5 Spring Turkey Hunting Tips You Need to Know
Here are a few alternative tips for spring turkey hunters
For those who have access to private land, finding where the turkeys are is generally a foregone conclusion. For public land hunters, turkey season can be a chore with other like-minded hunters vying for the same birds, but the bottom line is this: no matter where you hunt, if you have limited time you had better start scouting the key holding areas before you set out to bag that choice Tom.
Using locator calls, and pre-season scouting, are just a couple of the things that make the spring turkey season such a joy. Especially for those hunters in the trades, who have been waiting for the weather to break and are now predominantly busy trying to catch up from the winter layoff. This is probably the first time since bowhunting season that you’ve felt this excited, and when you hear a Tom shock gobble to an owl hooter for the first time you'll know that even lousy weather days might mean the first turkey of the year.
Here are five tips for keeping a positive attitude when your time has finally come:
1. Go to them, not vice versa
Calling at a minimum is still a priority in this case. Let that big Tom start to think that his hen is the one hung up, and not coming to him as he gobbles. You may find that he stops talking as he finally relents and moves your way, so be ready to get still and stay still even though your heart will be beating out of your chest! Look for just a bit of red when hunting heavy cover, or for the open field hunter, search for the motion.
Don’t confuse this with “reaping,” where the hunter hides behind a Tom’s fan, but rather the act of actively moving towards a hung-up gobbler that doesn’t want to leave his harem. Either way, this method can cause an argument between turkey hunters everywhere and we’ll say it right up front: we don't recommend it for public land hunters. There’s no question that one turkey hunter can walk up on another which makes the use of this method inherently dangerous.
2. Do it with less
The turkey hunter may have to rough it with a limited amount of gear while their back rests against the tree they’ve picked out. Using one of those cushions that are well padded (that warm up as well, and are even waterproof) is a must in this situation. If you have your own land and a ground blind waiting for you, you can leave some non-essential things like a chair, but until then you'll have to sit right on the ground which can uncomfortable. Make sure that you have the obvious things with you: license, shells, and calls, because walking without all of the gear shouldn’t be a loss for you. Clothes pre-treated with a permethrin based repellent will save you time and avoid the cost of carrying lotion or spray, which also leads to the next process.
3. Why being scent-free matters
With the sight and hearing that they possess, we should be darn glad that nature didn't provide the wild turkey with much of a nose, but there are others in the woods and fields—the whitetail deer being the most obvious—that possess what the wild turkey lacks. There is a school of thought that if a wild turkey could smell you, that you would never see one! Deer, on the other hand, see you, hear you, and smell you long before you will ever know that they are there, making them the fire alarm of the woods.
Chasing deer out of the spring turkey woods for many years is what makes us go scent free whenever possible. For hunters with a minimum of time, at least an early morning hunt can be done this way by taking care of that issue before he or she leaves home with a quick shower. At the very least, you can leave your camouflage in the vehicle stored inside of a plastic bag along with some scent control spray and scent-free deodorant waiting for you. One of the worst-case scenarios of the spring turkey hunt: deer crashing through the woods away from you startling a flock of turkeys that may have been working their way towards you.
4. Use your mouth
It’s old knowledge that the proper use of diaphragm call is essential to good turkey hunting, but there are other ulterior motives to have it at the ready. This is one item that doesn’t need your hands to carry, and can even be used while you move.
Honestly, it doesn’t take much time to get your slate or box call out, but the issue here is one of a minimum of movement, while keeping your hands free to aim and fire. Since everyone has their go-to confidence call (we prefer a slate) use what works best for you. For instance, we use a big, fat rubber band and strap the slate to the off arm. You can even keep the wand tucked inside of it for quick access. There have been times when we attach it to our leg, just above the knee, but stay alert: when you move through the woods it might come loose and slide down your leg.
5. You don’t need a flock
Many people really only ever use one decoy, but for those of us who consistently use multiple turkey decoys, this is an idea geared towards another kind of natural look. Wild turkeys certainly hang together in groups, but just as often wander alone or in pairs. A greedy boss Tom screaming for his hens can sometimes be coaxed into coming after a loner because he doesn’t want to lose a single girl to a rival.
Anything that helps create this same hands-free school of thought can be a positive, like a backpack or a fanny pack. In most cases, we always use a sling for our shotgun just for the ease and quickness of carrying it quietly through the early morning turkey woods.
A veteran turkey hunter waiting for a hung-up gobbler to decide its next move is something that we've all been part of, and moving in on that bird can be the difference between bagging him or not. It is a fact of turkey hunting life that you take some time to scout the birds you're targeting at some point before the season starts. We all want to bag a gobbler, but you're going to at least have to have some idea of where he is, or may be, before you set out to put the bead on him.
Having said that, when spring turkey season rolls around and that long beard you've been watching from afar starts showing himself in open fields, it won't be long before he gathers with other turkeys and you’ll begin to notice him start to change his position from day-to-day.
Pre-season can be the real season when you're talking about wild turkey hunting and in particular spring gobblers, so you’ll have to put some time in at some point or take what nature gives you.