Turkey Hunting for Beginners

turkey hunting

Turkey Hunting for Beginners

Spring Turkey Season Preparation and Gear for Beginners

It may still be chilly outside, but turkey season is just around the corner. Preparing now for spring gobblers is a must if you want to consistently harvest a spring turkey. Besides, early preparation for turkey season helps shake those cabin fever blues. You’re forced to think about those spring mornings on the ridgeline. Listening to a gobbler make his way in. Here are a few things to learn about turkey hunting for beginners.

  • Shotgun Dull the shine on your turkey gun with paint or a gun cover or tape, camo or black matte finish works best. Install one of our Run & Gun Slings for getting aggressive on those springtime gobblers always on the move in search of a hen.
  • Camo Springtime camouflage that conceals you from turkeys and keeps you comfortable in the field. Layer your clothing for the weather. You will want a set of springtime waterproof camo for when it rains. Here is a great pattern by TruTimber
  • Hunting Boots Your turkey hunting boots must fit well and keep your feet dry and comfortable. Use knee-high rubber in wet areas. If you cover a lot of ground while hunting turkeys then a good waterproof leather boot is a must for comfort. If you hunt where there are a lot of snakes like the cottonmouth-infested swamps where I hunt, then a good snake boot like these Danners will be comfortable and may even save your life.
  • Turkey Calls Calling springtime turkeys is half the fun so practice calling before the season with some good turkey calls. You don’t have to sound perfect, but make sure you can create the basic sounds with your calls.
  • Turkey Vest The turkey vest is the workstation to the turkey hunter. Choose a vest that fits well and will fit well when running through the woods to intercept a turkey on the move. Well-positioned pockets can make or break a turkey vest and help you get to your calls and other gear without too much movement that might spook a weary gobbler. Here is a few turkey vests to check out.

Turkey Gun

Probably the most important piece of your turkey gear is your turkey gun. Your gun will probably need to be cleaned after being tucked away all winter in the back of the closet behind the squirrel rifles. It also should be shot to reassure you that it’s going to do the job one more season. It’s like getting reacquainted with an old buddy you haven’t seen in months. Maybe you want to try a new turkey load or better sights. Try experimenting and fine tune your turkey gun if needed. Shooting your turkey gun is an important step in learning turkey hunting for beginners.

Turkey Vest For Turkey Hunting Beginners

The next most important piece of gear is your turkey vest. I’m itching to get out there this spring so maybe I’m listing these in the order of the most fun things to get ready so bear with me here. If you’re like me, your gear might be in a safe place, but you have to search for it every season and it never seems to be where you thought you put it. This is another good reason to prepare your gear before the season. Nothing worse than scrambling to locate your vest and then find out you left it at your Uncle Roy’s house.

Turkey Decoys For Beginning Turkey Hunters

Your decoys might need a little attention after being scrunched up in a box. Set them up and make sure it’s all there. The heads are the most visible and is truly what calls in a gobbler from across a hayfield. Even when he had no intentions of going that way. You might want to touch up those heads with some paint to bring them back to life. Acrylic paint will do the job as long as you are confident in your painting skills.

Another option is to take your decoys to your local taxidermist. They know turkeys and will have reference cards as well to follow. There are many different colors in a turkey head each meaning something different. Knowing what color to paint your decoy head can help you target all toms or just the mature longbeards in the flock. Talk to your taxidermist or research it for yourself.

Practice Calling Spring Turkeys

Unless you carry a call around with you all year, I know a couple of turkey hunters that do, you will be a little rusty on your calling. Many missed opportunities, especially the opening weekend, can be attributable to a mistake in calling. A putt when you wanted a purr can send an otherwise committed tom heading for the hills. This missed opportunity will also educate the tom and make him harder to call the next time around.

Calling turkeys can be tricky and knowing the habits of turkeys by their demeanor and posture can really help you coax it into shotgun range. While nothing compares to working a bird during a hunt for learning its habits make it a point to read about turkey behavior and try to recognize something new this season. I can assure you this will help you become a better turkey hunter as you increase your knowledge of the turkeys’ habits.

