Turkey Hunting 101

(The Ultimate Guide)


Turkey hunting is an exciting wild game. But you might be wondering:

  • How to get started turkey hunting?
  • How to setup decoy?
  • How to call turkey correctly?
  • Lots more

In this turkey hunting 101 guide, you’ll find out more about turkey hunting and get into it easily. Let's dive into it:

Turkey Hunting 101

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Chapter 1: Wild Turkey Species

wild turkey Species

If you wanna start hunting turkey, you should have some knowledge of their subspices.

They're not the same, some are easier to find (due to large population) but others are tougher. So check it out:

There are a total of four main subspecies of the wild turkey found in North America. These include the Eastern, Osceola, Rio Grande, and Merriams subspecies.

1.1 - Eastern

estern turkey

As its name would suggest, the Eastern subspecies of the wild turkey is found primarily in the Eastern half of the continental United States.

This subspecies range extends as far east as the Atlantic Coast, and as far west as Kansas and Oklahoma.

The Eastern wild turkey is highly adaptable, and thrives in a wide range of habitats.

These birds can often be found in both open expanses of cropland and prairie, as well as heavily wooded forests.

This subspecies is known as the largest in North America, and typically sports the longest beards.

Easterns are also well known for their hearty gobble and the dark-brown tips on their tail feathers.

1.2 - Rio Grande

Rio Grande wild turkeys inhabit a sizable portion of the southwestern United States.

Rio Grande turkey

These turkeys span from western Kansas southward into Texas and New Mexico. Some transplant populations of the Rio do inhabit parts of the far west coast as well.

This subspecies of turkey is well adapted to the often open country where they reside.

Much of their range features pasture ground and open plains, where cover is typically scarce.

The Rio Grande subspecies of wild turkey is generally slightly smaller in size than Easterns and is well known for the light brown tips that can be found on its tail feathers.

The gobble of a Rio Grande turkey is also distinct. It is noticeably higher-pitched and less forceful than that of an Eastern.

1.3 - Merriam’s

Merriam turkey

Merriam's wild turkeys can be found in much of the lowland country surrounding the Rocky Mountains, southward to the desert plains areas of Arizona and New Mexico.

Smaller populations of Merriam’s also call far western states home, such as Washington and Oregon.

This subspecies is quite diverse in the habitat that it resides in.

Merriam's turkeys can be found at a wide range of elevations, and are just as at home in open brush flats of the southwest as they are the low ground pine forests to the north.

Merriam's turkeys are easily recognizable by the snow-white tips of their tail feathers and lighter colored wings.

The gobble of the Merriam’s turkey is the softest of all subspecies.

1.4 - Osceola

Osceola turkey

The Osceola turkey is the most narrowly distributed of all major North American wild turkey species.

This subspecies can only be found in the southern ⅔ of the state of Florida.

uch of the Osceola turkeys habitat includes cypress swamps and creek bottoms, which at times can be rather dense.

They are similar in coloring to the Eastern wild turkey, although it is smaller in stature, and has longer legs.

These turkeys are also known for having the longest of all spurs.

(Image source: americanforestmanagement.com)

Chapter 2: Where to Find Wild Turkeys

Where to Find Wild Turkeys

You may wondering: "where to turkey hunt?"

In this chapter, I’ll show you some places that have the best chance for turkey hunting. Not only top states, but specific areas.

2.1 - Best Turkey Hunting States:

Best Turkey Hunting States:

Florida

Florida

A trip to Florida will be required if you want to complete your Grand Slam and take all four American subspecies of wild turkey.

Floridia is the only location where the Osceola subspecies of turkey can be found.

If you have your sights set on the Osceola, head for the southern or central part of the state.

There are an estimated count of 100,000 birds in Florida, with a mix of both Eastern and Osceola subspecies.

A 10-day non-resident hunting license and statewide  turkey permit can be purchased for $171.50.

Tennessee

Tennessee

The state of Tennessee offers a wide variety of terrain in which to hunt.

Therefore the Volunteer state offers some of the highest quality turkey hunting in the entire country.

From the bountiful farmland along the Mississippi River in the West, to the wooded mountain landscape of the Smoky Mountains in the East, a number of different adventures can all be had without ever journeying outside of Tennessee’s borders.

The one negative factor associated with hunting in Tennessee is the price of non-resident licenses and permits, which come to a total of $214.50.

However, with a long season, and a four-turkey limit, you do end up getting a lot for your money.

Missouri

Missouri

Missouri has long been known as the hub of fantastic turkey hunting action.

This state offers hunters a diverse range of habitat to hunt within and extensive public land hunting opportunities.

The Ozarks, by themselves, are home to 1.5 million acres of public land, so any traveling hunters will certainly have plenty of area to hunt.

The estimated wild turkey population is 317,000 in the Show-Me State, which is far in excess of that of many other surrounding states.

Non-resident licenses and fees, at $190, fall in the moderate category when compared to similar outings elsewhere.

Kentucky

Kentucky

The Bluegrass State is yet another location where a multitude of terrain variations can be hunted in a single outing.

Open river bottoms, expansive wetlands, sizable pasture ground, and rugged mountain country can all be found in Kentucky, and there are plenty of turkeys that inhabit each of these regions.

Kentucky’s turkey population is estimated at 220,000 total birds, and a two turkey bag limit per hunter has been in place for many years.

A total of $215 for the state’s non-resident fee is the only notable downside to hunting in the Bluegrass.

Alabama

alabama

Alabama is the destination for you, if you want to test your turkey hunting merit against some of the toughest turkeys anywhere in the country.

Though there are no shortage of birds, Alabama turkeys are some of the most highly pressured in the nation.

However, do not be fooled, as a regular annual harvest of 60,000 birds shows that successful hunts occur frequently.

Alabama estimates their turkey population at 400,000, though many cite this number as being figured conservatively.

Non-resident fees range between $131.65 and $301.85, depending upon the permits selected.

However, Alabama has one of the most liberal bag limits, allowing a total of five birds over the spring and fall seasons.

