Turkey Hunting Tips
Turkey is one of the most popular dishes prepared for holiday feasts, and is a staple of many people's diet in North America. It is very health and full of flavor.
Spring hunting and Fall hunting have two very different tactics. In the spring your goal is to call a turkey into you. Since they are looking to breed you can usually call in a Turkey from a fair distance away. In the fall, Turkeys are gathering in flocks. It would be very difficult to call a Turkey into leaving the flock and coming towards you. For this reason, in the fall you find the flock and run into it, causing them to all fly away. Then you set up near that spot and wait for them to return. As they return you ambush them.
The first step to hunting turkey is to locate them. In the Spring this can be done using what is known as a locator call. These are typically Owl, Crow, or Coyote calls. Many hunters say that Turkeys will also respond to car doors slamming, squeaky gates, or even trains. The reason for this is that turkeys give off a "shock gobble". Some say it is because the Tom wants to be the loudest noise in the woods to impress the Hens. Whatever the reason, it helps you pin point where the Turkey is. Some hunters go out the night before to locate them in their roosts so they can come back in the morning and set up. This is known as "putting them to roost". Others stalk the woods during the day until they get a response and then set up.
Owl calls seem to be most successful in early morning and late evening. To effectively use the Owl call, blow into the call while alternating between the sayings "who cooks for you" and "who cooks for y'all".
Crow calls seem to be most effective during the morning and afternoon. To effectively use the Crow call, blow into the caller while saying "Caw" two or four times.
Coyote calls are great for putting the Turkey to roost. To effective use a Coyote call, blow into the call making a howling sound. If a turkey does respond to a coyote call, it will be shortly after the howl starts. For this reason, don't howl for too long as you will not hear the turkey respond. Try around 2 or 3 seconds.
Once you know where a roost is, you must keep a couple of things in mind. When Turkeys fly down from a roost, they tend to fly away from the rising sun. It is thought that they do this to keep the sun out of their eyes and more easily see any dangers. Turkeys also like to fly near or into fields, especially ones with lots of sun. Turkey feathers are bright and Toms like to strut in the sun to really show off their colors. When setting up, you want to set up on the opposite site of the roost than the sun, and as close to a field edge as you can. You want to be at least 100 yards away when you do set up. Any closer than this and the Turkey is more likely to see you. Try to set up at a 45 degree angle to where you predict the Turkey to come. For example, if you shoulder you shotgun on your right shoulder, face the area you predict the Turkey to be and turn 45 degrees to the right. This will allow for less movement when targeting the Turkey.
Using a decoy is a great way to increase your success. Ideally you should set up 1 Jake and 2 hen decoys, but even one decoy will work well. I like to use a Jake decoy that I set up facing me roughly 15 to 20 feet out. When the Tom comes in, if he gets stuck up he will still be within shooting range. If he does come all the way in, he will tend to challenge the decoy face to face. This will allow a great "Texas Heart Shot" for all you archery hunters.
Now that you are all set up, you can start using your Turkey call to get them to come in. Don't overdo your calls, keep it to a few times every 15 minutes or so. The further away a Turkey is, the louder the call will need to be. When the Turkey comes closer, make the call quieter so as not to sound "desperate". Remember that if that Turkey is walking towards you, don't make a noise. Just let them come.
**Here are several actual Turkey Calls that you can use as reference when practicing your calling**
There are several different types of calls available such as the Push Button, Box, Pot (or Slate), and Mouth (or Diaphragm) calls. Each have their own pros and cons and there are days that one will work and not the other. It is best to bring more than one with you and if you are not getting any results from one, switch to the other.
Perhaps the easiest to use is the push button call. This call is a box with either a stick going through it or a button on one end. To use it all you do is push on the stick or button. It is perhaps due to this ease of use that many more seasoned hunters look at this call as a beginners call, but more turkey have been killed with this call than most others. This call is one handed which allows for less movement in the field. Some models can even be mounted on the barrel of a shotgun so you don't even need to take your eyes off the turkey.
A box call is shaped like an empty rectangular box with a lid attached by a swivel on one side. These typically have chalk on the edges of the box and the underside of the lid that when rubbed together cause the noise which makes the call. This Chalk will have to be replaced from time to time and is the reason that this call is effected by the rain, sometimes not working at all in foul weather. Some models do not use chalk but another coating which never needs to be replaced and is unaffected by the rain. To use this call to make a yelp, you slowly slide the lid against the box, speeding up and adding pressure to change tone and duration. For a cluck you tap the lid sideways rather than sliding it to make a quick "clucking" noise. One of the biggest cons of the box call is that you need two hands to work it properly.
Pot calls are made up of many different materials such as slate, aluminum, and glass and are first roughed up in a side to side motion with a scouring pad. This side to side motion causes scratches in the material which when a striker is dragged across make the noise. Strikers, the rods dragged across the pot call surface, are available in several different materials as well such as different types of wood, plastic, etc. By using different pot call materials and striker materials you can make many different sounds. The cons of the Pot call are the need for both hands and that they are effected by moisture. Never touch the surface of a slate call as the natural oils on your hands will negatively affect the call.
Mouth calls are little pieces of latex pulled tight between a "U" shaped brace. You place the call in the top of your mouth with the ends of the "U" against the back of your teeth. Using your tongue to hold the call in place, you force air over the latex causing it to make noise. Many people have a hard time due to a gag reflex or difficulty making any type of noise at all. This call does take practice, but once you can make the call work, it is relatively easy to use. To make a Yelp, say chick slowly several times in a row. Chick, chick, chick, chick, chick. Then speed it up until it sounds like a yelp. To cluck, it is a quick burst of air. Just like the yelp you say "chick" but only once and quickly. The pro of this call is the lack of movement in the field. It requires very little movement to use. The con of this call is that you must be careful to not swallow it and it does cause a gag reflex in some.
With all the calls that are available, many hunters forget about the other noises that Turkeys make in the wild. If you have a Tom that is stuck up and you want him to come on in, try scratching like a hen searching for food. The way you do this is by rustling the leaves with two short scratches and then one medium duration. Wait a few seconds and then repeat. Doing this a few times will get that Tom coming again.
In the fall, calling Turkey is a little different.
Locator calls used in the spring will not be as effective in the fall. Instead, use a "lost turkey" call. Turkeys have a strong need to flock up in the fall and they may respond to a lost Turkey with a cluck saying "hey, we're over here".
It's this strong need to gather in flocks that will make it difficult to call them to you. instead, you want to find the flock and run at it so they all fly away - known as busting the flock. Then sit at this location and call them back in, ambushing them as they return. This is known as the Kee Kee (or kiki) Run. The best call to use is a pot or mouth call, although you can get specific Kee Kee calls. For best results with a pot call, hold the striker close to the tip and with alot of pressure repeatedly draw an upside down "w". Here is a great example of the Kee Kee run