Another great way to improve success is to learn a new call or two before the season. I spent many seasons with only a box call and I realized I was just getting jakes to come in and a friend introduced me to reed calls and the slate. Jakes are fine with me. I hunt turkeys for their awesome flavor. However, working a big old tom is so much fun that I practiced with these new calls. I began seeing more mature birds and the way they act and respond to different calls.

Maybe you have the calling down and just need to brush up with the calls you have. There are a lot of different call types as well and some of these might help you especially if you hunt alone. Maybe a call like the Primos Bombshell call that attaches to your forearm and allows you to call with a finger with your gun in position for a shot. These types of calls can work wonders on a bird that has locked up within easy sight of your position, but just out of range. I like the old school slates and boxes, but having the option in those situations can mean the difference between a filled turkey tag and an easy walk back to the truck, empty handed.

Scout For Spring Turkey

Scouting before the season begins is crucial to success when hunting turkeys. Turkeys move according to where the food is and this can change from year to year. What happened last spring might be the opposite of this one. Many factors can contribute to a turkeys’ behavior from one season to the next. Scouting your hunting area is the best way to find turkeys. Early preparation helps you figure out where the turkeys are.

Locating the area or areas where turkeys concentrate on your hunting property is a great way to assure success opening weekend. Locating where the turkeys are roosting can be your ticket to tagging out early. It puts you where the turkeys are when they fly down in the morning. This can be almost as fun as the hunt itself. It gets you in the woods earlier in the year searching for these areas.

The best way to locate a turkey roost is by locating where the turkeys are in the evening. Then ease into the woods in the evening to a likely roosting area and just listen for the birds to fly up. They make plenty of noise so you can hear them from a good distance. Unless it’s windy. If you failed to hear a fly up try the next evening in another part of the area. The turkeys are around so be patient. You will figure out where they’re roosting.

Once you hear the turkeys fly to roost or better yet see them, then you can plan your hunt. Now it is time to determine where the turkeys are flying down. You can go in before dawn and get close enough to watch the fly down and direction the turkeys go. You’re now in a great position to harvest a gobbler come opening morning. As with all wild creatures there are no guarantees. The turkeys might fly down on the opposite side of where you thought.

Remember. The perfect hunt comes a few times in a lifetime. There are more ways for the hunt to go sideways than to go perfectly. It’s your chance to be prepared for the season. Study turkey hunting and learn your calls and decoys. Put all the pre-season preparation together to make the hunt a success. No matter what happens this spring turkey season be sure to have a great one.

Questions And Answers Turkey Hunting

Hello Ken,

First, I appreciate your time regardless if you can\can not assist me.  I read an article of yours but I cannot say which magazine it was in, (maybe KY. Afield), or one similar, and it was a couple of weeks ago, but to get to the point, I am asking if you can give me any help at all in me being able to harvest my first KY turkey (please don’t say go to Kroger…LOL).

I have been hunting(not turkey)since I was 9 y/o, I am now 57, and I have been successful in harvesting deer, rabbits, squirrels, but I cannot under any circumstance even see a turkey except for a quick moment in the field, long enough to ID it, and it has never been a tom, which is OK, I just want to harvest a turkey.  I have seen them in other fields as I drive down the road, but not ever where I am hunting.  And I took a shower, still no turkey.  LOL.   I think it has a lot to do with where I am hunting, Griffith Woods WMA, but I have tried a small few of other places, and no luck!

I’m checking with you if you have any advice as to any private land that a landowner or any other idea that you may have that would better my chances of getting a wild turkey.  I am aware of other WMA’s that report decent numbers of turkey harvest, but I also hear stories of being there in the woods and then a fellow hunter comes through the area, and my time to hunt is limited, so I am just checking with you to see if you have any advice sir, and again Thank you!

Sincerely,
L.D.

Hello Lee,

Thanks for contacting me I’m always happy to help people in the outdoors. You probably read my article in Kentucky Living Magazine. I am the outdoor columnist for them and I did write an article on turkey hunting. I also write for MidWest Outdoors and other publications too.

