Every year when spring rolls around, hunters return to the woods and green fields hoping to kill a gobbler turkey. Turkey hunting is really enjoyable and offers an ideal opportunity to test your ability as an outdoorsman.
Despite possessing a peanut-sized brain, wild turkeys are intelligent and paranoid critters, which makes hunting them difficult and easy at the same time. All in all, every turkey hunt can be successful if you have prepared for that success.
If you are a novice hunter planning your turkey hunting trip, this article offers you everything you need to know about turkey hunting:
When is the right time to hunt turkey?
One of the common questions among novice hunters is, “when is turkey hunting season?” This makes perfect sense considering that each state issues a spring turkey hunting season independently.
So, when is turkey hunting season?
In the US, every state except Alaska has a turkey hunting season, with opening days ranging from early March to the beginning of May. However, the season dates and regulations can vary significantly from one state to another, meaning the right dates will depend on your state.
Considering that turkeys breed during Spring, beginners and pro hunters have greater chances and plenty of potential time to bag a gobbler. Your chances of making each turkey hunt a success depend on your actions and preparedness.
Where can you go turkey hunting?
There’s no denying that turkeys are notoriously tough to hunt, even for seasoned and avid hunters. Even so, turkey hunting can be simple as long as you know what you’re looking for.
First off, turkeys crave the same thing humans do in an ideal habitat: food, water, and shelter. In most cases, turkeys roost in large trees with sturdy branches. However, they also thrive in areas with less timber as long as there’s adequate food, water, and cover to hide from predators. With that in mind, there seems to be a consensus that diverse habitats make the best homes for turkeys.
During the spring, turkeys like to nest on the ground near food sources, so hatching poults may find enough bugs, plants, and seeds to feed on as they grow. If your state allows turkey hunting in the autumn months, you can easily find gobblers foraging in grass areas.
Regardless of your region or the season when you’re hunting, it is imperative to look for turkeys where there are basic habitat features.
What gear and equipment do you need when hunting turkeys?
When going for your turkey hunting trip, plan to keep everything camouflaged except your eyes. Camouflage clothing offers an excellent way to blend in. Depending on where you’re hunting, you should change the pattern of your camouflaging clothing to match the environment.
Wild turkeys have incredible eyesight, so total camouflaging is not an option; it is a necessity. Wearing camouflage clothing will help conceal your movements as much as possible while hunting. You also need to be considerate with the camo pattern.
Ideally, you need a camouflage pattern that mimics the local flora and fauna excellently.
For your head-to-toe camo, here is what you need:
1. A camo ball-cap
They provide warmth and camouflage while protecting you against the sun, insects, and branches.
2. Turkey hunting neck buffs or facemasks
Considering that turkeys have an amazing vision, having a facemask helps you go unnoticed. You can wear a buff or face mask that blends with your other camo clothing. These essential pieces of gear also protect you from insects.
3. Moisture-wicking long-sleeve hunting shirt
Temperatures can get pretty warm during the spring months. Wearing a lightweight moisture-wicking hunting shirt helps you to hide and stay comfortable during hotter periods so you can remain in the woods longer.
4. Camo hunting pants
To successfully hunt turkeys, you will also need lightweight and quiet camo pants. Because you don’t want anything weighing you down, the hunting pants you choose should be lightweight, ultra-breathable, and with enough pockets to keep gear and other essentials close and ready.
5. Camo hoodie or jacket
The early morning can be chilly, so wearing a hoodie or heavy jacket that provides camouflage is essential. You can choose jackets that mimic the back of a tree or one that blends in the surrounding.
6. Hunting boots
Hunting boots are lightweight and provide a reasonable degree of mobility, allowing you to stay comfortable. They also offer outstanding performance in spring when there is a lot of mud. These boots also come with patterns that allow you to prey unnoticed.
7. Camo gloves
Considering the excessive movement of your hands, it makes perfect sense to get an ideal pair of gloves that keeps them less noticeable. Unfortunately, many novice hunters usually overlook the importance of hunting gloves.
8. Turkey decoys
Because turkeys are territorial and lustful, you can use decoys to trick bogglers into doing what you want. Because you aim to bring the bird into a shooting range, make sure to buy decoys. Hen and jake decoys come in varieties, allowing you to choose your favorite.
There are varieties of turkey hunting calls. Essentially, these devices mimic turkey sounds, allowing the hunter to bring them to a shooting range. They come in many types, including slate calls, mouth calls, box calls, and programmable electronic calls, allowing you to pick one that suits you best.
10. Shotgun or bow
After gathering your clothing, you will also need to choose the right weapon for hunting wild turkeys.
Generally, 12- and 20-gauge shotguns do an excellent job at taking down a turkey. Even so, depending on your shooting skill, you can also pick .410 shotguns. A dedicated turkey gurney should have a non-reflective finish; otherwise, turkeys will easily notice it.
If you trust your shooting skill, you can opt to use a bow. Most importantly, make sure to pick something you are comfortable shooting from a seated position – most turkey hunts happen from the ground. Whatever type of bow you choose, remember you will need room for drawing back your bow whenever you want to shoot.
