Tips for Spring Turkey Hunting

Tips for Spring Turkey Hunting
Turkeys on a tailgate after successful spring turkey hunt. Photo by Ken McBroom

Turkey Calling Tips For Beginners

A few tips for spring turkey hunting. When it comes to turkey calls there are literally hundreds of turkey calls on the market. Experimenting with different types of calls can narrow them down. But where do you start? Some turkey hunters only use a mouth call. Others only use a box call. It really is what you find most comfortable. The most important thing is to gain confidence in a call. This only happens while turkey hunting.

The best tip for learning to call turkeys would be to purchase any one of the many calls available and read articles or watch videos to learn the sounds that turkeys make and why they make them. Also, practice making those sounds with your choice of turkey calls. Stick with one call at first and hunt with it and see if you like it or not. Believe me when I say, you will see the reasons you like a certain call better than others and maybe why two types of calls might be best.

SHOP TURKEY HUNTING GEAR

Aside from the sounds that turkeys make, there is also shock calls that can help you tremendously when searching for turkeys you want to hunt. I use a crow call, but owl calls work as well as gobble calls. I have even used a big flashlight banged against my jon boat when hunting by water. Turkeys will gobble at sudden noises like this and takes much less practice to see the intended results. Use a shock call to get that early morning tom to gobble on the roost. Then get into position to hunt that turkey come sunrise.

Putting Gobblers To Roost

spring turkey hunting tips roosted gobblerLocating a turkey’s roost is not just a good way to get a jump on him the next morning, but it’s also just plain fun. Locating a turkey roost will put you within call range come sunrise and help you bag a turkey before he gets henned-up. This can make success rates plummet for the turkey hunter unless you have a backup plan. 

The best way to find a roosting turkey is to cover ground where you hunt listening for turkeys flying up to roost. You will know when you hear a flock of turkeys flying up to roost if you never have it’s an obvious disruption in the woods. Turkeys have a fly-up cackle and the wings flapping as they settle onto tree limbs are unmistakable even if it’s just one turkey, but when a flock flies up it is very loud. 

Once a turkey’s roost is located it is important to get as close as possible the next morning. The turkeys will still be on the same roost if it wasn’t disturbed during the night and getting close is vital. Survey the area around the roost and mark a good spot for your setup before you leave. You can then ease into that spot quietly the next morning. Set your alarm clock and get up early. You need to be set up well before daylight. This will get you into a position to call the turkeys when they fly down.

Calling A Roosted Gobbler

Once into position and the sun begins to light the horizon, give a few subtle clucks and yelps to let the tom know where you are. He could respond with a gobble while still on the roost. This is your sign that the gobbler has acknowledged your location and is interested. When this happens, stop calling. If you call too much the gobbler will think the hen is on the ground and may stay on roost. Get the gobbler to acknowledge you then wait. When you hear the gobbler hit the ground immediately give a cackle call. Smacking a turkey feather on the ground will sound like a turkey flying down. More times than not this is more than enough to get the gobbler heading your direction. Get your gun up and be still. A mature tom is looking for a hen and he’ll see the slightest movement. 

Best Time Of Day To Hunt Turkeys

Like most turkey hunters I’m going to be in the woods at daylight. I love to locate a gobbler on roost and ease into my first set for the morning before it flies down. When this setup works it’s magical and luckily for me it has happened a time or two. However, so often this doesn’t work for various reasons. Sometimes the gobbler just knows where it’s going and disregards your early morning yelps and fly down tactics and heads out in the opposite direction with no explanation. Other times other hunters move in. Remember, if you heard the gobbler on roost other hunters did as well, especially on public land where I hunt. So, having said all that I have to say my favorite time to hunt turkey overall is between about 10 am and noon.

A lot of the gobblers are henned up by 10 and the woods may seem silent. Most of the other hunters have left the woods for breakfast or whatever and you have the woods to yourself. What I love to do is just slowly ease through the woods with my mouth call yelping every few yards. This will locate a lone gobbler that is looking for love and thinks he has finally found it. It has been my observation that if you strike a gobbler up in the morning you best be getting somewhere to set up because it is coming in fast if he is alone.

I will set up and listen to see how fast he’s moving in and then make a move if needed. I’ve seen gobblers fly from one ridge over and is on me before I can set up. When this happens let the bird wander off looking for the hen and do not call. I know it’s hard to let a turkey walk away. But, unless he’s in range your best bet is to let it walk off. You can get set up and call him back once out of sight. These hunts are also magical, heck who am I kidding all successful turkey hunts are magical, but for the reasons I mentioned above I think between 10 and noon is the best time to turkey hunt.

