Leading to the opening day of the early season I spend as much time as possible in the woods. Scouting is one of the biggest factors to being successful in my opinion. With abnormally cold temperatures, I was finding that the birds were generally grouped up before season and not fully into their spring patterns. This is something that I enjoy about spring turkeys is that they are almost impossible to pattern and that each season and each hunt is very unique. So far this season we have had very good success and I am hoping to share some of the things that I learned to be able to help you on your next hunts.
My preferred method of turkey hunting is the very aggressive “Run and gun” style. My morning hunts are usually based on a scouting mission from the previous night. I typically try to scout and locate where the birds may be roosting. When the morning comes I will sneak in long before daylight. This ensures that the turkeys will still be sleeping and will not see you. Typically, I will be set up in the woods rather than a field. They will almost always fly down and stay in the woods until later on in the morning when they head to the fields. I often will set up decoys in order to bring the birds within range while keeping their focus on the decoys to minimize risk of them seeing me. My decoy setup usually consists of two Avian-X’s. The first being a hen (feeder or breeder) followed by a half-strut jake. This has been the most effective for me. These are the most realistic decoys that seem to trigger an aggressive response to turkeys. A longbeard will usually approach the jake to establish dominancy. Position the jake decoy in your optimal shooting lane due to the fact that the dominant turkey will come right up to the decoy and directly to your shooting range.
I do not use any type of blinds due to the fact that I am more mobile without one. However, they are a great tool if you are bowhunting or would like to be able to have a little bit of movement. Being that I am on the ground, I prefer to use diaphragm (mouth) calls. This allows me to have a motionless call that allows me to do all sorts of calling variations from a soft purr to loud yelps. I use either Zink or Rocky Mountain diaphragm calls. A slate call can also be a great option. These are easier to use and make very realistic calls to bring birds into close range. This is also a great call for beginners or people who have not practiced with diaphragm calls. The Rocky Mountain slate calls are very easy to use and I would highly recommend them for realistic sounds.
When pursuing turkeys with a firearm it is crucial to have a proper setup in order to knock down your bird. The most important factors are the choke tube and the shotshells. A long range choke tube allows for a tight pattern of pellets in order to put as many pellets into the head and neck region of the bird as possible. An extra-full choke tube is preferred. Something like a Carlson’s choke tube has proven to effective for me. The shells that I would highly recommend are a Winchester Longbeard XR. I have tested and tried multiple shells and these have given us consistent patterns that knock down turkeys at even extended ranges.
Pursuing turkeys with archery equipment is one of the largest challenges that a bowhunter can face. They prove to have very good eyesight and will spook easily with any movement. In order to get away with drawing a bow, a pop-up blind is almost a necessity. It allows the hunter to draw their bow and make an accurate shot. A sufficient equipment setup consists of a larger cutting diameter broadhead that will increase the likeliness of hitting the vitals. The vitals on a turkey are very small and hard to locate due to the fact that their feathers can deceive where the vitals are. A large mechanical broadhead is best for body shooting turkeys. Also, some bowhunters will go for a head/neck shot with a special broadhead such as a Magnus Bullhead or a Muzzy M.O.R.E. These can be effective at closer distances where the hunter can make a precise shot. A proper arrow setup is needed for these broadheads in order to be able to steer them properly. A full-length arrow enables the big head to not contact the riser of the bow and/ or the sight. Also, fletching the arrow with longer vanes or feathers will allow the arrow to steer properly. It is best to place decoys in close proximity to the blind maximize the chance of drawing in the birds to close distances to increase the chances of making a lethal shot.
One of my favorite things about turkey season is the ability to introduce new hunters to the sport. Spring time offers generally warmer weather which is welcomed by people who would not prefer to hunt for deer in the colder conditions of fall. Also, beginner hunters are often times able to hear and see turkeys quite often which helps to keep them interested. Deer hunting usually involves long hours waiting which can seem boring to new hunter. Turkey hunting is usually more involved and more entertaining.
Each year I take multiple friends, family, and beginner hunters into the woods in order to try to spark a passion that we live for. This aspect of hunting is what makes the early mornings all worth it. Knowing that I may have created a new hunter and watching them experience the hunt is the best part of spring turkey hunting in my opinion. These memories will last a lifetime and hopefully some of these tips and techniques will allow you to raise your odds this year. All of us here at Long Range Archery would love to be able to set you up with the proper equipment and we would love to hear about your experiences in the turkey woods. Good luck to all of the turkey hunters out there this year; we are excited to hear from you.