If you watch TV or YouTube it would be easy to think you must have decoys to hunt turkeys. The truth is, in many situations, decoys are a liability for turkey hunters. There are reasons they are almost always used when video recording a turkey hunt, and there are indeed times when using a turkey decoy is beneficial, but for most hunting situations they can do more harm than good.

Since the dawn of turkey hunting until just a few years ago, decoys were not often used. Many turkey hunters chased spring gobblers their whole lives without using a decoy. And when decoys became available, many hunters found them to add little benefit. I am convinced that new hunters should not use a decoy except under a handful of circumstances which I will outline soon.

I am not a decoy hater, I do sometimes hunt with turkey decoys and have shot toms with their assistance, but only under very specific conditions have I found them to be more good than bad. If you rely on decoys then chances are you have adapted your hunting style to one of the specific approaches that benefits from decoys, which is just fine. But in this article, I will share additional hunting strategies that can help you save time, money, and effort by skipping the decoys and being even more successful than if you had used a decoy.

Why Are Decoys Used In TV Hunts?

There are four main reasons that decoys are so often used in turkey hunting videos online and on TV:

  1. The turkey hunters work for a decoy company. This is pretty obvious, they are making the video to demonstrate that their decoys work so they can sell decoys. They may have had 10 failed hunts but the only one that makes it to you is the successful one to make you feel like this works every day.
  2. The hunters are sponsored by a decoy company. Again, there is money involved to show the decoys on camera and create the perception that they are a must have piece of turkey hunting hardware to bring home a nice tom. 
  3. You need to get turkeys into the frame where the camera can be effectively positioned to film them. And you need to have those turkeys in that spot long enough to get enough footage to make a good video. Decoys can help with this, when they work. Again, you never see all the failed hunts or turkeys that were spooked by the decoys and didn’t come in.
  4. You need to draw turkeys into a very open area where they can be easily filmed, free from brush, clutter, branches, and tall grass. Decoys can help you do this and are valuable if the goal of getting footage is more important than filling your tag.

How Can Turkey Decoys Be A Negative?

The benefit of a turkey decoy seems obvious, the hunter makes turkey sounds and when a real gobbler gets close, he sees what looks like the hen turkey making the calls and comes in to court her. That sounds great, and it does work. But it can cause problems just as often, if not more often. The reason is that this is not how nature works for turkeys. When the tom sees the hen, he often gobbles to get her attention and may strut to show off. The idea is he wants the hen to come to him. That is how it normally works. If a hen wants to breed, she seeks out a gobbler.

So, if an interested tom is lured into an area by a hen turkey calling, he may gobble, but he goes on trying to get close enough for the hen to hear or see him. When he doesn’t see the hen, he keeps looking. This is what brings him within shotgun range. The gobbler only knows the general area he last heard the hen, she may be far away by the time he gets there, but he comes looking, trying to close the distance to get her attention so she will turn and come to him.

When that gobbler sees a decoy, it is as if he accomplished his objective. He closed the distance, and now the hen should come to him. So he stops getting closer, this what it means for a gobbler to get “hung up”. He comes until his sees the decoy or feels he is close enough for the hen to be aware of him, and he waits for the hen to come to him. 

Decoys do still work because sometimes the tom is so eager that he will just walk right up to the hen and try to breed her. But this is more the exception than the rule for how turkeys generally behave.

Carrying decoys around on public land can also be a big safety hazard. To many times a desperate hunter saw a turkey decoy moving through the brush and shot at it irresponsibly, wounding another hunter. For more, here is a podcast episode I did: The 3 Times Turkey Decoys Are A Liability Not A Benefit.

The Right Times To Use Decoys

I find there are a handful of hunting situations where using a turkey decoy is more good than bad. And I will use them under these circumstances.

  • If you are hunting in the middle of a field from a blind, decoys may be what you need to get a gobbler to cross the distance to come to you, or even to pull in a whole group of turkeys. There is not much else you can do to try and get turkeys to cross open ground and come into a wide-open space. They can plainly see if another turkey is there or not. So, if you do not have decoys, it can be very difficult to find success here. 
  • If you are hunting the edge of a big field, you may find decoys beneficial for the same reason. If you want a turkey to come into the open, it helps to give them one or more other turkeys to look at.
  • If you are hunting in clearing in deep woods, especially one surrounded by open hardwoods, the decoy will set a gobbler more at easy because it can connect your yelps and clucks to another turkey. This creates authenticity.

In each of these situations the decoy may hurt you, but not having one may make the hunt nearly impossible. If a turkey looks into a wide-open area and does not see the turkey it hears, that can cause it to spook much easier. So having a decoy is worth the risk. For the last few years, I’ve been using a version of the Primos Hunting Gobstopper Hen and Jake Combo to great effect when hunting in these kinds of places. They are a mid-range decoy that I think provides the most realism and durability for the price. For higher end decoys, Avian-X makes some extremely realistic one, like this Breeder Hen Decoy.

