Beginners Guide to Turkey Hunting

Turkey hunting can be an exciting and rewarding outdoor activity. Whether you’re a novice hunter or an experienced one looking to try something new, here’s a beginners guide to turkey hunting to help you get started:

Research and Education:

  • Study local hunting regulations, seasons, and licensing requirements. Most states will have a drawing for Turkey tags. The application to be in a drawing for tags usually happens many months in advance. If you plan on hunting turkeys, this is your very first step. It is very helpful to also know if the state has Zones and seasons, most do. You may need to pick multiple zones and/or season windows in your application.
  • Familiarize yourself with turkey species in your area, their behavior, and habitat preferences. Knowing when turkeys will be in mating, their regular movements and roost areas all contribute to a successful hunt.
  • Learn about turkey calls, including clucks, purrs, yelps, and gobbles. These sounds imitate turkey communication and can attract them.

Essential Gear:

  • Shotgun: A 12 or 20-gauge shotgun with an appropriate turkey choke and non-toxic shot is common for turkey hunting.
  • Shotgun Shells: Pick a shell or load that is optimized or made for turkey hunting. These shells and loads will have a tighter pattern and heavier punching power than other shells.
  • Camouflage clothing: Wear full camouflage to blend into your surroundings.
  • Turkey calls: Box calls, slate calls, diaphragm calls, or locator calls are popular options.
  • Decoys: Realistic turkey decoys can attract curious birds.
  • Blinds: Portable blinds can conceal you and your movements.
  • Safety gear: A blaze orange vest or hat to remain visible to other hunters if necessary.
  • Boots: Comfortable and waterproof boots suitable for your hunting environment.
  • Binoculars: Helpful for spotting turkeys from a distance.
  • Knife: Essential for field dressing and processing your harvested turkey.
  • Seat or Chair: If your hunting in the open – you will want a cushion to sit on. If your hunting in a blind – bring a folding chair.

Scout the Area:

  • Before the hunting season, visit your hunting location to understand turkey movement patterns, roosting spots, and feeding areas.
  • Look for signs of turkeys such as tracks, feathers, droppings, and scratching in the ground.

Learn Turkey Behavior:

  • Understand turkey behavior and vocalizations. Gobbling is common during the mating season (spring), while clucks and purrs are heard year-round. National Wild Turkey Foundation (NWTF) has a great must read page:
  • Learn to differentiate between hen (female) and tom (male) turkeys by their appearance and behavior.

Practice Calling:

  • Start practicing turkey calls well before the hunting season.
  • Mimic various turkey sounds to increase your chances of attracting them.

Set Up:

  • Choose a strategic hunting spot near turkey activity areas, like feeding zones or roosting sites.
  • Set up your decoys and blinds inconspicuously.
  • Maintain a clear shooting lane while ensuring your position remains hidden.

Turkey Hunting Techniques:

  • Use locator calls like crow or owl calls to locate roosted turkeys early in the morning.
  • When turkey hunting, less can be more. Avoid excessive calling that might spook turkeys.
  • Consider stalking turkeys if you spot them in an open area.

Safety First:

  • Always prioritize safety. Be aware of your surroundings and other hunters.
  • Avoid wearing red, white, or blue (colors of a turkey’s head) to prevent accidents.

Patience and Persistence:

  • Turkey hunting requires patience. Stay still and wait for the right opportunity.
  • Don’t get discouraged by unsuccessful hunts. Learning from each experience is valuable.

Ethical Harvesting and Conservation:

  • Follow ethical hunting practices and adhere to legal bag limits.
  • Respect the environment and the animals you’re pursuing.

Remember, turkey hunting is not just about the harvest; it’s also about enjoying the outdoors, learning about nature, and honing your hunting skills. As a beginner, be prepared for a learning curve, and don’t hesitate to seek guidance from experienced hunters or take hunting safety courses if available.

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