Bow hunting for wild turkeys is fascinating, and you may go after them in the spring when they are reproducing. This may make individuals more receptive to callers.
A heart-pounding sensation awaits you when you see a huge male turkey, known as a tom or gobbler, gobbling its head off while fully fanned and puffed up on display.
The wild turkey is a conservation success story, with a population of almost 10 million wild turkeys compared to an estimated 30K population less than 100 years ago. Hunters, state wildlife authorities, and the National Wild Turkey Foundation all contributed to the success of this project.
Because of their outstanding eyesight and hearing, wild turkeys are difficult to bowhunt. They’re also entertaining to hunt because you can use a turkey call to “speak” to toms and draw them into bow range. (Read How to Get Into Hunting)
They’re also delicious to eat because the meat is leaner and healthier than that of a domestic turkey. In our guide, you can learn all the turkey hunting tips for beginners and what sort of gear can make your hunt safe and successful.
By the end, you’ll have all the knowledge for heading off into the spring turkey season in your first-time turkey hunting gear, to come back with a couple of gobblers rather than a handful of feathers.
What Is the Best Way to Hunt Turkey?
You can have a spring-morning turkey set up all ready for action. Birds can be gathered together around their roost tree and are busily calling and very vocal. Every veteran turkey hunter knows not every hunting situation will be a success. A few hunting tips never hurt any turkey hunters.
Here are some turkey hunting basics to help you get the most from the day ahead.
Toms hanging out in vertical environments such as the steep sides of canyons can be hard to catch. Often, you can call a gobbler to 15 yards away, and you can’t see it as the ground is so steep.
It could be you only spot the red of the head, and the bird’s body is hidden behind the hill. Canyon crossers differ as the tom can roost on one side and cross to the other to strut around. If you are in such hilly scenarios, hunt for topographical characteristics to help gain the advantage of arriving gobblers.
Gobblers strut and preen inside woods, yet they can hike to a canyon rim to strut, especially if there is a pasture or there are nearby crop fields. Use a set of binoculars backed up with a spotting scope. You can easily spot rim-edge turkeys from up to 3 miles from your position.
Find the Roost
As with all turkeys, canyon toms keep to certain roost sites. When scouting, listen for gobbles in toward the evening or before dawn and locate these positions. Set up on the rim closest to the bird and uphill of the roost. Once in position, try calling them to you. (Read Beginner’s Guide to Hunting Small Game)
If you were hunting deer, you’d figure out their movements. With wild turkeys, you need to same scouting skills to unlock turkey patterns in your hunting area. You can use a combination of mapping to cover ground recon and couple this with your spotting scope or binocular use from a good vantage point.
Picking a random spot won’t work for successful hunting. Success means you need to watch the trails or paths the wild turkeys use to travel. Spring turkey will follow the same route to their strutting ground, their roost, and morning feeding grounds.
If you feed a hen, then gobblers won’t be too far behind. Keep close to a heavy feeding spot where there is a lush habitat for hens and poults and also for the gobblers to strut while searching for food.
Busting a Flock
A Jake or two can ruin your spot; they can easily fend off any sole gobblers who won’t take a stance and fight. If you have a Jake doing this, run them off before you sit back and wait. Once you call, gobblers will soon come into range once the Jakes has gone.
What Time of Day is Best for Turkey Hunting?
Turkey hunters make the same moves and the same mistakes when it comes to wild turkey hunting. Nowadays, in the spring turkey season, hunters can shoot until sunset, and the number of states allowing this has doubled in the past decade or so.
You will require a unique set of tactics for your morning gobbler or your evening gobblers. The wrong sort of approach in the evening can push turkeys away from their chosen roost sites and away from your hunting land.
Here you can see how to use this and shoot a gobbler once the sun is setting rather than rising.
While you won’t be heading off early, you don’t want to think you can arrive any time. An afternoon hunt takes similar efforts, so you need your position well before any birds arrive.
Spring days are long and hungry birds feed early, even more so for spring gobblers as they feed as hard in the afternoon and evening as they can in the morning. Make sure you are in position three to four hours before sunset roosting starts.
While you are in the turkey habitat, never hunt under roost trees. Keep back to the travel routes and areas the hen feeds. Turkeys returning to roost often take the path they used in the morning, set up above travel routes, where there is good visibility and a wide shooting area.
As birds in the evening are wary, make, and sit behind a blind of natural materials to cover yourself from view. (Read Crossbow Laws by State)
At this time of day, hens and gobblers won’t be interested in breeding, so it could be best not to make any calls unless you make the shortest and softest of box call as the sound will carry in the still air.
What is Needed to Turkey Hunt?