When It Is Best To Not Use Decoys

The best time to not use decoys is essentially every other hunting situation. If you find tress, brush, cover of any sort, then not using decoys is going to be advantageous, even if you can still see a fair way through mature hardwoods. The reason is that there are plenty of obstacles than can obscure the view of the hen the gobbler is looking for. So he keeps searching, trying to make visual contact with the hen. She could be behind any tree or shrub, and he keeps looking.

In these kinds of situations, the chances of a gobbler coming into range looking for his hen are much higher and having a decoy does very little to help you while there is a good chance it will hurt you. If it is too thick, the gobbler may not even see the decoy anyway. Or he may see it and get hung up. So for essentially all hunting in the woods, the odds can be better for you, if you have no decoy.

Of course, a decoy can always work. Anything is possible. But in these situations, I think you will have more success without a decoy, especially if it is a very thick area.

Strategy #1 – The Strategic Sit

This is one of the most effective turkey hunting strategies, and sadly one that is too infrequently employed. The strategic sit involves heavily scouting an area, possibly even a very small property, and locating high levels of turkey activity via tracks, sightings, droppings, scratches, cameras, or listening. You then strategically select the most advantageous hunting spot and head in there before dawn. You find a good large tree or bank of cover and lean against it to break up your outline.

You wait until you hear early morning gobbling and then reposition yourself to be facing the right direction or shift your location some to get you closer to 150 yards of the roosted birds. You then try to call them in once they land. How you hunt them warrants its own article but the main thing is to always keep something to your back so you blend in as part of the bush or the base of the tree.

If you do not have decoys, you have to be more stealthy and less vocal as the birds get closer. The gobbler will be intently searching for that hen. Which is why this works, he will keep coming closer if he doesn’t find what he’s looking for. If possible, your only move should be to pull the trigger. This hunting style should not be confused with blindly going into the woods and hoping turkeys are near you, unfortunately this is what most hunters do. This is all about strategy and if you do it well, you will come out on top more often than if you were using a decoy.  For more, here is an article I did titled: How To Hunt Turkeys On Small Properties

Strategy #2 – Running & Gunning

Running and gunning is too many people’s favorite way to hunt turkeys, they like it because it’s active, you keep moving and need less patience. Subsequently many people are unsuccessful because they do not know what they are doing and have too little patience… That said, this technique does work. And it works better without decoys much of the time.

You will be covering ground and stopping every 200 yards or so to call. How far you travel should depend more on the terrain and where you can hide well than any specific unit of distance. When you call, you may get an immediate response and have only seconds to take cover before the bird is on top of you. So pick out that spot first, then call and wait.

Be patient, pause, perhaps try a couple different call or sequences of calls, and put some time in between them. If you have reason to believe this is a good area do not be afraid to spend some time here. Too many people call and move on after 30 seconds if there is no gobble. Then 10 minutes later a gobbler is standing right where they were but they never know about it. For more, here is a podcast episode I did titled: How To Hunt Silent Turkeys.

To hunt well like this, you need to be extremely stealthy. Birds often don’t gobble because they heard you walking in, making noise, talking, setting up decoys, etc. Having no decoy means you can travel lighter, quieter, and less distracted. You do not have to setup a decoy every time you call or hear a response while you scramble to figure out what to do. Be stealthy, be patient, find the right place to hide early, and you can have good success. 

Strategy #3 – Ambush Hunting

Ambush hunting turkeys is one of the least favorite techniques of people who do not take a lot of turkeys. They see it as not exciting enough and would rather be walking miles spooking every turkey out of the county than learning where birds move mid-morning or mid-day and lying in wait to ambush them. This technique revolves around scouting and knowing the land and terrain. 

Similar to deer hunting, you are patterning the turkeys, learning their habits, and setting up with total stealth to catch them unaware. If you do not scout, don’t try this, you won’t have the reconnaissance needed to give you the confidence to stay put and wait for the birds to show up. This strategy puts you near the path of the birds, a route they will be traveling anyway. Having a decoy can only cause problems because the birds were going to walk through there anyway. You didn’t need the decoy to do anything, it just becomes a distraction and a liability. 

If you want to take a lot of turkeys, you must adapt to hunt the land an opportunity provided. A good ambush hunt, especially later in the morning or in the day has put a great many turkeys in the freezer.  For more info on how to hunt turkey’s check out this video I did:

Conclusions & Recommendations

There is nothing wrong with hunting turkeys with a decoy. It certainty does work. But turkey hunts on television make it seem like it works much more often than it actually does. If you are hunting in a scenario where decoys are helpful, then use them. But do not limit your hunting to only those situations. 

One of the greatest things about turkey hunting is the amazing variety of ways you can hunt. Build your experience hunting with different strategies and you will be well prepared to adapt to whatever you encounter during the next turkey season.