As for harvesting a turkey in Kentucky the best advice I can give you is to scout before the season and locate where the turkeys are hanging out at that time. Knowing where the turkeys are when the season opens is probably 80% of the deal. You can figure this out by checking fields in the mornings and evenings. Turkeys will be in fields anytime during the day but tend to move into the woods once the sun gets up. Where legal you can use a shock call to locate gobblers.

I hunt public land and there is a rule that you can not gobble call but you can use an owl call or crow call to shock the gobbler into gobbling. Don’t bug them too much because you can get them call shy before you go in to hunt them. If you hear a gobble then you know where he is and you should just back out and look for another turkey someplace else. All of my information is for public land hunting just because I hunt public land 99% of the time and I prefer it over private land believe it or not. If you do have some private land to hunt and you are the only one hunting then the turkeys will be less educated and easier to hunt.

I’m not familiar with the WMA’s in your area. I do know that there are a lot of turkeys at Daniel Boone. I did an article about a little girl that lives in Georgia and I think she has now accomplished the turkey grand slam. Here is a link to that article. She and her dad drive up from Georgia to hunt Daniel Boone for turkeys and harvest a gobbler every year there. I spoke to her dad and her and he told me he loves hunting Daniel Boone so if you can make the drive that might be a place to check.  https://www.ramblingangler.com/kylie-moody-turkey-hunter/

When A Gobbler Won’t Come In: Putting The Move on A Locked Up Gobbler

Unless you are hunting turkey land delight, you have experienced when a gobbler won’t come in. We always called these turkeys, locked up gobblers or hung up turkeys. Oftentimes you can see a gobbler locked up within sight but out of range for a shot. Fences, ditches, and field edges can all cause a gobbler to lock up and not come in even when you have decoys. It is frustrating and if you move to get a little closer, you are sure to be busted. There are times when a tom will lock up out of sight of your setup. You can tell by the gobbles that the turkey is not getting any closer. This is when putting the move on a hung up gobbler can pay off in a punched tag.

When To Make A Move On A Locked-Up Gobbler

Normally I will call to a turkey until it finally starts to move in my direction. However, when I’m sure of the terrain and whether or not the gobbler will spot me moving, I will move a little closer with my set up. I do sometimes use decoys, but this is the perfect example as to why I prefer to leave the turkey decoys at home.

There is nothing like having a group of turkeys move in to investigate a couple of decoys. The show can be awesome. However, when hunting public land or pressured turkeys, you have to be a bit more stealthy with your movements. Setting up turkey decoys, usually beyond where you plan to sit and call, can and will alert a weary tom. This will end a turkey hunt real quick. When you have the turkey gobbling back at you approach very cautiously. It can be tough to discern the distance of a gobbling turkey in the woods. Survey the surrounding terrain and woods and make a decision as to where to set up. Don’t get too close and bust your bird. Rely on your calling to get the turkey into range. 

So, as for decoys I have an article or two on here that touches on using decoys or not. The decision to move a little closer to a gobbler that you feel is locked up and not coming to your setup is usually a thought-out plan. At first, you think you will be able to call the turkey in. It takes several gobbles to realize that the turkey has not moved from its original location.

It can be difficult to figure out for turkey hunting beginners, time in the woods is all that can help with that. Learning whether the turkey is coming toward you, moving away, or locked up ain’t easy for turkey hunting beginners and can be difficult for seasoned turkey hunting veterans if they don’t have good hearing. This is because of the direction that the turkey is turned when it gobbles in response to your calling. When a turkey is turned away from you it sounds like it’s moving away when it is only turned away. He might be strutting and turning, all puffed up, sending its gobble all over the place.

Turkey hunters are naturally optimistic when they have successfully struck a gobbler. They initially, at least I do, feel that the turkey is coming. This alone will slow the decision that the turkey isn’t moving. So be patient and scrutinize every gobble you hear. This is all part of learning the turkey for turkey hunting beginners.

If the gobble is loud and clear then a bit less so then the next gobble is loud and clear again log that into your senses. Continue calling and continue to scrutinize every sound from him. After several confrontations like this you might make the decision to move in quicker. The reason you don’t want to move in on a locked up turkey too soon is because it could break and begin to move in your direction. Mix up your calling. A combination of calls can trigger a gobbler into seeking out your position so give it some time.