Texas

Texas

The Lonestar state offers some of the most fantastic turkey hunting anywhere in the south, and is home to both Eastern and Rio Grande turkeys.

We all know that everything is bigger in Texas, and this includes the state’s endless turkey hunting potential.

The sheer magnitude of Texas offers many different locations and environments for a hunter to stage their efforts.

The state of Texas is home to over 500,000 turkeys, which is even more impressive, considering that no more than 40,000 licenses are sold annually.

Texas allows you to harvest up to four birds, however only one Eastern is permitted.

For a minimal fee of $126, non-residents can take in some of the most highly regarded turkey hunting in the country.

Kansas

Kasas

The Sunflower State has provided hunters with some of the most phenomenal turkey hunting opportunities to be had, for quite a few years now.

Habitat varies in Kansas, from prairie to expansive farmland, and Kansas gobblers tend to be some of the largest turkeys killed annually.

Kansas is home to the World Turkey Hunting Championship.

Both Eastern and Rio Grande subspecies can be found in Kansas, and turkey numbers are estimated at 300,000.

Substantial private land access can also be found, by simply knocking on doors and speaking with landowners.

Spring season lasts through the end of May.

Non-resident license and permit fees are priced to sell at, at $127.50.

Wisconsin

wisconsin

Although Wisconsin tends to be overlooked on many hunter’s turkey hunting to-do lists, the opportunity for an excellent Eastern Wild Turkey hunt is far greater than one would think.

The Badger State offers habitat that is ideally suited to turkeys, especially across its southern half, and with an estimated population of 350,000 turkeys, there is no shortage of opportunity.

Regarding land access, public ground can be quite scarce.

However, many hunters have found success by presenting their request for access to local landowners.

Perhaps the most significant selling point for this northern adventure is Wisconsin’s conservative $83.55 non-resident license and permit fee.

Nebraska

nebraska

Nebraska offers diverse opportunities for every turkey hunter, including the chance at tagging three different subspecies of turkeys on a single trip.

The Cornhusker State is home to Eastern, Merriam’s, and Rio Grande Wild Turkeys, which vary in their location.

The state of Nebraska also has an estimated population of 145,000 turkeys, offering plenty to go around for the average annual 40,000 license holders.

You can harvest up to three bearded birds.

Anyone traveling Nebraska can purchase their permits and a two-day non-resident hunting license for a total of $167, likely making travel your most sizable expense.

Washington

washington

The Evergreen State is yet another location that offers hunters a chance at three of the four Wild Turkey subspecies (Rio Grande, Merriams, and Eastern), and success rates are generally high.

While Washington is not exactly a place that most hunters think of when eyeing a turkey hunting destination, its diverse and abundant public land gives the state a rightful spot on this list.

Washington’s estimated turkey population is the lowest on the list, at just 28,000.

However, their license sales are kept to only 20,000, so birds are plentiful.

Non-resident hunters can purchase licenses and permits for only $112.50, though additional tags will cost an extra $66.50 each.

2.2 - Where to Find Wild Turkeys:

Turkeys are highly adaptable and can be found almost anywhere that suitable food and cover exists. They feed heavily on:

  • Grains
  • Insects
  • Berries
  • Fruit
  • Mast crops, such as acorns.

You will likely find turkeys in any rural location that features any of these food sources, as well as trees for safe roosting.

River Or Creek Bottoms:

creek bottom

However, river or creek bottoms are always great locations to begin your search for turkeys.

These bottoms are often fertile and produce a wide variety of favorable food sources.

Roost sites in these locations are typically plentiful and are often found on the banks of the given waterway.

Agricultural Fields and Mature Timber

mature timber

Via whitetailproperties.com

Other likely places to find turkeys include agricultural fields surrounded by woodlots and areas of mature timber.

Both of these areas are ideal due to their abundance of food.

Agricultural fields always offer an extensive amount of waste grain for turkeys to feed on, while large expanses of mature timber present acorns and nuts in mass quantities.

You can also confirm or rule out the presence of turkeys in an area by:

  • Listening for gobbles at daylight in the spring
  • Or glassing fields in the area over the course of several days

Chapter 3: When Is Turkey Season?

When Is Turkey Season?

Turkey season is not around the year. You can only chase them twice per year.

Virtually every state offers a spring turkey season, and a significant number of states offer a fall season as well.

While the exact dates of these seasons differ from state to state, most fall into a generally given time period.

3.1 - Spring Season:

spring

Spring turkey seasons are open somewhere in the nation at any given time between the months of February and May.

Generally, seasons in the southernmost states open first, with many beginning in late February.

Likewise, the seasons in northern states are typically the last to close, with many seasons extending to the last days of May.

3.2 - Fall Season:

fall

Fall turkey seasons often fall over a far wider range of dates than spring seasons.

These seasons typically fall between the months of September and December.

Chapter 4: What Weapon Is Used for Turkey Hunting?

What Weapon Is Used for Turkey Hunting?

To get an easy shot and fill your tags, you need an effective weapon. But what should you use, a bow or a gun?

Each weapon has its pros and cons. Let’ find out:

4.1 - Shotgun:

shotgun

By far, the most widely used weapon for turkey hunting is a shotgun.

Shotguns with a turkey specific turkey chokes, and turkey hunting shotshells, are easily capable of cleanly taking a turkey at distance in excess of 40 yards.

When a turkey is shot with a shotgun, it generally drops on the spot, leaving no tracking to speak of.

Twelve and twenty gauge shotguns are both popular selections when turkey hunting.

4.2 - Bow:

compound bow

Both compound and recurve bows can be used for turkey hunting.

Both are quite effective in taking a turkey cleanly if an archer’s aim is true.

Bowhunters will typically either aim for a turkey’s head or wing-butt region.

Either of these shots stand a good probability of anchoring a turkey where they stand.

Some archers, especially those aiming for the head and neck region choose to use larger diameter broadheads that are built for that specific purpose.

4.3 - Crossbow:

Crossbow

Crossbows, much like recurve or compound bows, are very effective when turkey hunting.

