Up your odds by avoiding common turkey pratfalls
Turkey hunters, in many instances, are their own worst enemies.
Too many hunters fail to get birds because they unwittingly make a mistake—or a dozen mistakes—that could have been otherwise avoided.
When it comes to gobbler hunting, I suspect we’ve made every mistake in the book and will probably pioneer some new ones.
However, there are basic ways to improve your chances of getting a gobbler by avoiding the most common turkey hunting pitfalls—especially in the Mountain State where land access is at a premium and you seemingly have fewer opportunities every year.
You have to make every chance count.
After decades of hunting turkeys, we’ve all learned a thing or two.
Here are some remedies I’ve found for common foul–upsin the turkey woods.
The hardest thing for me is sitting quietly, waiting, and watching the woods.
But the wild turkey has eyes 10 times stronger than mine or yours, and it will see even the slightest movement.
Staying still is essential.
And for years I didn’t wear a full-face mask, gloves, or dark-colored boots.
I realize now that I probably lost birds, because they saw something a little bit different in the woods.
Wearing the proper camo will help you stay concealed too.
Although this next point is debatable, I’ve learned not to try to call a turkey over a small stream, a woods trail or even a log.
I have discovered from experience that birds tend to hang up on anything in the approach path.
Furthermore, when it comes to calling a tom, unless you are an experienced caller, a little calling goes a long way.
Old timers usually rely on a few yelps and hope for the best.
If a gobbler wants to find your call, it can do it without many reminders.
Remember that as you sit waiting for your bird, considerany of several approaches the bird might make and estimate the killing range by using a bush, tree, or other object as the maximum shooting range marker.
At the same time, be aware of sneaking birds.
Last year while hunting with my friend and former student Daniel Carver of Shady Spring, I focused my full attention on a bird we were working.
Unbeknownst to me, two toms had come in behind me, less than 30 yards away on the wrong side of my tree.
I turned by head slightly to make out the sound of a whispering leaf on the forest floor and they were gone.
The best advice from turkey experts is to know your hunting territory and get on a first–name basis with the birds you are after.
This is done by a month or more of pre-season scouting to look for turkey scratching and droppings and feeding, gobbling, and roosting areas.
Plot these areas on a map and locate them by recording a compass course from a road or trail to where you heard or saw a turkey.
If you find some prime areas, don’t over visit them, and don’t call to the birds just for practice.
Some excellent turkey spots have been ruined by hunters calling the birds prior to the hunting season.
For example, the woods and wilderness of Southern West Virginia have a healthy turkey population. However, overcalling has educated many of the birds and made them skittish and very tough indeed.
As for gun and shells, I think that a 12-gauge loaded with heavy loads of No. 4 shot is a good choice.
The name of the game is to shoot a hard-hitting, tight pattern at 40 yards and to sock enough pellets into a circle the size of your fist, which is a little larger than a turkey’s head.
Always, but always, head-shoot a turkey, wrap it and yourself in some hunter orange to alert other hunters to your presence and cover your bird as you walk out of the woods.
Under no circumstances should you wear a red, white,and blue bandanna around your neck or simply toss your trophy over your shoulder, head, and beard dangling, as you stride toward your truck some 200 yards away. That is, unless you have a supreme death wish.
These are some basic problem-solving steps that will help you get a tom this spring.
The best way to up your odds is to learn from your past mistakes and from the turkeys themselves.
Top o’ the morning!