Be sure to listen to The New Hunters Guide Podcast and check us out on YouTube

Till next time. God bless you, and go get em in the woods!

George Konetes Ph.D. – Founder and Host of the New Hunters Guide.

The New Hunters Guide is simply what George wishes he would have had when learning how to hunt; a single place to get practical hands on knowledge about different kinds of hunting, gear, strategy, and tips that can improve your comfort and fun factor in the woods.

Everyone knows there is only one way to hunt geese in the winter, right? Not even close! There are many ways to hunt geese and there are many objectives for different hunters in different regions. On this episode I talk about less conventional strategies for taking a goose in the late season!

Unconventional goose hunting usually centers around going to the geese instead of waiting for them to come to you. But there are many variations of a traditional setup, depending on the conditions and locations. You can hunt in broken ice, use fewer decoys, setup in passing areas and many more strategies.

Geese are great for late season hunts because they are less water dependent than ducks in many areas. There are alot of land hunts that can be had. You can also hunt them on land or right at the shore of moving streams and creeks. They are often less picky about how much water is available and are happy to stay mostly on land next to just a little bit of running water. Ducks on the other hand tend toward the opposite which makes geese easier to hunt in colder areas and places with less open water.

If you can identify a handful of areas along a stream or creek that may hold geese, you can setup a circuit and hunt them on foot. If you are able to slowly sneak up on a 3-4 spots in an hour or two, your chances of taking a couple of geese are fairly good. And you do not need to be out hunting hours before dawn to do it. 

One of the big things that helps the waterfowl hunter is a shift in mentality. You do not need to take your state’s limit of birds to have had a successful day. A goose is a sizeable prize. Taking just one in some areas is a great accomplishment and can provide a couple of meals.

Do not set your expectations and tactics based on what you see on TV. A good hunt is a fun hunt. A great hunt puts goose on the table. Taking a limit of birds in some areas may only happen every few years. Set your sights on what is realistic and rewarding for your area.

Listen to the podcast episode to hear the unconventional tactics.  

 

Hunting in the winter is not just difficult, it is dangerous. Things that were an inconvenience in the early season can be life threatening in the cold. On this episode I talk about the most common things that threaten the safety of waterfowl hunters and what you can do to avoid those dangers and live to hunt another day.  

As mentioned in the episode here is the review video for the First Lite Furnace 350 Merino Base Layers.

And here are all of the podcast episodes on Duck Hunting.

The most dangerous things in waterfowl hunting are the water and the cold. And of course, cold water. Firearms are not even close to the chief danger.  If you want to stay alive you need to learn how to use more caution navigating boats, retrieving birds with waders, and anything that brings you close to the water.

The gear you wear in the late season also makes a big difference. Hunting ducks and geese will cause you to get wet, you are around water constantly and sweating almost as often. Moisture plus cold creates big opportunities for hypothermia and worse. Having the right gear for the weather can make a big difference. However, none of it matters if you make even larger mistakes.

Listen to the episode to hear about the tactics and gear that can keep you safe and comfortable in some of the harshest conditions out there.

Much of the deer hunting strategy and advice out there is geared toward properties that are 50+ acres. And that is great, but smaller properties require a more nuanced approach, especially when you get down under 10 acres. These small parcels are less forgiving and afford fewer opportunities to attract and hold deer. But the truth is, you can hunt deer effectively on tiny pieces of land, even as small as 1 acre. And this article will help you make the most of those small land opportunities, be them public or private.

This will usually be private land, you almost never see public land areas this small, however you will occasionally find challenging or baren public land that only has a few acres of decent deer habitat in an area. So many of these same tips will help you hunt public land too. If you are new to hunting, then be sure to also check this other article I put together for you as well: How To Start Hunting As An Adult Without Help – Easy 15 Step Guide.

Why Hunt Small Properties?

Years ago I started hunting small properties because that was all I had available to me. There may be 5 acres here or 8 acres there that I could get permission to hunt from friends or family. I had no connections and no success when out on my own trying to get access to 50+ acre areas. Other hunters had those permissions long secured before I came around.

Public land near me proved problematic as the few acres near me were overrun with an endless see pedestrians wearing orange and carrying arms who were calling themselves hunters. My early forays into suburban located public land were both fruitless and dangerous. I have since found many more locations where I could hunt more safely and effectively, but I still mostly hunt small private land properties, though it is for a different reason.

After years of developing strategy, learning the land, improving the habitat, and learning deer patterns, I find unparalleled success hunting on the small properties that I have access to. I have shot 3 nice bucks on my last 3 sits over the last couple seasons. I don’t know anyone in my half of the state who has that kind of an average on any size property, public or private.

But it didn’t start like that, it wasn’t until my third season that I even shot a doe. It would be two more seasons till I finally even saw a legal buck. But once I learned and implemented what I am going to share in this article, things improved quickly and rapidly. In fact, I had 660% more deer activity on one property after just 1 season.  In fact, I did a whole podcast episode just on that: How To Get 660% More Deer On your Property Next Season.

