Spring turkey hunting is one of my most awaited times of the year. Everything is coming to life, and love is in the air...gobbler style.Sure I love all hunting, but after a long winter there is nothing better than getting back outside, seeing the signs of spring and hearing those gobbles! Over the years I’ve spent a lot of spring days chasing turkeys across the country and came up with a few tips that work anywhere and practically anytime to help increase odds of success.
Scouting is Key
Regardless of whether you’re hunting deer, turkey, or any other animal, scouting is always super important. I’m a firm believer of spending as much time as possible before seasons open to increase odds when the season hits. For turkey, I like to watch from afar and first figure out where birds are roosting in my area. If you can’t get out there to watch where they fly up, you can always use a coyote or owl call to get them to gobble in the trees and determine their location. From there you can watch where they pitch down in the mornings and if they frequent a field or specific area. If you don’t have time to do as much scouting as you like, remember that trail cameras can be a huge help! I put my SpyPoint cameras out in fields to see when turkey come through and how long they stay. This is great information especially if you plan to put out a blind and hunt a field. Knowing birds are frequenting a field makes it much easier to stay put and wait them out.
Practice Makes “Purrrrfect”
Just like anything, practice makes perfect. Take the time to hit the range with your turkey gun to ensure everything is ready and in tip top condition for the upcoming season. The last thing you want to be doing is shooting your gun during the season after a miss trying to figure out what happened. I like to shoot my turkey gun off a lead sled, that way I significantly reduce the recoil and can truly see how the gun is shooting without much human error. It’s also important to not just shoot at 20-yards and call it quits. Try various distances so you not only learn what you and your equipment are capable of, but also where to hold on a gobbler for various distances. The Winchester LongBeard XR is a truly incredible round that offer shooters longer ranges that ever imagined thanks to the ShotLok technology that holds the shot together much longer than before. Now, shot stays tight offering better patterns at much longer distances. Even though the ammo is incredible you still need to hit the range and ensure you hold up your end of the deal as the shooter. I can assure you the ammo will do its part, but you need to do yours as well! If you’re unsure of what choke combination to use with your gun, or what ammo might be best you’re also in luck. Winchester came out with a new Pattern Board app that allows you to try various combinations in an app on your phone and see the results. These are not just computer generated results either, Winchester actually fired over 3,500 rounds to get this accurate information. You don’t have to sit there and trying counting pellets either, as Winchester took care of that and tells you how many are in each ring in the count at the bottom. Again, you don’t want to rely solely on this but it is a great way to narrow down your choices without shooting boxes and boxes of ammo at the range.
Ground Blind or Run & Gun
A big decision most turkey hunters need to make is if they’d be better suited for a run & gun hunt or a blind hunt. I do a little of both depending on the state and terrain I’m hunting, but truly love sitting in a blind. This is a great way to let turkeys come in and put on a show because you can have all your decoys out, sit back and enjoy the birds. I also like this if I’m bringing kids or new hunters into the field with you as it allows for a little more movement on those wary gobblers. A couple of suggestions if using a blind is to put the blind out early and also throw a can of wasp spray inside. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve crawled in my blind only to find wasps everywhere once the sun comes up. A little wasp spray goes a long way to helping your comfort in the blind and avoid unnecessary stings! If you plan on doing run & gun make sure you have a face mask handy and watch out for snakes if you’re in snake country!
Using Best Gear Available
Technology is constantly changing and improving so even though your gear from 15-years ago may work just fine, it’s amazing to see how far some things have come. I’m a firm believer in trying out new products and giving myself the edge in the field. These little innovations can be a big help and can make you not only more effective as a hunter, but also more lethal. After trying a wide variety of gear, here are a few of my favorites that I like to have with me at all times:
Shotgun: Winchester SX4 12-gauge
Ammunition: LongBeard XR 12-gauge 3 1/2 inch 5 shot
Optics: EOTech Holographic sight on top of turkey gun
Mosquito Repellant: ThermaCell and Deep Woods Deet
Tick Repellant: Sawyers Permethrin
Shooting Sticks: Bog Pod tripod to keep steady
Calls: Box call, slate call and mouth calls for a large variety
Decoys: Dave Smith Turkey Decoys
Clothing: Light layers that can be added or stripped down as the temps warm up throughout day
Find Your Ground
One new app I recently purchased on my phone that I’m using more and more is OnX Maps. This is an app that not only shows you where you are on a satellite image, but also gives you all the land owner names and borders. I’ve found more public land using this that I was unaware of and have also utilized it to figure out who owns what and get permission to hunt more areas.