Most crossbow archers also aim for the same points as those hunting with a vertical bow.

Crossbows make a wonderful choice for children who scare easily at a shotgun's noise and recoil but are not yet old enough to shoot a compound bow.

Likewise, crossbows can be an excellent choice for elderly hunters as well.

Chapter 5: How To Scout For Turkey Hunting

How To Scout For Turkey Hunting

Well, scouting is the first step to begin turkey hunting. If wrongly implement, you might make mistakes and end the journey even before it starts.

In this section, you’ll know exactly what to look for while scouting. Some additional tips below can increase your odds.

5.1 - What To Look For When Hunting Turkey?

a) Tracks:

turkey tracks

Turkey tracks appear as a three-toed print that is several inches in diameter.

These tracks provide evidence as to where turkeys have been and the direction in which they were headed.

b) Droppings:

turkey dropping

Via archery360.com

Droppings can vary in size and shape, but are often no more than 2”-3” long, and in a J-hook or spiral pattern.

A mass amount of droppings alerts a hunter to high traffic areas.

c) Displaced Leaves:

Displaced Leaves

Via bear-tracker.com

A significant amount of upturned leaves within a given woodlot is another sign of turkey activity.

This results when turkeys scratch through the leaves for food and indicate a regular feeding area.

5.2 - How to Scout for Turkey Hunting:

Step 1: Choose A Likely Area

creek bottom

The first step of scouting for turkeys is to choose an area where they are likely to be found.

This can be done by focusing on areas such as a creek or river bottoms, and agricultural fields.

Step 2: Walk The Property

look for turkey signs

Once a suitable property is chosen, walk the given property while familiarizing yourself with the lay of the land.

Look for signs such as tracks, droppings, and upturned leaves that can tip you off to areas of high turkey traffic.

Step 3: Study Aerial Maps

earial map

After walking a property, study an aerial map.

Mark areas that are wooded, especially when they are near water. These areas are likely roost sights and will require further scouting.

Additionally, mark any crop fields or pasture ground, as these sites are likely feeding locations.

Step 4: Listen For Gobbles

During the spring of the year, you will want to spend a few mornings listening for gobbles.

More importantly, you will be trying to pinpoint the location of these gobbles.

If these locations can be pinpointed, you will have a great starting point from which to base your hunting efforts.

Step 5: Look For Strut Zones

strut zone

Via outdoorcanada.ca

In the spring, gobblers will fly down from roost and quickly pair up with hens.

Once gobblers have joined their hens, they will typically display by strutting for some time.

If the whereabouts of a roosting site has been discovered, you can watch as turkeys head to their strut zones.

In the absence of this information, search open areas and high ground for the scratchings made in the dirt by a strutting tom’s wingtips.

Step 6: Glass Fields

glass the field

The next step in your scouting will be to glass fields with a pair of binoculars in an attempt to discover frequented food sources.

As long as these food sources do not become depleted, turkeys will generally return to these locations time and time again throughout the season.

Step 7: Watch Toms During Midday

gobblers

You will now need to know where the gobblers in a given area travel to during the midday hours.

By late morning, hens leave the gobblers that they have been accompanying, as they head to nest.

This leaves gobblers vulnerable to a hunter’s calling.

Knowing where gobblers go during the midday hours can put you in position for an easy afternoon hunt. 

I'll tell you how to call turkey more details below. So keep reading...

Step 8: Run Trail Camera

trail camera

Once you have pinpointed the roosting and feeding areas of turkeys, it is important to monitor this routine for any changes.

Place trail cameras in areas that turkeys are known to frequent, and monitor them weekly.

This will quickly alert you to any pattern changes, and allow you to relocate the turkeys that have gone missing.

Step 9: Place Your Blinds

turkey blind

Via basspro.com

In the weeks leading up to turkey season, place your blind in an area that you have found to be promising through your scouting efforts.

Ideally, you want this blind to be situated close enough to roost sites to put you in contention for success on any given hunt.

However, you do not want to be close enough to the roost to spook turkeys as you enter the location.

5.3 - Turkey Scouting Tips:

While the above-mentioned steps will assist you in properly scouting for turkeys, several tips exist to streamline this process.

a) Watch Your Distance:

hunter scouting - watch your distance

It can be tempting to get as close to a group of turkeys as possible while scouting. This is a practice that should be avoided at all costs.

While a turkey lacks the depth of reasoning that is possessed by humans, they do instinctively avoid danger.

If turkeys are spooked repeatedly when scouting, they will likely change their patterns to avoid this threat.

This causes you initial work in the long run.

b) Scout Frequently:

scout frequently - location map

Turkeys do not always follow the same routine from day to day.

On the contrary, they move about on their own intuition and can be difficult to predict.

If you only scout on one or two occasions, it is unlikely that you will uncover enough information to form a reliable strategy.

By scouting on multiple occasions, you gain a wider perspective as to how the turkeys of an area are interacting with their environment.

c) Make Them Gobble:

turkey owl call

Via mossberg.com

Turkeys do not always gobble as you would hope for them to when scouting.

In these cases, you must take matters into your own hands.

Use a locator call such as an owl call or crow call to entice a shock gobble out of tight-lipped turkeys.

This will give away a bird's location, and get you the information that you need to plan your upcoming hunt.

d) Keep A Logbook:

notebook

If you scout frequently, it can sometimes be difficult to keep track of all your findings.

Keeping a scouting logbook allows you to record your findings and reflect back when necessary.

Whenever you scout, log down the date, weather conditions, and activity that was observed. This makes it easy to compare your day to day findings.

e) Draw a Conclusion

draw a conclusion

At times, turkeys can be difficult to pattern.

They are not always consistent in their travels, and it can be next to impossible to predict a turkey's next move.

In these situations, it can be helpful to compare recorded data over multiple days.

For example: if you have scouted for ten days, look back at your findings to see if you can determine one particular pattern that has been followed more frequently than not.

f) Scout Multiple Locations

backup plan

There will be times when nothing goes as planned when turkey hunting.