There are certain situations when the terrain his known and if you hunt a piece of ground that you know like the back of your hand you might even know exactly where the gobbler is likely strutting and you can make a move into its direction with little worry of spooking it by using the terrain. Just be careful and you can get closer. Getting closer can help trigger the turkey into moving.

Why Gobblers Lockup

The usual reasons for a turkey to lock up is fences, ditches and other obstacles. This could happen out of sight and unless you know the land where you are hunting turkeys you just don’t know why the turkey is locked up. While I have called mature gobblers across multiple ridges I have also had gobblers lock up with seemingly no obstacle at all. Over the years I have noticed a common thing between both situations. Pressure.

Hunting pressure, at least from what I have seen, is the number one reason that gobblers will lock up. Last season I had three different gobblers that answered my call aggressively for at least an hour without moving any closer. I did this for three mornings in a row and each time the turkeys would not come in. Finally, I decided to move into the turkey’s direction to see if I could get into range or get them to come in.

I knew pretty much where the gobblers were located. They were close and on three different points or fingers of the ridge I was on. This is why I didn’t want to move on them and chose to be patient. I may have been too patient. I moved in on the fourth morning slowly to where the gobblers were gobbling the three morning previous. The turkeys were still there and still gobbling at nearly every call I made. As I moved in the turkeys shut up. I continued to where I thought they should be and found that these two birds were back up on their roost limbs. I spooked them off their limb. It was 10 am.

I continued toward the third finger where the third turkey was gobbling but had shut down. I made some soft calls as I eased in its direction and finally got a response. It was a gobble but not as aggressive. I knew I was close even though it didn’t really sound like it based on its gobble so I slowed way down. Finally, I saw the turkey happily strutting exactly where I thought he had been all three mornings before.

Everything seemed great and I had the turkey in sight. It gradually moved over a small rise and I felt that I might call him back. I set up on the tom as it gobbled down a ridge without me calling. I had decoys and was able to get those set up for the hunt and get into position against a big log next to a beech. A couple of soft calls and the gobbler answered. It was out of sight by now but I thought maybe I had a chance to get a reaction and a shot. That didn’t happen.

I shut up my calling when the turkey went silent. I wasn’t sure where the turkey was so I didn’t want to call if it was closing the gap. Potentially spooking it. I waited. I hoped that the turkey would see the decoys and move on in. That did not happen. It was late morning by this time and the breeze was getting stronger. It was nice and sunny and the woods had that feeling of shut down. Every turkey hunter knows that feeling when it seems like nap time and many, like myself, have probably taken a nap along with all of the turkeys it would seem.

So with that, nothing is going to happen this morning feeling, I slowly gathered my decoys. I eased down the spur following the route that the gobbler had taken. It wasn’t long before I found out where the turkey went. It was in a tree. Looking at the ground below the roost I saw that it was the turkey’s roost tree. The big gobbler flew off its limb across the ridge and disappeared.

Turkey Hunting Pressure Can Hurt a Turkey Hunting Beginners Chances

All of this was for sure due to hunting pressure. It was a ridge I had never hunted. I found it opening morning when the place I normally hunted was covered up with hunters with every possible parking place filled. This location has a lot of turkeys and I am confident that there still is. These turkeys know when to lock up and shut down with the coming of hunters that show up early to scout and then to fill the woods to hunt. I learned on this hunt why calling from the road system is and should be illegal. I watched three trucks stop and call from the road I was near. Luckily the hunters either didn’t hear the turkeys, they all gobbled at their call, or they didn’t want to climb the mountain that I did to get on the ridge they were on.

I’m sure this calling had been going on for several days before the season. It definitely had these turkeys spooked and leery of calls. When this is the case I have noticed that mature gobblers will call for the hen to come to them and will refuse to go to her. This is a way they survive and in this case, I’m confident that these turkeys will be there next year. Hopefully will be a more successful turkey hunt on public land.

Turkey Gear For Turkey Hunting Beginners

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Turkey Calls For Turkey Hunting Beginners

About Ken McBroom 215 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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