Tips On Fooling Subordinate Toms

With the turkey population at an all-time high across America, you have a pretty good chance of coming across a dominant turkey traveling with hens, jakes, and subordinate jakes. Even though it’s difficult to call the dominant gobbler away from the flock, it can be pretty easy to call that flock’s jakes into range. Subordinate toms are usually 2-year-old birds. They have been beaten up by the dominant gobbler in the flock. To keep from upsetting the dominant gobbler these subordinate gobblers will rarely gobble. They will yelp and cluck to keep track of the flock. 

When you hear a young gobbler doing this and it’s off to the side of the flock, slip in as close as you can. Try to make the subordinate believe one of the dominant gobbler’s hens is calling to him. Use a subtle yelp call to charm the young gobbler. He’ll usually come in quick and confident with his guard down. Remember, he thinks he’s finally getting the attention he deserves. Whatever you do, don’t gobble. He’ll think the dominant gobbler is onto him and avoid your position. 

Some turkey hunters only hunt mature gobblers and that’s fine. For those that want to fill their tag and put some turkey on the table, remember this tip and you might find a little more success when those big gobblers refuse to leave their hens. Calling to a jake takes a slightly different approach when the flock is altogether.

Introducing Kids To Turkey Hunting

If you plan to introduce a kid to turkey hunting make sure they have a shotgun that fits them. Buy a youth model or trim the stock on a full-size shotgun so the youngster can comfortably reach the trigger and look down the barrel. A 20-gauge is best for most younger kids and will take a turkey with a good shot placement. It is vital to practice with the youth so there is no anxiety about pulling the trigger. There will be enough nervousness to go around with a gobbler strutting within shotgun range and you don’t need to add the fear of shooting a big gun to worry your young hunting partner.  

Before you take a youngster on an actual turkey hunt, be sure you teach them safe gun handling. The perfect time to do this is at the range where you should take them to shoot and to pattern their gun. Teach them the importance of patterning their gun while teaching the safety. It is crucial to teach every aspect of turkey hunting and the importance of each step before hitting the woods. 

During the hunt, place the young hunter tightly by your side or inside your knees to help them align the shot. Before the hunt even starts discuss a signal for when to shoot. Something like “it’s OK fire when ready.” This is when the turkey is in range. Explain before the hunt to wait for a clear shot. During the encounter isn’t the time to explain. Be sure they understand all this before you go to the woods.

If the youngster does get a turkey, they will be thrilled. Admire the bird with them. Smooth its feathers, feel its beard and spurs letting them know it’s a great accomplishment. Take lots of photos. Let them see how proud you are of the job they did even if they missed it. Explain to them that missing is just part of it and get after another bird like it’s no big deal. If you keep the kid’s spirits up they will remember the hunt forever. If they get down on themselves for messing up they may never turkey hunt again. Keep an upbeat attitude no matter what happens and you will have a hunting partner for life.

Tips for Hunting Turkey

There’s no wonder so many folks have caught the turkey fever. Turkey hunting has become the remedy to cabin fever for many. There are few things greater than a big gobbler strutting along a ridge-top on a cool spring morning. Especially if they are heading your way. The woods are greening up and the birds are singing. You hit the slate lightly to keep them coming and two of the old toms let out a gobble then swell back up. Another begins to spit and drum as they slowly approach. Getting outdoors after a long winter can be exhilarating. Add the above-mentioned and you have the ultimate cure for cabin fever. Here are some tips for filling your tag this season.

How To Locate Spring Turkey

Locating gobblers is a whole other lesson to learn and time in the woods is your best teacher but here are a few things to consider when you are trying to locate gobblers. There are owl calls, crow calls, and gobble calls and any of these will shock a turkey into gobbling and it is important to carry all of the above calls. One of the calls may fail to work at all or sometimes a turkey will just stop responding to a call if you use it too much but a different call could fire them back up. 

I use a crow call, a gobble call, and a big Maglite flashlight as my shock calls. Yes, you read that right my favorite shock call for locating gobblers is a big Maglite that I hit on the side of my aluminum jon boat as I search along the shoreline for active birds. I usually always hunt public land and most have lakes around them so I use a jon boat to access the turkeys. The flashlight method works great and I have used it all times of the day and it will get a gobble when other calls won’t. 

I do use the crow call once I have located some gobblers and I leave the boat to try to “get in their way.” I’ll crow call to the turkeys once I’m in a position where I think one more gobble should line me up with their route. Then I set up and wait several minutes before calling with my box call. I try to refrain from using the gobble call. I only use it when I fail to get a response from anything else. It seems as though the gobble call can spook some turkeys, especially a young tom.  The gobble call, even when it works, can pose another problem. Turkeys have keen eyesight and the last thing you want is a big mature tom actually looking for you. The gobble will pinpoint your position and you become the hunted.