When this occurs, it is always reassuring to have a back-up plan.

This is why it is important to scout multiple locations.

In the event that hunting has success has become hard to come by on a particular property, you can hunt a secondary location.

This also increases your odds of finding a bird that is receptive to calling.

g) Don’t Forget Evening Scouting

turkey roost evening

Via outdoorlife.com

Many hunters only scout in the morning. This causes those same hunters to miss out on a significant opportunity.

Turkeys do gobble in the evening before flying up to roost, although not as frequently in the morning.

This presents a fine opportunity to discover the whereabouts of gobblers in a given area.

If no gobbling activity is observed, simply use a locator call as you would in other non-vocal situations.

h) Resist the Urge to Call

locator calls

Do not call to turkeys with anything other than a locator call when scouting.

Although this can be tempting, doing so can educate turkeys, making them far more difficult to kill when season opens.

Instead, opt for a stealthy approach to scouting. Make no more noise than what is absolutely necessary.

i) Watch the Hens

turkey hens

When scouting before season, keep a watchful eye on the hens in a given area.

Even if gobbler activity appears to be scarce, give the hens your attention.

As spring progresses, and season grows near, gobblers will naturally group up with hens.

This is a natural biological response, as spring is the breeding season for wild turkeys.

If you can keep tabs on the hens, the gobblers will be soon to follow.

j) Take Your Time

Tips

Properly scouting an area is not a quick activity. To gain the necessary information to be successful when the season begins, you must take your time.

Being in too much of a rush will do nothing but cause you to overlook the obvious.

If you are scouting a large plot of land, split your scouting efforts over the course of several days.

This allows you to pour over every detail of the area that you are assessing.

k) Pick Your Days

turkey after rain

The day after heavy rain can be a wonderful time to scout for turkeys.

Following a rain, the ground is soft with moisture, and tracks are easily made.

This allows you to easily recognize fresh tracks, providing you with the most recent information.

Directly following heavy rain, turkeys will generally flock to open fields to the sun to dry out and sun themselves.

This makes them easily visible from great distances.

l) Find A Scouting Buddy

turkey hunting buddy

When scouting for turkey, it can be helpful to have a second set of eyes to accompany you on your search.

It is entirely possible for one individual to walk right past a track, only for it to be easily seen by another person.

 this reason, find a hunting buddy that you trust, and bring them along on your next outing.

5.4 - How Long Should I Sit In One Spot While Turkey Hunting?

2 hours

When turkey hunting, it is best to give any spot at least 1-2 hours to pan out before moving.

One of the biggest reasons that turkey hunters fail is due to a lack of patience.

A turkey does not always gobble as he is approaching your calls. Instead, many gobblers will approach silently, giving a hunter no warning.

In the event of that a hunter moves from a spot prematurely, a silently approaching turkey will be spooked, effectively ending your hunt.

By remaining in one spot for 1-2 hours, gobblers are given ample time to respond to your calling.

Additionally, all turkeys that are filtering about an area will likely have heard your calling as well.

Chapter 6: How To Place Decoys For Turkey Hunting

How To Place Decoys For Turkey Hunting

In this part, you’ll find out how to set up turkey decoys with 3 common strategies.

Besides that, there are some food plots that are attractive to turkey. More food source means more turkeys. Check it now:

6.1 - What Kind Of Bait Should I Use For Turkey Hunting?

Baiting for turkeys is illegal in virtually every state, and doing so will result in a hefty fine and/or jail time.

Baiting is most commonly defined as presenting a food source for wildlife that is not naturally occurring in a given area.

This means that any form of supplemental feeding is regarded as baiting in the eyes of the law.

However, hunting over food sources that have been naturally grown to attract turkeys is perfectly legal in the majority of areas.

This is where growing a food plot comes in.

A food plot is an annual or perennial forage that is grown to attract or supplement wildlife.

Although most hunters associate food plots with deer hunting, they are highly attractive to turkeys as well.

The following are some of the most popular food plot forage varieties for turkey.

a) Chufa

chufa

This perennial forage is often renowned as one of the most effective food plots for wild turkey hunting.

This plant has nut-like tubers that grow within its root wad.

Once discovered, turkeys will scratch up these tubers for consumption.

b) Clover

clover

Clover is of immense value to turkeys for two reasons.

  • The first is that this perennial forage is highly attractive and nutritious.
  • The second is that mowed clover attracts insects in great numbers.

This in turn provides an additional source of food for the turkeys.

c) Millet

millet grass

Millet is a warm-season annual grass that produces sizable seed heads.

Turkeys, as well as many other types of game birds, feed heavily on these seeds whenever available.

This can be an especially valuable food source for turkeys during the summer and fall months.

6.2 - How to Set Up a Decoy While Turkey Hunting

There are multiple ways that a turkey hunter can set up their decoys to capitalize on particular situations that are presented.

The following are some of the most commonly used and effective decoy strategies.

a) Lone Hen:

lone hen decoy

Via springthundertv.com

The lone hen decoy setup offers potential during the entire spring season.

This setup capitalizes on a gobbler’s natural urge to breed during this particular time of the year.

>> Step 1: Measure Distance

Begin by stepping off twenty yards from your blind or other hunting location.

This will be where your decoy will be positioned.

The distance at which you place your decoy is absolutely vital.

If a decoy is placed at the far end of your effective shooting range, and a gobbler hangs up, no shot will be presented.

>> Step 2: Set Decoy Direction

Before staking your decoy, determine which direction a gobbler is likely to approach from.

You will want to face your decoy in the opposite direction at a 45-degree angle.

This often brings a gobbler closer, as they assume the hen cannot see their approach.

>> Step 3: Stake Your Decoy

Next, stake your hen decoy firmly in place. Ensure that no wobble is present in your decoy’s staking.

The last thing that you want to happen is for your decoy to lean awkwardly when a gobbler is approaching.

b) Hen/Jake Combo:

hen jake combo

Via outdoornews.com

A classic hen and jake decoy combo can be outright deadly.