What are the different species of turkeys you can hunt?
Before starting your turkey hunting trip, you also need to understand what exactly you will be hunting. Depending on where you live, here are the different species that you can legally hunt as long as you have a valid hunting license.
Merriam’s turkeys are plentiful in the western mountainous regions, with rocky mountains being the central hub of the population. Their tail feathers have light-colored tips, while the wing feathers are more white and less black, making them easier to identify.
These turkeys are large, with toms weighing 18-30 pounds and hens weighing 8-12 pounds. They also have short to moderate beard lengths and are said to have the weakest gobble.
These birds are few in number and are found in Arizona and parts of Mexico. Adult males weigh about 18-30 pounds, while females weigh 12-14 pounds. They have moderate beard length, moderate gobbles, long legs, and snow-white tips on tail feathers.
This is arguably the most abundant subspecies populating 38 states and Canadian provinces. Toms weigh 18-30 pounds, while hens weigh about 8-12 pounds. Eastern adult males are said to have the strongest gobbles.
Besides, these turkeys usually have the longest beards, white and black bars on their wings, and chestnut-brown tips on tail feathers.
Ocellated turkeys are beautiful birds with distinctive rainbow-like sparkling feathering and grey tail feathers with blue and gold tips. They have a unique, high-pitched gobble (usually known as signing) preceded by a hollow drumming sound.
Besides their beauty, you can quickly identify them because they don’t have beards. Ocellated turkeys are the smallest, with adult males weighing 11-12 pounds and females weighing around 6-7 pounds.
5. Rio Grande
Rio Grande turkeys are common in western states, where Mexico hosts a healthy population. They are characterized by moderate beard lengths, moderate gobbles, tails feathers with tan-colored tips, and equal black and white barrings on wing feathers.
These turkeys are only found in Florida, and hunters claim that they are the toughest to call into range. Gobblers weigh around 20 pounds, while the females weigh approximately 8-12 pounds. Osceolas have long legs, strong gobbles, very long spurs, til feathers with dark-brown tips, and usually black wing feathers with small white bands.
What’s the difference between a male and female turkey?
When you are out hunting, you will also need to distinguish male from female turkeys. It is also important to differentiate younger jakes from gobblers or adult toms. So, what are the differences?
Adult male turkeys are usually large in size and more colorful than females. The feathers of bogglers are closer to black with a more vibrant sheen. Also, the colors -red, white, and blue – on their head and neck are more striking. Conversely, a female turkey’s feathers are browner in appearance.
To note these differences, take along hunting binoculars when you go scouting.
What are some of the best turkey hunting tips for beginners?
It is no secret that every hunter craves a safe and successful hunt. That said, here are a few turkey hunting tips that increase your odds of bagging a boggler whenever you go out to hunt.
1. Pre-season scouting
If you want to land a trophy boggler either season, scouting is one of the most important things you can do to boost your chances. For some, the turkey hunting itch comes as early as February. When it comes, scratch it – cruise around to identify lush, green food plots where the birds might be living.
When scouting, take along binoculars and a spotting scope to easily spot birds, increase the number of birds you find, and observe their behaviors. You can also set up some trail cameras along trails, forest edges, and fields to know what time of the day the birds are moving.
2. Put on the right gear
Turkeys’ incredible eyesight is their primary defense. With their sharp eyes, these birds can easily spot anything that stands out, meaning a full camo is essential. Even with less than ideal marksmanship, you can increase your chances of bagging a turkey by wearing camouflage clothing.
That way, you will have better opportunities to prey unnoticed. Make sure your turkey hunting vest fits snuggly. Because these vests have many pockets and compartments to hold your gear, make sure of what is in each pocket.
3. Call the turkeys
Wild turkeys have a complex vocabulary with approximately 30 different sounds, but that should not worry you. It takes only a few basic sounds to bring a turkey to within shooting range. To increase your chances of attracting these intelligent birds, you need to make the sounds more realistic.
Practice making authentic-sounding yelps and clucks, and you will be good to go. Don’t always make the calls sound natural – the worst shrieking noise might be the best for getting a gobbler to show up.
4. Be patient
Patience is key to game hunting success, and turkey hunting is no exception. You need to be patient and wait for the birds to start making their rounds. If you plan to hunt turkeys in the morning, it is best to start looking for your target when they are done with breakfast, as males will be out looking for hens.
If you elect to hunt in the evening, come to the roost area earlier and patiently wait for them to show up. To increase the chances of success, call the birds in intervals of 15 to 20 minutes.
5. Position the decoy properly
Decoy positioning can be a huge asset and effectively beef up your chances of bagging a turkey. Ideally, you need to place the turkey decoys at a 45-degree angle from you in the opposite direction where you anticipate the gobbler to come from.
When a turkey answers your call, the idea is to see the decoys and walk right past you towards that decoy. Shoot your shot when he gets within shooting range.
Turkey hunting can be physically and mentally taxing. All in all, it is good to stay positive and expect success. Even if you have never been in the woods before, you can afford yourself 20 pounds of meat with these tips. Pick your right weapon, pack your hunting gear, and go outdoors.