- Learn How to Develop Your Own Turkey Hunting Expertise
- Learn Where to Sit, What to Look For, How to Locate Turkey
- Learn about Calls to Use, Decoy Set-Up, Location
By Jim Monteleone
A friend of mine asked me a long time ago what my secret was to killing two turkeys in Virginia every year. I could have offered up some tactic that he would have accepted as borderline magic, but the secret is that there are no secrets!
Experience over 40-plus seasons has taught me a few things, but the key to filling tags is simple.
I had an outline for seminars entitled “FIND them, CALL them and TAG them”. This will be the focus of a three-part series. Each of these elements is critical to your potential success.
Knowing the bird and his habitat – therein lays the most critical knowledge in the sport of turkey hunting. I know this because I’ve hunted turkeys in many states. I’ve hunted in places that I knew very, very well. And I also have hunted in places that I walked into for the first time as a guest.
From the Deep South to the far north, and even the western states, I’ve seen and called in birds that were chased and harassed almost on a daily basis in the spring.
Here is what I know.
I know there are places were turkeys like to be in the morning and what they do after “fly down.” It’s a huge advantage to know where they roost. Someone once said, “Roosted ain’t roasted,” and that’s true, but being within a hundred yards at sunrise is a huge advantage.
Instincts play a huge role in getting into the brain of a turkey.
Hens go to the gobbler (usually a dominant bird) in order to breed.
Hens seek out openings in which to nest. The places like pastures and clear cuts draw insects and that’s what young turkeys eat.
So a hen will stake out a territory near an opening.
Gobblers strut to gain the attention of receptive hens. They do this in fields and on open hardwood ridges. So you might want to sound like a hen, but you have to think like a gobbler.
Finding turkeys is not just in locating openings.
They need water every day, so there has to be a water source in the area.
They need grit to process the foods they ingest and they like to dust in warm weather that supports insect life.
Fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes get into their feathers and dusting is the turkey’s way of getting rid of them.
Roost trees can be anywhere, but most often they are on the fringes of an opening or within a hundred yards. If you can locate these trees you are ready for business.
Although be careful not to crowd the tree and possibly scatter and spook the birds.
Birds will gobble and yelp from the roost.
Being there an hour before official sunrise is always my goal.
I’m here to listen!
I go in quietly and I listen.
I set up my decoys and I listen.
When I hear the first turkey sound, I wait to see if there are both hens and gobblers or just hens. If there are any birds, I’m glued to that spot.
You won’t often find just hens.
If all you hear are gobblers it may be a small group (2-4) of jakes.
A single bird gobbling is a pretty good bet to be a mature long beard.
Your set up is critical.
I try to be on higher ground than the bird because my outline won’t be totally visible if he’s coming up a rise.
My back is against a bigger tree, but not the biggest tree.
The biggest tree is where our eyes go and I believe that holds true for the gobbler too.
I have one knee up to rest my shotgun and I alter my position slightly to allow a solid aiming point in the direction of the last gobble I hear. I make small adjustments (an inch or two) slowly until I can see the bird.
In summary for part 1, birds need food, water, open woods or a clearing to be found in an area.
Preseason scouting should reveal at least a starting point.
No preseason calling unless it’s a locator call like an owl hooter or a crow call.
Educating the birds in the preseason by yelping is a really poor idea.
Birds tend to gobble more on clear, cool days when there is very little wind, but I hunt every chance I get. I have killed birds before, during and after some rain on gray, windy days.
More on calling and bringing a bird into shotgun range in Part 2, coming up.