Gobblers aggressively stake claim to their territory during the spring of the year.

This decoy arrangement brings gobblers to your location as the attempt to prevent the young jake from breeding.

>> Step 1: Measure Distance

Begin by stepping off the distance to your blind as specified in the above steps.

>> Step 2: Set Decoy Direction

In this decoy spread, face your decoys in a direction that is facing your location.

Many times, a gobbler will attempt to position himself between the hen and jake decoys, presenting an easy shot.

Your decoys should be spaced roughly 4-5 feet apart.

>> Step 3: Stake Your Decoys

Ensure that your decoys are staked securely. Once again, an ill-positioned decoy can spell the end for even the most promising of hunts.

c) Hen/Gobbler Combo:

Hen Gobbler Combo

Via realtree.com

During the earliest portion of spring turkey season, a hen and full strut gobbler decoy can be the best way to fill your tag.

During the earliest portions of season, gobblers are extremely aggressive and will quickly defend their turf.

>> Step 1: Measure Distance

Begin by stepping off the distance to your blind as suggested above, to determine the twenty-yard mark.

>> Step 2: Set Decoy Direction

Much like the hen/jake combo, you will want to face your decoys in the direction that faces you.

Ensure that your decoys are also spaced approximately 4-5 feet apart.

>> Step 3: Stake Your Decoys

Do not let a poorly staked decoy end your hunt. Make sure that both decoys are adequately staked in place.

Chapter 7: How To Call Turkeys

How To Call For Turkeys

Calling for turkey hunting is one of the biggest obstacles that a novice is dealing with. You might think to yourself:

  • What to look for in any call really?
  • What calling techniques is easy for beginners?
  • When to use them?
  • What frequency should you use?

Let’s dive into it…

7.1 - Turkey Sounds Basic:

It is no secret that turkeys are highly vocal animals.

The wild turkey sounds off in many different ways on any given day. The following are some of the most commonly used turkey sounds.

a) Yelp

A yelp is a high pitched, rolling vocalization that is commonly heard in the turkey woods.

This is also the most common sound replicated by hunters.

Yelping can come in a single note, or a lengthy cadence when a flock is attempting to regroup.

b) Cluck

A cluck is a short single note vocalization, that can also be repeated in series.

The cluck is a sound of contentment. Turkeys often cluck when they are at ease or feeding.

This is a great call to use when trying to get a gobbler to close the distance.

c) Purr

Purring is an ultra-soft vibrato vocalization.

This has the same general tone structure of a cat when purring, though it is done at a higher pitch.

This is also a call of contentment and is often used to signal that there is no imminent threat in the area.

d) Cutting

Cutting is a series of quick, sharp notes that are staggered together.

This is a call of excitement and signals that a turkey is worked up, but not frightened.

This call can be used to bring a gobbler into range when they are hung up.

e) Putt

A putt is a loud, sharp single note vocalization that is repeated time after time with a pause in between.

This is a vocalization that signals danger.

As a turkey hunter, you never want to make this sound. You also never want to hear this sound yourself, as it likely means that your hunt is over.

f) Fighting Purr

Though less commonly heard, a fighting purr is the sound heard when two hens are challenging one another’s dominance.

This is a series of aggressive purrs with harsh clucks mixed in.

This can be a great vocalization to use when dealing with a gobbler that is in the company of hens.

At times, a hen will approach, looking for a fight, and the gobbler will follow.

7.2 - What Calls To Take Turkey Hunting:

A wide variety of turkey calls exist in today’s market. Each has its own specific uses.

The following are some of the most popular types of turkey calls available.

a) Box Call

box call

The box call has been a mainstay of turkey hunting for many years, and is capable of perfectly recreating many turkey sounds.

This call consists of a rectangular box of a particular length, that is hollow on the end side. A paddle is attached at a pivot point above the hollow sound chamber.

As this paddle is drawn across the lip of the box call sound chamber, the resulting friction produces turkey-like sounds.

A box call is wonderful for calling to distance birds, or enticing a gobble out of tight-lipped gobblers.

However, it can be difficult to call quietly on some box calls, making close-range calling troublesome.

Many box calls are also inoperable in the rain. Let's see how it works:


b) Friction Call

Friction call

A friction, also known as a slate call, consists of a circular pot type housing with a built-in friction material surface.

This is accompanied by a pencil-like striker.

The tip of this striker is drawn across the surface of the friction material, where the sound is produced.

These calls can consist of several materials and are highly versatile.

A friction call is wonderful for both distant, and close-quarters calling, as the volume is easily controlled.

However, much like the box call, the majority of friction calls are unusable in rainy or other overly wet conditions.


c) Diaphragm Call

Diaphragm Call

Via midwestturkeycall.com

Diaphragm calls or mouth calls as they are commonly known, consist of a series of latex reeds stretched across a metal frame.

This call is positioned in the roof of the caller’s mouth, where air is forced across the reeds.

This causes vibrations within the reeds that produce sounds.

This call is a wonderful all-around choice and can recreate any turkey vocalization known to man.

The diaphragm call is extremely popular because it can be used no matter the weather conditions, and volume is easily controlled.

One downside of the diaphragm call is that it typically takes an immense amount of time to master.

Many beginning turkey hunters find difficulty in overcoming this learning curve.


d) Push Button Call

turkey Push Button Call

Via midwayusa.com

The push button call consists of a small box with an exposed peg.

This peg attaches to friction material, which is moved back and forth as the peg is actuated.

As this occurs the friction material within rubs against a second similar surface, creating turkey like vocalizations.

The push button call is an excellent all-around call for beginners. This stems from the fact that little to no practice is needed prior to in-field use.

There is literally no wrong way to use a push button call, and it is even easily mastered by children.

On the downside, push button calls are also negatively affected by rain.


e) Wingbone or Trumpet Call

turkey Trumpet Call

Wingbone and trumpet calls are both very similar in the way they operate.

Each consists of a tubular structure, with the main difference being that a trumpet call is made of wood or synthetic material, while a wingbone is made of actual bone.

