There are few guarantees in hunting, but one thing is true across all species: being prepared will significantly increase your odds of success. Turkey hunting is no different. If you’re looking to get a jump start on this turkey season, here are some good ways to invest your time.
Scouting doesn’t get much more productive than the days leading up to opener. Spring-time toms haven’t been disturbed in months and are as patternable as they’ll ever be. There’s a good chance that where you find birds a week prior to the season is where you’ll find birds on opening day.
For me, pre-season scouting differs from in-season scouting. Once the season starts and hunters take to the woods, the deck is reshuffled. This causes turkey movements to vary from day to day, depending on pressure and breeding. When it comes to pre-season scouting, I like to be as minimally invasive as possible, which means a lot of road scouting and glassing from afar. The last thing I want to do is give turkeys the impression that hunting season has begun.
When starting your pre-season search, chances are turkeys will still be flocked up close to their wintering areas. This is especially true when it comes to states with early turkey seasons. Wintering areas will typically revolve around food. Find the best food available and you’ll find flocks. These food sources come in the form of farmyards, silage pits, feed yards, pastures, ag fields, concentrations of grain, or other human developments that habituate birds with feed. If you are a sunrise hunter, scout at sunrise and hunt turkeys in close proximity to the roost. If your scouting reveals where birds like to hang out mid-morning, hunt mid-morning and leave the roost unpressured.
If you want to regularly call gobblers into your lap, dusting off your calls a few days before opening weekend isn’t going to cut it. Get into mid-season form by tuning up your turkey calls now. A great way to do this is to listen to live hen vocalizations and try mimicking the sounds yourself. The National Wild Turkey Federation has a very user friendly resource that is perfect for this type of practice. On their website you’ll find short audio clips of different turkey vocalizations, ranging from the assembly call to the dreaded putt.
While it’s nice to gain a basic understanding of all these vocalizations, mastering each of them is far from necessary. If you’re just starting out, I’d recommend learning the yelp, cluck, and cut. Becoming competent in these three sounds will be more than enough to fill your tag each year. If you want to take it a step further, try adding a new vocalization or two each offseason. After spending a little time studying the different vocalizations, you’ll have a much better understanding of what you’re hearing in the turkey woods. Eventually this will translate into knowing when to make a move and precisely what the gobblers want to hear.
Whether you’re new to turkey hunting or a seasoned pro, be sure to check out MeatEater’s new line of calls designed in collaboration with Phelps Game Calls. They’re as good as you can get and will have you talking with gobblers in no time.
Knowing turkey lingo and their exact whereabouts does you no good if you can’t shoot. Whether shotgun or archery hunting, failing to execute the shot in the heat of the moment is the last thing you want to happen. If you’ll be toting a shotgun in the woods this spring, do yourself a favor and pattern your shotgun. While obvious, many turkey hunters neglect to do this step and accept subpar performance from their shotgun load. Put in the work now, and when you find a load and choke that your shotgun likes, you may never have to mess with it again. Developing a tight pattern and understanding your effective range will help accumulate a few extra birds in your lifetime.
With a bow in hand, and a kill zone the size of a softball, the margin for error is greatly reduced. While dialing in your bow before the season is great, it tends to be overlooked details that spoil a hunt. To combat these unexpected mishaps, gear testing and realistic practice may be the only remedy. If you’ll be shooting from a ground blind, set it up and execute shots from the stool you’ll be hunt with. Anyone who’s bowhunted turkeys knows how important it is to find a chair well suited for your ground blind window height. Many hunts have ended with a broadhead being sent through the wall of a ground blind and spooked gobblers. Inspect your window height, get rid of that squeaky stool, test your new broadheads, and perfect your shooting form in realistic hunting scenarios.
When it comes to preseason preparation, it’s pretty easy to concentrate the majority of your effort on a single facet. The more glamorous and satisfying prep work tends to steal the show, while small details are often overlooked. Being prepared in each phase of the hunt is a surefire way to put more meat in your freezer.
This box pairs a beautiful purpleheart lid with a solid walnut body designed for creating raspy old hen sounds that will pull a wily old tom right into your lap.
A killer 3-pack including Steve Rinella's signature Jake Brake, Janis Putelis' signature Latvian Eagle and The MeatEater Loud & Clear.
When it comes to versatile, out-of-the box performance, it’s hard to beat a good slate call.
Once this handcrafted pot call has been prepped and tuned, it will coax in the most call-shy turkeys in damn near any conditions.