Can Small Properties Be Better Than Big Ones?

The short answer is no. larger properties will generally have more opportunities and potential than smaller ones, as well as more margin for error. You will have to work harder to get comparable results on small pieces of land. And your results will be more impacted by your neighbors. But often you can outdo your neighbors if you work smarter and more strategically.

Your neighbors are not likely going to diligently pursue sound whitetail habitat strategy and will not have the same level of discipline that you can by not over hunting. In fact, you can use your neighbors as a mechanism to push deer on your land. You can become the safe place that the deer run to. But while bigger is generally better when it comes to acres, small properties do provide some advantages you will want to exploit.

Small Property Advantages

Learning Every Inch Of The Land. A benefit of small land is that you can walk, scout, and learn every part of it. And not just learn it once but learn how deer use it year-round. An early season hotspot might be gone by rifle season, and swamp may get no use until late rifle season when the safe places are few. If you can keep an eye on land year-round, you can maximize your hunting potential. 

Fewer Trail Cameras Needed. Many of people with big land need a lot of trail cameras and only have them out for part of the year to minimize wear and tear and battery use. But if you only have two or three cameras on 10 acres, you can save a lot of money and time on camera maintenance and checking. You can then leave your cameras up year-round and learn how deer use the land at all times. Here is a good entry level trail camera that I use.

Mastering The Wind. When your land is small you can become intimately familiar with how the wind effects every stand location, blind, travel or access area. You can know exactly where to hunt during certain winds, and even use the wind to blow your scent off the property and better preserve the little slice of heaven you have to hunt. You can not just learn the wind but master it.

Save Money On Stand Locations. Fewer spots means less investment. Instead of 10 tree stands or ground blinds you may only need two or three. You need each one to count through. And you may opt to build some more permanent structures that require less maintenance after you finish optimizing your land and find the areas that produce the best results. 

7 Things Deer Want

  1. Food – Above all else, deer will come for food. If you have, find, or can add food to your property you can multiply your land’s potential. And it often does not require big food plots, heavy equipment, or major investments. I’ll talk more about this later in the article. 
  2. Cover – Deer must have cover, they will limit their time spent in open areas during daylight, especially as the season wears on. Bucks especially thrive on cover, even when moving. The more cover you have and the longer it lasts through the season, the greater the advantage your parcel can have. 
  3. Bedding Areas – Whitetails must have bedding areas. Does are more tolerant than bucks, and mature bucks are pickier still. But they will want cover, security, and freedom from human scent, sounds, and sights. If you have bedding you will be able to predict daylight movement much better.
  4. Water – Deer usually get most of the moisture they need from their food, but as you get into the rut when deer movement increases and green vegetation becomes scarcer, they will be drawn more and more to water. A stream, pond, or waterhole can be a hotspot for activity at certain times of the year, but only if other sources of water are limited or far away.
  5. Browse – This is a food source, but it is more of a casual food source that deer will munch on around their bedding. This is most often woody shrub tips, briars, and other things they can snack on while waiting for evening to head to their choice feeding areas. If you have browse you can hold more huntable daylight deer. 
  6. Safety – Whitetails gravitate to safety. Sometimes this means areas without traces of humans, other times it means areas they are not being shot at that moment. It will almost always include cover with minimal human intrusion. You can often give deer safety by hunting less than your neighbors and staying off the land during the hunting season except for strategic hunts. 
  7. Travel Corridors – Just like us, deer like to travel the path of least resistance. If you have travel lanes that cut through your property and enable deer to navigate through or around thick areas, elevation changes, impassible areas, fallen trees, etc, then you have a habitat feature that can bring deer to you and funnel their movement. Learn more with this podcast episode: Defining Deer Movement Patterns.

What Kind Of Property Do You Have?

No small properties are going to have all 7 things, in fast most larger ones still do not have all 7 in a meaningful way. But if you have at least one, you can significantly impact deer movement and have a disproportionately high number of deer on your property. If you have 2 or 3 of them, you can do better still.

There are properties that are nothing more than a thin strip of tangled mess between two much larger properties, but they can function as a major travel corridor between the properties. Create a few pinch points and even wasteland can become prime hunting land for when deer cross over. 

If you can identify the type of property you have, and the kinds of attractions there, you can develop a solid whitetail hunting strategy. 

Scouting & Picking Spots

It is much easier to scout fewer acres and find the best spots. But to pick those couple spots you need to identify how deer are u sing your land. They will likely on be on your land at certain times of the day, maybe only during certain parts of the season. More on that later. But to pick a spot you need to scout.

Trail cameras can help a lot after you’ve identified high potential areas. You want to look for significant movement patterns. Not just a few deer tracks here and there, but evidence that deer are frequently in an area. Lots of tracks, droppings, rubs, beds, etc. When you find a high potential area for a stand or blind you should setup a mock scape in the middle of the movement area to help focus the movement and put a trail camera on that spot.

