must-have is a ghillie suit. You can get away with a lot by wearing one. I think it gives added comfort to beginners," team member Jesse Harding Campbell suggests.
"Comfortable boots. Depending on where you hunt, you may need to put in some miles. Look for waterproof boots that you can run in if needed. And consider snake boots if you live in an area where you might run into snakes!" says team member Brooke Minton.
Decoys. There are many options out there, but you don't have to buy the most expensive. Your goal is to get the tom's attention and try to lure him in. Check out these strategies from team member Jaimie Robinson.
Shotgun and shells. You can use pretty much any shotgun for turkey hunting, just make sure to get turkey shells and pattern them as noted above. I use a 12-gauge Winchester SX2 with my mid-range choke (I don't use a turkey choke) and shoot Winchester Long Beard 3" shells. This setup has never failed me during turkey season.
Turkey vest. It's not an absolute necessity, but it does make hauling all of your gear easier. And if you plan to sit on the ground, a built-in seat makes an extended sit more comfortable. The Alps Outdoorz Super Elite Turkey vest is my pick because it has plenty of pockets, and the seat is extra padded.
Don't over-call! Some toms can be stubborn, especially if they are with a hen. If you call too much or too often, it may clue them in that something is off, and they'll go the other way.
Alternatively...mimic the hens! If you've got a really vocal hen, mimic what she does and keep her talking. This can get a tom fired up, and he'll know there are a couple of ladies in the area.
Hunting from a ground blind is probably the best option for a beginner since they hide movement the best. It allows you more flexibility to look around, get prepared for a shot, and calm your shaking when that tom runs in and starts gobbling! Keep the netting on the windows for better concealment, and don't skimp on camo. You will still need full coverage and may want to try some darker patterns. (Plus, you may need to switch it up mid-hunt and go to the turkeys.)
Ground hunting without a blind. You can use nature's concealment to provide some coverage, but you still need to be careful about moving. I like sitting against a tree (this is when the seat on my turkey vest comes in handy), with my knees up and my shotgun resting on them, and head down. This way, when the tom comes in, I'm ready and not trying to get my gun up and get into position.
Spot-and-stalk hunting may be necessary when a tom hangs up and just won't come into the decoys. Listen for the gobbles and go to them. Keep your eyes open and continuously looking for turkeys; they'll see you before you see them.
Lastly, everyone had the same feedback...Be Patient!
Some mornings, toms will gobble their heads off. And some mornings, totally silent. Silence doesn't mean they aren't there. I've learned that the weather can be a major factor in whether toms are gobbling or not; I've had better luck on cloudy, overcast days. Turkey hunting can be extremely frustrating; a lot of it is trial and error. It's also addictive and so fun to get outside, hear the gobbles, and chase those birds. You may end up spooking turkeys, they might not ever come in close enough for a shot, your calling may not be perfect...but keep at it!
Good luck on your spring turkey hunts, and be sure to tag @HuntressView and #huntressview in your pictures on social media to be featured on our pages!
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 and @arrowridgecreations.