These calls are operated by sucking air through their mouthpieces. In doing so, high pitch, turkey-like sounds are recreated.

Wingbone and trumpet calls are often regarded as being the most realistic sounding of all turkey calls.

Many accounts are recorded of turkeys responding to these calls when no other call would draw a response.

However, these are also the most difficult of all calls to use, and years of practice are often needed to achieve mastery.


f) Tube Call

tube call

A tube call consists of a short, hollow tube with a latex reed stretched and banded across one end.

This call is held to a user’s lips, where air is forced across an opening in the reed.

When this occurs, the reed vibrates and sends sound out through the hollowed tube portion of the call.

While less popular than many other call varieties, the tube call is also highly renowned by some of the nation's top turkey hunters.

One notable characteristic of the tube call is that when mastered, it can call far louder than most any other variety of call.

On a calm clear morning, a tube call can often be heard for more than a mile.

But, like the wingbone and trumpet call, extensive practice is required for mastery.

7.3 - When To Call Turkey:

There are two basic kinds of turkey calling:

a) Blind calling:

midday

This is characterized by calling with no actual turkey in sight. This type of calling can be done at any time, and for any reason.

When blind calling, a hunter is hoping to draw the attention of an unseen or passing gobbler.

This type of calling is often done during the midday or afternoon hours.

b) Working a gobbler:

turkey gobbler

This takes place when a gobbler has been spotted, and you are attempting to lure him into range.

Much of when to call in this scenario comes down to judging the particular gobblers reaction that is being worked.

As a general rule of thumb, non-stop calling is never a good idea.

Present a series of vocalizations and wait for a reaction.

It is also never a good idea to call when a gobbler is headed in your direction.

This will typically result in the bird stopping to strut.

In doing so, his arrival in range is delayed, and hence the greater chance of a real hen intervening grows considerably.

7.4 - How To Call Turkey:

Gauge The Scenario:

When calling turkeys, you must first assess the situation.

Are you blind calling with no turkey in sight, or have you already spotted a gobbler?

When blind calling, the process will be somewhat different than when actually working a bird.

>> Step 1: Assess Needed Volume

You will now determine how loud you need to call. As a general rule, when blind calling, start off quietly.

You never know when a turkey is just out of sight, that could be frightened by loud calling.

When working a gobbler, you should start off calling no louder than is necessary to be heard.

This will vary based upon how far away the turkey is from your location.

>> Step 2: Start Off Easy

When you begin to call, start by letting out a series of soft yelps, or relaxed clucks.

You do not want to go overboard right off the bat.

These calls are familiar to a turkey and are in no way threatening.

Calling aggressively from the start can often leave a gobbler wary.

>> Step 3: Reassess The Situation

If you are blind calling, you should now wait approximately 20 minutes before repeating your efforts.

When working a gobbler, you will now study his reaction and body language.

You need to ask yourself whether or not the turkey seems nervous, interested, or neutral to the situation.

This is important, as your next move will be based on this assessment.

>> Step 4: Call According To The Situation

You will now plan your future calling based upon what you observed.

  • If the gobbler seemed interested but has made no progress in your direction, call again as you did before.
  • If he showed no reaction to your calling, call again with more volume, and in a slightly more aggressive tone.
  • If the gobbler seemed uneasy, wait a period, and try calling softer, using only purrs and clucks.

>> Step 5: Repeat The Sequence

You will now repeat steps four and five until you have called the gobbler into range, or he has left the area.

Periodically break from calling, giving the turkey time to study his next move.

  • If a gobbler is headed in your direction, do not call unless he stops.
  • On the other hand, if a turkey gobbles and struts but will not proceed, stop calling and leave him wondering.

This will often draw a reaction from a hung-up gobbler.

>> Step 6: Finish In Range

Many times, the most difficult part of calling a turkey is getting him to travel the last 50 yards into range.

When a turkey is that close, he is carefully checking out his surroundings.

When a gobbler is standing just outside of range, try alternating between clucking and purring.

These are both calls of contentment, and will often reassure a gobbler if he is uneasy.

Be sure to keep absolutely motionless.

A turkey’s eyesight is second to none. Any movement at this range will end your hunt instantly.

7.5 - How Often Do You Call When You Are Turkey Hunting?

every 20 minutes

When blind calling, it is advisable to call no more than every twenty minutes if no gobbler is visible.

Over calling is unnatural and tends to spook more birds than it draws into range.

If a turkey comes into view, this can change to meter the particular situation.

Again, this comes down to a matter of reading a turkey’s reaction and body posture.

When a turkey is actively being worked, you should only call as often as it takes to retain his attention.

  • If a gobbler is coming to you or studying your decoy from a distance, avoid calling.
  • However, if a gobbler begins to lose interest, wander in the opposite direction, or attempt to regroup with other hens, the frequency of calls can be increased.

When in doubt, under-calling is less of a threat to the outcome of your hunt than over-calling.

Always side with the cautious approach when possible.

Chapter 8: Turkey Hunting Tips For Beginners

Turkey-Hunting-Tips-For-Beginners

Turkey hunting features a definite learning curve for beginners that must be overcome to find success. The following tips will assist you in shortening this process and become a better hunter. 

Here’s the deals:

8.1 - Stay Hidden

The biggest key to success when hunting turkeys is to avoid being seen.

A turkey will leave the immediate area if they even think that they have seen something out of place.

The most important part of this is ensuring that you are concealed.

Turkeys have phenomenal eyesight, and they can easily pick out the slightest movement from over 100 yards away.

There are two ways to set up when turkey hunting:

  • On the ground
  • In a blind

On the Ground

hunt from the ground

Via guidefitter.com

For years, turkey hunters traditionally set up at the base of a tree, where they would call and hope for success.

This method still works today. However, care must be taken to choose a tree that is wider than your body to sit against.

This breaks up your outline and makes you more difficult to spot.

In the Blind

hunt from blind

Via alloutdoor.com

Alternatively, the use of a blind is a wonderful way to remain hidden.