Monitor when and how many deer use the land and use that info to decide if this is a good hunting spot. For more on mock scrapes here is a video: How to Make Mock Scrapes and a podcast episode: When To Setup Mock Scrapes & Trail Cams that I did.

Also consider what the most common wind direction is BEFORE you setup a stand. Ideally you want 2-3 spots on a property that work with different winds. This way you can have at least one spot to hunt no matter what the wind is doing if all other conditions are right. 

How To Sweeten The Land

If you have strong factors that draw deer to your property then perfect. If not, add them. You can add food, water, cover, browse, travel lanes, even safety with relative ease. Bedding areas are not so easy on small parcels, but that is ok. You do not need all 7 draws, just one or more.

The single biggest thing you can do to make a difference is adding food. Cover is second. adding cover can be as simple as taking down some trees so that sunlight can reach the ground and cause growth to spring up. Taking down a few trees and letting some time pass may do the job, and the fallen trees can provide cover in the meantime.

You can also plant switch grass or let parts of fields overgrow. You want cover that does not fall down after the first frost. It should be robust enough to help deer hide through the heart of the hunting season in your area.

I do not view mock scrapes as a way to sweeten a property and attract deer. They work to focus deer movement in an area and help get them where you want for trail cameras and shooting lanes but they are not going to cause deer to go hundreds of yards out of their way. They might go 20 yards out of their way. And that makes them a very handy tool, but the impact is limited. 

Micro Food Plots

If you have a small property then you only have room for small food sources. I am a big fan of micro food plots, maybe 1/2 acre or less. Something very small, even 1/10 of an acre is enough to make a difference. And depending on your area it can be a big difference. 

I often recommend people use white clover because you can plant it easily, without any heavy equipment, and it grows back year after year. So, effort today turns into years of payoff.  Here is a podcast I did focusing in on that specific subject: All About Planting Clover For Deer & Turkey Hunting.

Not everything makes a great micro food plot, and a lot of factors can impact what is best for you. But often clover works really well. Imperial Whitetail Clover is maybe the best clover seed I’ve ever used or heard of, it makes up the majority of what I plant. You do not need much for a microplot, $20 or less is often more than enough.

Planting some fruit trees may also be valuable for your area. Late dropping apples can give you a couple weeks of strong deer draw in areas where competing food plots makes clover or other smaller plantings less impactful.  The bottom line is that it does not take alot to make a meaningful difference. 

The 3 When’s Of Deer Hunting

When is the best time to hunt deer? That is not a hard question to answer but there are several dimensions to it.

Weather. The best weather is immediately following a drop in temperatures. Anything more than about 5 degrees can be helpful, but the bigger the drop, the more the impact. If the morning low is 10 degrees lower tomorrow than its been, that is a great morning to hunt. The reason is that the drop in temperature is refreshing to deer, especially after their coats start to thicken up. They can move around more in daylight without overheating. Here is a short podcast episode with more: The Best Weather Days For Deer Hunting

Time of Day, This changes as the year goes on. In the early season, evenings are generally better. When hot days begin to cool in the evening, deer start to move. In the pre-rut, mornings are generally better because bucks begin to cruise looking for early estrus does. During the rut, all day is a good time to hunt because deer are constantly moving. And in the late season, evenings are usually best because pressured deer often will move little during the day until it starts to get dark, and they go looking for food.

Season. Your property will likely have more deer activity at one point of the season. If you have lots of greenery and soft cover that goes down with the frost, the early season may be better for you. If you have dense hard cover, later in the season may be best as deer have fewer places to hide. You need to find out when your land is at its peak and make sure you focus your time and energy then. I hunt one early season location that is best the first 3-4 weeks of the season. After that, its draw reduces drastically, so I hunt it hard early on and almost always leave with a deer. 

Managing Hunting Pressure

One of the biggest mistakes deer hunters make is overhunting their spots. When you are dealing with smaller properties and fewer spots, this happens much more easily. If you want to have a higher percentage of successful hunts, then you need to hunt less. That sounds like a contradiction but if you hunt a spot more than 2 days in a row, your chances of taking a deer, especially a buck drop dramatically.

Pressure is applied to a property when deer can see, hear, or smell you in a place they do not normally detect people. By a trail they walk, on a food plot, or near a bedding area. Even if you live 200 yards away, they may be perfectly content with moving all around your house, yard and shed. But step 50 yards into the woods and you’ve entered their domain where they do not expect you. Even something that small can impact deer habits. Too much pressure will push deer away from your land or push their activity into the safety of the nighttime.

The best way to manage pressure is leave as little scent behind as possible, use the wind to keep your scent away from deer, and do not be seen or heard in an area. In other words, do not be in the woods near your best hunting spots often.

