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.

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  • 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.

Here Is An Argument For Using Decoys

There has always been debate about turkey decoys. Some people say they won’t use them. Some claim that they spoil hunts. Others vouch for them. I enjoy using them, and the majority of the time, they work. I killed this gobbler on a WMA in Central Florida, where the birds had been under pressure for nearly a month. They had been hooted at, crowd-called to, called to by both good and bad callers, and even shot at by that point. They stopped talking. That day, in the wee hours, I heard a single gobble about five times from a distance. I couldn’t tell—maybe 500 or 600 yards. Since we hadn’t heard from him in three days, I must admit that hearing him made me happy.

My DSD jake decoy was placed in the afternoon in a dried-up creek bed between where it could be seen from either direction for about 100 yards. I got up in the oaks, but if one came in, I only had a 10′ window to shoot. Once settled, he only purred and clucked without yelping. My decoy was silently pecked by this good-natured 3-year-old within ten minutes. With the limited window I had, I wouldn’t have had a shot if he continued walking or returned the way he came. However, he went around it, pecked once more, and then rode home in the truck.

turkey decoy
Photo Harold Bell

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, especially for turkey hunting beginners. 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!


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/

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About Ken McBroom 307 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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