The tent-like setting of a blind makes it nearly impossible for a turkey to pick you out, as long as you are careful with your movements.

You should also remain in full camo at all times when turkey hunting. This includes wearing gloves and a facemask.

Turkeys can see color rather well, and can easily pick out bare skin within a wooded area.

8.2 - Watch Your Entry and Exit:

watch your entry and exit

Just because a turkey is roosted safely above in a tree, does not mean that they throw caution to the wind.

A roosted turkey is easily able to see far into the distance and is ever watchful for intrusion.

If you are not careful when walking into your blind prior to a morning’s hunt, a turkey will take note. This often ends a potentially good hunt before it even begins.

Never attempt to approach any closer to a roost site than what is absolutely necessary to position yourself for the hunt.

While conventional wisdom would tell you that being within yards of a roost site guarantees success, this is simply not true.

More often than not, the turkeys roosted above will fly down in the opposite direction, leaving you to wonder what happened.

The same principle applies when leaving your blind in the evening.

If you know that birds have roosted nearby and you wish to hunt those turkeys the next morning, steer clear of their roost tree.

8.3 - Roost A Turkey

One useful strategy that every hunter should know is how to roost a turkey.

Roosting a turkey is the practice of using a locator call during the evening before a hunt to determine a turkey’s location.

A turkey will typically remain roosted in the same tree for the duration of an evening unless disturbed.

Therefore, roosting a turkey provides a hunter with valuable information about where to set up
for their hunt.

This is most easily done by venturing to the property that you are to hunt at sunset the evening prior.

Here’s how:

>> Step 1: Walk to a ridge or similar high point where you can hear for a great distance.

>> Step 2: Once in place, blow on an owl call in a forceful manner.

This will almost always cause any gobblers in the area to sound off.

>> Step 3: Repeat this sequence again if no response is heard. In the event that there has still been no response, a coyote howler can also be used to strike up gobbles.

>> Step 4: Once gobbling activity has been heard, make a mental note of where these gobbles originated from.

From your preseason scouting, you should have a pretty good idea of where the turkey is located.

When the next morning comes, carefully ease into position. Set up at a distance of 100-200 yards from the location where gobbling activity was heard the night before.

8.4 - Call To Hens When Necessary

Although turkey hunting typically involves calling gobblers, there are cases when you should be calling to hens instead.

One of turkey hunting's biggest frustrations is dealing with henned up gobblers.

In the majority of cases, a henned up gobbler is impossible to call away.

After all, why would a tom leave the hens that he is already surrounded with to come to a single hen that he hears in the distance?

When faced with this difficult situation, a crafty hunter can call to a hen in an attempt to anger her.

This is done in hopes that the aggressive hen will come looking for a fight, bringing her gobbler with her.

By following these simple steps, you too can call a hen into range.

>> Step 1: Listen For Hen Calls

You will begin by carefully listening for a hen that is in the company of a gobbler to sound off.

When doing so, make sure that you have a call at the ready.

>> Step 2: Memorize the Exact Vocalization

When you hear the hen make a vocalization, carefully listen to the exact sounds that are made.

Determine what call the hen is making, and the number of notes that were used.

>> Step 3: Mimic the Hen

You will now quickly replicate the exact sounds made by the hen back to her.

Do so note for note, and at the exact same pace.

>> Step 4: Listen Again

Now you will once again listen carefully. You should hear this hen sound off once more, only slightly louder.

>> Step 5: Echo Back

Again, precisely mimic the hen’s vocalization back to her, with slightly louder volume.

>> Step 6: Continue Process

If done correctly, this back and forth exchange will continue for several rounds.

In most cases, the hen will become more and more agitated and will come to investigate.

When she does, have your weapon at the ready. The gobbler that she was with is likely not far behind.

8.5 - Return To Henned Up Gobblers

Return To Henned Up Gobblers

If the above method of calling in a henned up gobbler does not work, one option for potential success remains.

During the mid-morning period, hens leave open strut zones for cover, as they prepare for the nesting period to come.

When they do so, gobblers are left alone, and once again vulnerable.

At this point in the day, a lonely gobbler is generally far easier to fool with a call than any other period.

This is why it is always a good idea to take mental notes as to where you encountered a henned up gobbler, earlier in the day.

If the gobbler does not seem to show any interest during the early morning hunt, simply leave in search of a more receptive turkey.

After several hours, return to the location where the henned up gobbler had been located.

You can then set up, and resume your hunt.

In the majority of cases, this turkey will be found no more than a few hundred yards away from where he had previously been seen.

8.6 - Fake A Flydown

When turkeys depart from their roost in the morning, it can be a noisy affair.

Thunderous wing beats can be heard for several hundred yards, and flydown cackles echo out.

Although this might seem to be nothing more than trivial information, replicating these sounds can be your key to early morning success.

When a gobbler is deciding what direction to fly down on a spring morning, he is thinking about where to go to quickly group up with hens.

You can tip the odds in your favor by making him believe that he has heard a hen pitch down from roost.

Replicating this process is easily done when following a few key steps.

>> Step 1: Pick Your Time

This process begins by knowing when is the right time to act.

Wait until you feel reasonably confident that turkeys are only minutes away from naturally coming off roost.

At this point, you should have already heard a number of gobbles, as well as light hen yelps.

>> Step 2: Select Your Call

During this sequence, you will need to replicate a flydown cackle.

This is a simple call to make but you will need to keep your hands free.

Therefore, a diaphragm call is best used for this purpose.

>> Step 3: Lower Your Hat to Your Side

You will now slowly remove your hat and lower it to your side. Be careful not to be seen when doing so.

>> Step 4: Cackle While Flapping Your Hat

When you are ready to replicate the flydown sequence, simultaneously make a flydown cackle with your call, while beating the hat against your side.

When done correctly, this perfectly replicates the sound made by a turkey as it departs from its roost.

Note: It is best to have practiced this sequence at home, before your hunt.

A flydown cackle is nothing more than a brief run of frantic cutting that descends in rhythm and slows gradually.

The entire sequence should last no more than 3-4 seconds.