When searching for turkey hunting gear for beginners, there are some things you need more than others.
As much as you need to hide from view, there are things you need for protection, such as the weather and to make yourself visible to another hunter when scouting or when placing decoys.
Hunting turkeys control populations and maintain the natural wariness of people. Where it is safe and legal, you can hunt wild turkeys as soon as you get the fundamental things to enable you to do so.
- A hunting license and upland game bird stamp are required for the land you’ll be on.
- Legal hunting methods can shotgun and archery equipment.
- You will need to check the hunting seasons and current hunting regulations from CDFW offices or online.
A turkey has a color vision that is 180-degree peripheral to help it see everything in the woods. A turkey hunter needs full camouflage to blend in with their surroundings. With this, you’ll need facemask or face paint, camouflage hats, gloves, long sleeves, and pants.
Because the turkey’s head is red, white, and blue, it is wise not to wear any of these colors for safety while hunting.
The bow you use can be the same as for deer, yet the broadhead tips are often made specifically for turkeys.
Turkey Hunting Vest
When shooting, every hunter will carry quite a substantial amount of gear, and wild turkey hunting isn’t any different.
You’ll need space to carry maps, decoys, snacks, water, calls, and a flashlight fro in the dark woods among other items.
A premium hunting vest can cater for all these as it keeps your hands free from use to carry. All your hunting basics are held close and within easy reach when you need them.
It doesn’t matter if you use a bow or a shotgun, a vest can stop you from being bulky around the shoulder when you go to shoot, or they don’t make sounds like a jacket rustling that could alert a tom, jake, or other game of your presence.
Because wild turkeys roam a lot, you’ll have a lot of land to cover. As a result, having the correct pair of boots is crucial. Before you go out and buy the perfect pair, you’ll need to figure out what kind of terrain you’ll be covering and what kind of weather you’ll be facing.
Consider whether the land has snakes or whether you’ll be hunting in damp weather. If that’s the case, you’ll need calf-high rubber boots to keep your feet dry and comfortable.
By completely concealing the bow hunter, portable ground blinds address many turkey-hunting issues. Bow hunters use ground blinds because the most crucial moment in turkey hunting is drawing their bow and to do so without the birds seeing them.
Calling turkeys is effective, as is using decoys. You have the choice of a few from box calls, slate calls, diaphragm (mouth) calls, and push-button calls.
- Push-button is user-friendly and takes little skill, just some practice to make realistic sounds of hens.
- Box calls are suitable for loud calls to attract turkeys from far-off distances. Box calls are easy to use, yet you need more practice to produce a realistic hens sound.
- Slate calls can produce loud to subtle hen calls to attract gobblers to come up close.
- Diaphragm calls are the most versatile yet tough to use. A diaphragm call sits in the roof of your mouth, where you force air over latex reeds.
Calls take practice, yet it is worth it as you can stay hands-free, and your bow will be at the ready.
- Locator calls are important for turkey hunting, and while toms shock gobble back when hearing turkey calls, they can be forced into gobbling if you mimic crows, owls, or coyotes. Any call can be a locator call; the turkey will gobble back.
- Turkeys roost every evening and come back down in the morning. In the spring, toms often gobble in response to loud noises such as doors, thunder, or trains. Roosting is an ideal way to locate turkeys and means you’ll know where they will be in the morning.
- To roost turkey, visit the public land you plan to hunt the next morning, arriving before dawn. Walk to a nearby hilltop to watch and listen.
- When returning, set up within 200 yards of the turkey’s roosting tree. Erect your ground blind or hide in natural cover.
- Make a soft hen yelp with your box call when calling and increase the volume until you get a response. Once your tom gobbles back, stick to soft, subtle occasional calls.
Where to Shoot?
Turkeys are a jumble of feathers, so knowing where to shoot them is crucial. On a turkey, broadside shots are preferable, but you have a lower margin for error than on a deer.
- Turkeys have a small “vitals” area that must be shot with careful aim. Wait for strutting birds to emerge and strut into effective range. Once the gobbler is puffed up, it’s difficult to tell where the vitals are by lack of definition. The heart and lungs are the best areas to shoot, and when they are in profile or broadside, they offer the best shot.
- The heart and lungs of the birds are located behind where the wing meets the body.
- While headshots, frontal shots, and rear shots can remain deadly, they present a smaller target in the turkey’s body and aren’t recommended.
It can take a lot of skill and practice when calling your turkey to gobble as it can be to hunt them without giving away your location. (Read Why Hunting Is Good For The Environment)
Your tactics have a direct impact on how successful you’ll be when hunting these large birds in the turkey hunting season dates allocated for your area.