I never want to hunt the same stand two days in a row. I prefer to not hunt the same location more than once a week in these situations. What will help you doubly here is hunting the weather. If you wait for temperature drops. you will naturally hunt fewer days because only a few days are ideal every couple of weeks. This both gives you the best chance to hunt deer on high movement days, and also helps you keep from burning out your spots on poorer days. For more you should watch my video: Should You Hunt Deer All Day From Dark To Dark? Long vs. Short Hunts.

If you want to hunt more, you need to have more locations. Hunt the weaker locations on the poor weather days and save your prime spots for ideal weather and wind conditions.

How To Ask For Permission To Hunt

People often struggle with getting access to private hunting land. And people with 100-acre farms may get a lot of requests to hunt on their land and just do not want to be asked any more. However, folks with 15 acres may not get many requests at all and may be more approachable to letting someone archery hunt on their land in the early season.

When asking for permissions do not try to ask for lifetime access to a parcel, or even a whole year of access. If you can ask for something smaller, like perhaps a month, you are more likely to gain some consideration. And do not ask empty handed. Offering to pay may or may not be viable for you but offering to help maintain the land is often more valuable to the landowner. See if there is a project you can assist with or do for them. This builds relationships, and relationship can get you more access in the future. 

Then be sure to follow-up by sharing venison, a pie around the holidays, box of donuts in the summer, etc. Build relationship, show you are not a freeloader, and you may end up with a permanent place to hunt and the landowners blessing to plant food or modify the habitat to some degree. 

Conclusions & Recommendations

Having hundreds of acres to hunt deer is nice and a small parcel does start you at a disadvantage, but you can make up much of the difference if you hunt smarter and with more discipline. You can turn a small property into a bustling deer habitat that gives you great levels of success season after season. It will take more strategy, more study, and more planning. But you can actually spend less, hunt less and still have great success if you play the game well. Check out my video on the subject to go even further.

Be sure to listen to The New Hunters Guide Podcast and check us out on YouTube

Till next time. God bless you, and go get em in the woods!

George Konetes Ph.D. – Founder and Host of the New Hunters Guide.

The New Hunters Guide is simply what George wishes he would have had when learning how to hunt; a single place to get practical hands on knowledge about different kinds of hunting, gear, strategy, and tips that can improve your comfort and fun factor in the woods.

When you hunt the coldest days of the year, half of the hunt is battling the elements, and that is a battle you can win with the right gear and preparation. You do not always need to spend big money on top brand gear either, the biggest thing you can do is follow proven principles. On this episode I talk about the strategies and gear you need to hunt the coldest days of the late season.

Here are some of the resources mentioned in this episode:

When it comes to comfort, acclimating to the cold is an important step that can be easily overlooked. The more time you spend outside in cold weather the more used to it you will become and the more comfortably you will be able to hunt in cold weather. That does not mean your body is better able to withstand the cold, it simply means you no longer need to be in 70-degree temperatures to feel comfortable.

Cold weather gear should consist of two main things, layers and barriers. Layers keep the warmth close to your body, and barriers keep the elements out that would plunder that warmth. You cannot have one or the other in the late season, you must have both. That does not mean you must have the most expensive gear on the market to keep warm, there are many reasonably priced layer and barrier options.  They may not use GORE-TEX or Primaloft but they will do the job almost as well and for a fraction of the cost.

There are some high-end brands that make some tremendous late season hunting gear like First Lite, Sitka, Cabela’s, and many more. But you can get much of the same benefit for a fraction of the cost if you understand what you are looking for in gear and piece together what you need from more modest brands. Don’t let the marketing hype fool you, you can stay warm by wearing almost anything if you understand how to use layers and barriers and pick your materials wisely. It might take more time, research, and knowledge, but you can build late season gear affordably. 

The same layer and barrier philosophy needs to be applied for every piece of gear, not just your parka and bibs. Boots, hats, gloves, facemasks, and everything else should work to keep the warmth in and the elements out. Addition items can be very helpful like hand warmers, body warmers, or even heated vests, socks, and coats. 

Listen to the podcast episode for all of the information.

 

My big regret with the Mossberg 940 Pro Turkey is not getting one sooner. This shotgun won the Caliber Award for “Best New Shotgun” of the year and sold out. Mossberg could not make them fast enough. Why was it such a big hit? I will answer that question in depth in this review as well as the pros and cons from my field trials and pattern testing, but the short answer is that this shotgun is the perfect combination of performance, features, reliability, and price point.

Is the 940 Pro Turkey the greatest turkey hunting shotgun ever made? No. But I think it is the best gun you can get for the money.  It will not be the best fit for all turkey hunters due to different people valuing different features and it certainly has a few weak points. But Mossberg did not build this shotgun to compete with high end European sporting guns, they built it to be a rugged workhorse that you are not afraid to drag into the woods in all-weather looking for spring gobblers.