8.7 - Scratch in a Gobbler

Sometimes the best turkey calls are not even vocalizations at all.

Turkeys learn to recognize the sounds that other turkeys make when moving about and feeding as well.

One of the most effective strategies for bringing a hung-up gobbler into range is that of scratching leaf litter.

As previously mentioned, turkeys regularly scratch through leaves to locate nuts and insects.

Other turkeys know that the sound of this scratching signals that a meal is near.

Turkeys that are somewhat on edge also understand this sound to be one of contentment, as frightened turkeys do not take the time to stop and eat before fleeing.

Because of this, a hunter can scratch in the leaves to their side in an effort to bring a wary gobbler into range.

Here’s how:

>> Step 1: Slowly reach downward in a manner that conceals your movement.

>> Step 2: Once your hand has reached the leaf litter below, simply make a series of three scratching sounds, followed by a pause.

>> Step 3: After 4-5 seconds, repeat this process once more.

This tactic is especially deadly when done in heavily forested regions, as the majority of these turkey’s diets come from the forest floor.

8.8 - Test Gears Prior To Your Hunt

Before ever heading to the woods, you should test whatever weapon you will be hunting with.

If you will be hunting with a bow or crossbow, be sure you understand the vital structure of a wild turkey and practice accordingly.

I'll tell how what gears for turkey hunting below. But first:

a) Practise With 3-d Archery Turkey Targets

turkey 3d target

Via turkeyhuntingsecrets.com

They are available at many sporting goods stores.

These can be a wise investment for any bowhunter, as turkeys present a rather small target.

Shooting at such a target will allow you to be more comfortable in a hunting situation.

b) Test Broadhead

test broadheads

If you will be using a different broadhead than what you are familiar with when turkey hunting, test-firing several arrows is advised.

This will let you judge the flight characteristics of that particular broadhead.

c) Test Shotgun

test shotgun

Likewise, if you will be turkey hunting with a shotgun, you should conduct patterning work prior to season

When patterning a shotgun, ensure that you are using the exact same choke tube and shotshells that you will be hunting with.

This will allow you to assess your shotgun’s effective range, better equipping you to take only shots that will result in a clean and ethical kill.

8.9 - Find A Mentor

Turkey Hunting is a sport best navigated through experience.

Of course, if you are a beginner, it takes a while to build a substantial bank of experience.

This is where it is extremely valuable to find a mentor who has spent many years pursuing wild turkeys.

find a mentor

This alone will significantly speed up your learning experience, and your skills will grow rapidly.

If you have a family member or friend who is a turkey hunter, this can be a great place to start.

Offer to pay for fuel to and from their hunting location, in exchange for them taking you under their wing.

Small gestures of this nature can open a lot of doors.

If you do not currently know anyone who turkey hunts, join your local NWTF (National Wild Turkey Federation) chapter.

This organization fights for the conservation of the wild turkey, and assists beginning hunters get started in the sport.

8.10 - Know Your State’s Game Laws

know the laws

Every state has its own individual game laws, many of which pertain to turkey hunting.

Many new turkey hunters unknowingly violate these laws, resulting in a fine, or worse.

A state’s conservation officers are tasked with enforcing these laws, which are meant to promote safe hunting and sustainable management practices.

When hunting, there is a chance that you will be checked for compliance by a conservation officer.

Therefore, every new turkey hunter must be aware of:

  • Which license and permits are needed?
  • What the season and daily bag limits are?
  • When legal shooting light begins and ends
  • You also need to be aware of all property boundaries for the plot of land on which you will be hunting. It will prevent you from unknowingly trespassing on another private property.

Chapter 9: Turkey Hunting Gear List

Turkey Hunting Gear List

The following checklist reflects what equipment you need for turkey hunting.

While not all of these items will be needed on every hunt, this comprehensive list will provide you with everything you will need based upon different hunting scenarios.

  • Binoculars
  • Rangefinder
  • Diaphragm Call
  • Box Call
  • Friction Call
  • Push Button Call
  • Tube Call
  • Wingbone/Trumpet Call
  • Locator Calls (owl, crow, coyote)
  • Box Call Chalk
  • Sandpaper (friction call treatment)
  • Call Lanyard
  • Box Call Holster
  • Decoys (hens, jake, and full strut gobbler)
  • Blinds
  • Blind Stakes and Tie-Rope
  • Blind Chair
  • Gobbler Lounger Seat
  • Seat Pad
  • Small Folding Saw
  • Knife
  • Knife Sharpener
  • Camouflage
  • Hunting Boots
  • Gloves
  • Facemask
  • Rain Poncho
  • Camo Bag or Backpack
  • Camo Hat
  • Camo Face Paint
  • Jacket
  • Bug Spray
  • Thermacell Unit
  • Turkey Vest
  • First-Aid Kit
  • Sunscreen
  • Toilet Paper
  • Bow
  • Arrows
  • Broadheads
  • Release-Aid
  • Basic Archery Service Kit
  • Crossbow
  • Bolts
  • Shotgun
  • Choke Tubes
  • Shotshells
  • Shotgun Sling
  • Gun Rest
  • Optics
  • Hunting License
  • Turkey Permit
  • Maps
  • GPS
  • Compass
  • Cell Phone
  • Orange Vest (for safety when packing out turkey)
  • Food
  • Water
  • Plastic Bags
  • Cooler
  • Hand Pruners
  • Camera
  • Camera Accessories (tripod, lenses, carrying case)
  • Written Notice of Permission
  • Flashlight
  • Headlamp
  • Batteries
  • Trail Marker

Conclusion

And that's my ultimate guide of Turkey hunting 101.

Now you turn:

  • What are your favorite calling techniques?
  • Do you have additional scouting tips?
  • Or did I miss something?

Let me know by leave a comment below.

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Robert Gate

Hi, I’m Robert Gate – an avid hunter and founder of ArcheryTopic.com. I grew up in Texas, USA and learned archery from my dad when I was a child. He gave me a Mathew bow as a gift when I got 12 years old. Read my story!

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