I love turkey hunting. For me, the combination of fresh spring air and the challenge of coaxing in one of the South’s smartest game birds is incomparable. Nothing beats the excitement of a thunderous gobble in the trees before day break and the distinctive sounds of their powerful wings when they fly down from their roost. Simply put, turkey hunting is one of the most exhilarating, enjoyable, and difficult hunts you’ll ever experience.
Whether it’s your first or twentieth season, please make safety a priority. The most common turkey hunting accident is a hunter who gets shot because they were mistaken for a turkey. Don’t be a statistic.
I’ve read close to a dozen books on turkey hunting over the years. Hands down, the best one I’ve read is The Turkey Hunter’s Bible 2nd edition, by John E. Phillips. Used copies can be found online for as little as 4 dollars. Whether you want to photograph wild turkeys or take wild turkeys, this book will provide you with the information you need to meet the toms on their own turf. However, the author issues this caution;
“Turkey hunting is very addictive. The call of the wild turkey gobbler is as alluring as the call of the Sirens of ancient Greece. And, I’ve found that when the dogwoods bloom, and Jack Frost is chased-away by Mother Earth, resisting the temptation to go to the woods and call a gobbler is almost impossible.”
Truer words about turkeys have not been written. Since turkeys use sound as their primary way to communicate, calls are essential when turkey hunting. Turkey have extremely good eyesight, so full camo is also a necessity in the turkey woods. There are several different types of calls on the market today- a few are outlined below:
Box calls create turkey sounds with the friction created by sliding the lid across the surface of the box. These calls are very convenient and capable of producing more volume than any other call.
Friction calls are easy to use and create lifelike turkey sounds. Friction calls usually feature a round surface, and the hunter creates sound by drawing a peg or striker across the surface. Friction call surfaces can be slate, aluminum, glass or a variety of other materials.
Wingbone calls originally were made from the wingbones of a turkey. These are a suction-type calls. Sounds are made with quick, forceful sucking motions, much like kissing the end of the call. Good wingbone calls make a hollow sounding yelp.
Diaphragm calls use thin latex rubber as reed material. The reed material is held inside a horseshoe-shaped frame. The call is placed in your mouth with rounded side to the back and is pressed to the roof of the mouth with the tongue. Forcefully breathing across the reed causes the reed to vibrate and create sound, making the call sound. The calls require practice to learn to use correctly.
Virtually any call will work, but practice is the key to success. Personally, I prefer mouth calls simply because it allows me to maintain a good shooting position with less movement.
Once you have these calls, it’s extremely important to practice and practice, until you can yelp, cluck, and purr like a pro. Knowing how to use them in conjunction with each other with seamless transitions will allow you bring in that trophy tom. Most importantly, try not to call too aggressively. You’ll find more success with less calling.
When it time to take your shot, remember that a turkey’s kill zone (spine and brain) is roughly the size of a grape sitting on a pencil. This means that your choke and load combination need to create a uniform and tight pattern, as any big gaps will also mean missed birds. So before you head out this spring, take the time to sight-in and pattern your shotgun under real life conditions.
In the past, I’d go to my local indoor range, fire off a few rounds at 25 yards with my shooting bag and declare I was ready for turkey season. After missing several toms in a season due to poor shot placement, I knew it was time to change my preseason tactics.
Sight-in your shotgun while sitting on the ground with a solid backrest, such as a tree, just as you would when actually hunting. Rest your forward elbow on your knee to steady the gun. You won’t have a table or bench rest with you when a gobbler comes in, so the more trigger time you have while simulating hunting conditions, the more natural it will become.
Here’s to a fun and successful hunting season!