This is a turkey hunter’s shotgun, and this review is written by a turkey hunter.

Why This Turkey Hunting Shotgun?

My journey toward the Mossberg 940 Pro Turkey started with a decision to buy the Mossberg 940 Pro Waterfowl. For years I had been using a Mossberg 930 to great effect for hunting everything under the sun, from turkeys to ducks to pheasants, crows, and more. But in time I reached the point where I hungered to have a gun setup specifically for wing shooting and another specifically setup for turkey hunting.  When the 940 Pro line was launched, the path forward was obvious.

I wanted an upgrade from the 930 but I wanted to keep the same controls, mechanism, and feel so I could shoot the guns interchangeably and have the old 930 as a backup gun. Mossberg read my mind. I scoured the market and could not find anything better for the money and my preferences than the 940. I got the 940 Pro Waterfowl first, and eventually wrote this article: Mossberg 940 Pro Waterfowl Review | Tested vs. 930. I knew instantly I needed to get the 940 Pro Turkey also.

I am not a Mossberg junky with a safe full of their guns, but I am a huge fan of the 930 and now the 940. When people ask what the biggest competitor to the 940 Pro Turkey is, I am not able to name a close second in the same price bracket. I am not aware of anyone that gives you the same features and performance for the money.

940 Pro Turkey Features

Below you will find the obligatory list of features that the unwritten laws of reviews compel me to include. But first, the big stories here are the reliability, the optics options, the turkey choke, and then the creature comforts and cosmetics.

Reliability: Mossberg redesigned the gas system for the 940 Pro to be able to go 1,500 shells between cleanings. Most turkey hunters will never shoot that many shells over the lifetime of any dedicated turkey gun, so gunking up should never be a problem. Thus far, this gun has fired everything I’ve put in it, cycled perfectly and without one malfunction. Its reliability is excellent.

Optics: The stock fiber optic front bead works great, its perfect for turkey hunting. But this gun stands out because it comes with a removable plate that enables you to mount a recessed Shield RMSc-pattern micro dot sight with two screws. You could add a rail and use a scope, but the red dot just drops in, the gun is made for it. The sight sits down inside of the receiver which keeps it low profile, close to the gun, and still enables you to use the stock sights if needed. I’ll share more about the Holosun 507k X2 Red Dot that I mounted on the gun shortly.

Choke: Mossberg equips this shotgun with their X-Factor XX-Full Turkey Choke, which is a serious choke tube. This is not just any old factory choke. It competes with the best chokes in the industry, including those with tighter constriction and fancier marketing. You will see the specifics in a later section when I talk about my test data. But do not assume you will need to buy another choke to get the most out of this gun. The X-Factor may be all you need.

Full Features List

  • 12 Gauge 2 ¾” & 3”
  • Optic-Ready
  • Drilled and Tapped Receiver
  • Clean-running Gas-vent System
  • Quick-empty Magazine Release
  • Adjustable Length of Pull
  • Self-Draining Stock
  • Oversized Charging Handle
  • Cut Out Loading Port
  • HIVIZ CompSight Fiber Optic Sight
  • Barrel Length 24″ or 18.5″
  • Mossy Oak – Greenleaf Camo Finish
  • X-Factor XX-Full Turkey Choke Tube, Constriction: 0.670
  • 4+1 Capacity, comes with a removable plug to 2+1
  • Synthetic Stock with Adjustable Length of Pull, Cast, and Drop
  • Weighs 7.5 lbs.

Holosun 507k X2 Red Dot Review

Why did I pick this red dot? Well, I asked someone I know that hunts turkeys with this shotgun for a few recommendations for optics and they wrote back with just one, the Holosun 507k X2 Red Dot. Knowing them, that was all I needed. So, I went straight for 507k. This optic has really shown itself to be superb. First, it fits perfectly, like it was milled just for this gun. I am pretty sure you can remove it and put it back on later without losing your zero, it’s that precise.

The 507k was actually designed for concealed carry pistol applications which means it is rugged, dependable, and very small. It is about 1 inch wide, 1.6 inches long, and once mounted is about an inch high. I couldn’t beleive how small it was when I opened the box. It is a strong, solid, tiny piece of equipment that takes this shotgun to the next level.

It is crystal clear and has an adjustable reticle. You want a red dot? No problem. You want a circle with crosshair outline, no problem. You want a circle with crosshair outline with a red dot in the middle, just click the button again. It is that easy. 

The 507k has adjustable brightness and perfect clarity under all lighting conditions that I’ve yet seen. The battery is rated for 50,000 hours and it has an adjustable auto shutoff feature with shake awake. That means after the amount of time you set, it turns off, but as soon as you move the gun it kicks back on. You can of course manually turn the sight off as well. And it has adjustable brightness. You can set this thing up an impressible number of ways and adjusting the zero is very fast and easy.

Is the Holosun 507k X2 Red Dot the best optic on the market? I don’t know. There are alot of good optics on the market. But I am not sure how anyone else could make one better than this for turkey hunting. 

