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Feature Article: Turkey Tips

Turkey tips

BY DURWOOD HOLLIS/Special to Western Outdoor NewsPublished: Mar 20, 2019

A successful wild turkey hunt consists primarily of three important elements

The pursuit of wild turkeys is more akin to big game hunting than a typical bird hunt. Such an adventure demands patience, concealment and shooting discipline. All three of these attributes are essential qualities for any prospective turkey hunter to inculcate into their overall hunting approach.


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THEY MAY ONLY be young Jake birds, but it’s sure sign that things are happening. PHOTOS by DURWOOD HOLLIS


Patience: Sitting in a turkey blind for hours on end isn’t easy, but it’s necessary if we’re to be an observer of one of the greatest events in nature — the turkey-mating dance. This is because turkey hunting isn’t all about bagging a bird, it’s about watching the show! And what a show it can be, especially when a big tom bird comes to the call all fluff-out, dragging his wingtips and gobbling with authority. It’s a total expression of hormone-driven masculinity that can only be viewed by those with the patience to wait on the show to begin. Waiting on anything isn’t something that most of us have an appetite for. Frankly, we are great at making things happen, but not so great at expectation of an event. And turkey hunting is replant with expectation, so much so that disappointment is often the outcome.


After an uneventful morning last season, we had a gobbler respond from a distant location. He only gobbled back a couple of times and then went silent. Since tom birds expect hens to come to them, his response wasn’t at all uncommon. After about three hours in the blind with no action, we decided to pick up the decoys and try again later on in the afternoon. On the way back to camp, the same tom that had earlier responded only twice had now come off the nearby hill and was standing smack dab in the middle of the road, not more than 100 yards from the blind. Needless to say, if we had exercised just a little more patience, the bird would have eventually ended up in shooting range. This just goes to show that patience has it own reward!


Concealment: Wild turkeys might have a brain the size of a walnut, however, they have excellent eyesight and notice anything out of the ordinary. In the turkey hunting game, total concealment is an absolute. While hunters have a generous selection of camouflage apparel, they often overlook muting the glare from hands, face and even their shotguns. All of these reflective elements can be a dead give-away and can spook even the most hormonal tom bird.


Wearing total camouflage, including gloves and a face veil, I’ve had turkeys walk right over my legs while completely exposed and sitting still, with only a tree trunk to break up my human form. If you have trouble sitting quietly for an extended period of time, then a portable pop-up blind might be in order. Using a blind can help conceal any accidental movement, while still providing good visibility. Since wild turkeys are quick to notice anything new in their environment, make sure you put the blind out well before you intend on using it. In this was, the birds would already be used to its presence and not shy away from the area.


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A BIRD LIKE THIS is what spring turkey season is all about. PHOTO by RON GAYER


Shooting Discipline: Believe it or not, every season, hunters miss easy shots on turkeys. This is why it’s so important to pattern your shotgun prior to hunting. To kill a wild turkey, you must be able to impact the bird’s head and neck with enough pellets to terminate life functions. A body shot may break a wing and eventually result in death, but the bird will most likely escape and not be found. Effective and humane kill shots result from targeting the bird’s head and neck region only! Hunters need to pattern their shotguns at various ranges prior to taking to the field. This will provide a good idea of just how well your particular gun patterns at any given range. If you have a difficult time estimating range, then use an optical range finder to determine practical shooting distance. And when you target a bird, never take your cheek off of the butt stock until after you pull the trigger. Many hunters want to see the shot impact the bird, but when they raise their head off of the stock, it depresses the muzzle of the gun, causing the shot to go low. And a miss means the game is over!


Turkey hunting is a game that must be played by the rules and those rules are always in a state of flux. Weather and the birds themselves dictate what the particular rules are on any given day. Successful hunters learn to adapt to the ever-changing situations that present themselves by practicing patience, learning to disappear into the environment and making only precise and accurate shot presentations.


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THIS FATHER AND son team pooled their hunting talents to take a nice mature tom. PHOTO by RON GAYER


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WHEN EVERYTHING COMES together, a successful hunt is in the making.


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