How To Call Spring Turkey 

Many turkey hunters love their calls. Turkey calls are a big part of the hunt. To some hunters calling is their favorite part of hunting turkeys. I’ve hunted with guys that had every turkey call known to man. I have also hunted with guys that only used a box call or a slate call. I’m not a great caller but often get one into range with a box call. I say this only to make the point that turkey calling can be as simple or as complicated as you want. I would say that under some circumstances the hunter with a turkey call in his mouth, one on his knee and a push/pull turkey call strapped to his shotgun, will be more successful in calling in a turkey. Simplicity rules, at least for me, when it comes to turkey calling.

Oftentimes, not using a turkey call is the best decision when hunting highly pressured gobblers. An old timer once told me that if you could determine the direction the gobblers were traveling you would eliminate 80% of the calling. If you are able to quickly decipher the terrain or you already know the terrain you’re hunting you can usually tell where the turkeys will be traveling. Setting up near the turkeys makes calling them to you much easier. With much less turkey calling. Just remember that most often if a gobbler responds once to your call he has you pinpointed and is probably heading your way so keep this in mind before over-calling and sending him the other direction.

How To Decoy Spring Turkey

Again this is a question that gets about as many yea votes as nay. Personally I like to use decoys. They give me confidence and I just like to use them; however, all of the old timer turkey hunters I have ever hunted with snickered when I pulled out my decoys before a hunt. I always left them behind when I hunted with these guys because I knew they knew what they were doing and I usually harvested a gobbler without the hassles of setting up decoys. It never hurts to learn how to use a turkey decoy. You never know when it might come in handy.

These guys suggest that decoys are just a hassle and exposes you to an interested gobbler. To set up decoys they have to be in sight of the turkey you’re trying to call therefore you must expose yourself and possibly spook a gobbler without ever knowing. We were mostly hunting pressured turkeys and these guys really believe that pressured turkeys are too smart to fall for a plastic replica. Again I like to use decoys myself and it’s a personal preference. Maybe one day, when I’m a bit wiser turkey hunter or a better caller, I can leave the turkey decoys behind, but for now they are a part of my system.

If you do use turkey decoys there are a couple set-ups that has done well for me over the years. I always carry two hen decoys and a jake decoy. I rarely use the gobbler decoy and here is why. Hen decoys will do the job 90% of the time. If the area I’m hunting has a lot of jakes then I don’t want to set up the jake decoy. It seems to spook other jakes. On the other hand if I’m seeing mature gobblers I might set up the jake decoy with the hens. A strutting tom decoy is a great way to bring in a mature gobbler looking for a fight, but since I am not a trophy tom hunter and enjoy harvesting jakes as well as gobblers, I just never use a strutting decoy for fear of running off the jakes.

How To Decoy Shy Turkeys 

There is one trick that works well when you think the turkeys are decoy shy. Sometimes after the turkeys have seen several decoy set-ups they can shy away from decoys. If this is happening in your area use a camo burlap sack to cover the decoys until you need them. Tie a length of fishing line to the sack or mesh and if you have the gobblers coming without showing the decoys then great. If they hang up, out of gun range, slowly pull the string. This will expose your decoys to see if they will come on in without educating them to decoys.

Using a stationary blind is also a great way to leave your decoys set up for the next hunt. You don’t want turkeys seeing your decoy set while you’re not there. You can cover your turkey decoys when you leave. Now you can ease into your blind and pull the string to uncover your decoys. This helps keep you from exposing yourself to nearby turkeys. You might need to place a couple of rocks on your cover to keep the wind from blowing it off.

Turkey hunting has always been my cure for cabin fever. This season I can’t wait to get out there. Some say that a long winter will delay turkey breeding. If that’s the case then the second half of the season should be the best. So get out there and enjoy a great turkey hunt and take a kid along. Turkey hunting is a great way to hook a youngster on hunting for life. Good luck.

Check Out 

Gobbler by the Creek

Late Season Turkeys with a Bow

Kylie Moody; The Dancing Turkey Hunter

HOW TO CALL TURKEYS VIDEO

I hope that these tips for spring turkey hunting help you locate, call and kill more turkeys.

Check out Turkey Fever

About Ken McBroom 218 Articles
Ken McBroom is an accomplished outdoor writer and photographer. Growing up in Lynchburg Tennessee allowed him many opportunities afield as a boy and young man. Later in life, after Desert Storm, Ken’s wanderlust took him to Alaska to live and work and experience the last frontier. Married now with two beautiful children, Ken now calls Kentucky home where he continues to communicate our American outdoor traditions and the lifestyle it offers.

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