The Case For Optics

Opinion is somewhat split on the need to use optics for turkey hunting. I think it is obvious that you do not need one, but you may be greatly helped by using one. There are numerous reasons but there is one big one that becomes more and more evident to me the further I go as a hunter and wing shooter.

Proper aim is contingent on shotgun fit and mounting the shotgun the same way every single time. Change your shooting position a little and you change where your pattern goes. There is a lot to say about this topic, check out my article How To Fit A Shotgun To You for more.

This does not matter as much with big 30″ patterns at 40 yards, but when it comes to turkey hunting and 10″ patterns, you can totally miss a bird simply because you are not holding the shotgun the way you normally do. And most turkey hunting occurs while sitting on the ground, in any number of positions that can compromise your aim.

Having a red dot or even a low power scope can help fix that problem. If you can put the dot or the crosshairs on the turkey then your odds of connecting are very good, even if your shotting position is off by a little. Optics can also help in low light, aid in approximating range, and give you the ability to perfectly sight in your preferred choke and turkey load. Mossberg essentially built the 940 Pro Turkey around the optic because it is often seen as one of the most important parts of a dedicated turkey shotgun.

Pros & Cons

The 940 Pro Turkey clearly shines in many areas, most of which I have already addressed at length but here is the simplified list.

Pros

  • Very reliable
  • Short barrel options 
  • Very ergonomic
  • Fully adjustable stock
  • Easy to load and operate
  • Weather resistant
  • The recessed optic capability
  • Quality choke
  • Excellent trigger
  • Good value for the money

Cons

  • Like most camo paint jobs, this one can easily scratch off.
  • Will not accept 3.5″ shells. However, I personally am not in favor of 3.5″ shells, to the point where I did the below video titled Why You Should NOT Hunt With 3.5″ Shotgun Shells, so this is not a con for me, but it will be for some people.
  • The front sling mount swivel does not feel as sturdy as it should. Mine feels like it might pull out at some point. This is cheap and easy to fix, I’ve had to do it with other shotguns, but this is a dumb weak point to have. 

Test Results

Like I previously said, I did not just unbox this shotgun and review it. I have done tests, drills, and patterning with it. Here is the performance I got from the first few turkey loads that I tested including the Winchester Long Beard XR, Winchester Super X Turkey, and Remington Nitro Turkey. It is typical that the Long Beard is so much better than the other lead loads, which is why I did this full-length article just on that ammunition: Winchester Long Beard XR Review.

I did some other shooting drills with it, including what I call the running turkey drill, that simulates shooting at a bird three times that is running away from you after missing the first shot because it was too close and your pattern too tight! I also did a six-shot point and shoot drill with reload to see how easily the gun points and how accurate you can be with a red dot when shooting quickly. I will release and post a video of those drills soon, but in short, the shotgun performed exceptionally well. 

I also tested several of the best choke tubes on the market with the Mossberg 940 Pro Waterfowl including the Muller UFO choke and the Carlsons Longbeard choke. To my surprise, at 40 yards the stock X-Factor XX-Full Turkey Choke had the tightest pattern. I was fairly impressed at the performance, and I am very glad that the gun is sold with a very capable turkey choke. This was all done with lead shot, TSS brings another dimension to the equation, for more check out my podcast episode: Should You Hunt Turkeys With Tungsten Shot?

A Good All-Purpose Shotgun?

Tests provide tangible data but there are also intangibles that are very important, such as balance, feel, swing, ergonomics, etc. Often firearms sound good on paper and then in the hand they are sorely lacking. That is not the case with this semi-automatic shotgun. Now, feel is a subjective thing by its very nature. What feels good to one hunter may not feel good to another. So take this part of the review with a grain of salt.

In my hands this gun feels perfect. The fore-end stock is the perfect size, shape, and thickness for my hand, everything lines up good, and there is no undesirable bulk anywhere. It points very naturally and has very nice balance with the 24″ barrel that I tested.  I will not likely be taking any arial shots, but I would have complete confidence in the gun if I wanted to. They built this gun on the 940 platform, which was first and foremost for flying targets, so it is built and balanced very nicely. It is better than you would expect for a turkey hunting shotgun.

If you wanted to buy this as a multipurpose shotgun, you could certainly hunt turkeys with it all season long then change your choke and optic and go ahead and hunt ducks, pheasants, etc. That isn’t why I bought it, but the gun feels good in the hand and would do just great for wing shooting as well. I do not think the 24″ barrel would be any handicap for arial targets. The 18.5″ barreled version may not be as good as an all-purpose hunting shotgun, by the 24″ should do any job you want it to.  Alternatively, you could just buy a longer barrel to use for other types of hunting if that was your goal.

Conclusions & Recommendations

The Mossberg 940 Pro Turkey is a shotgun that comes built to be a turkey hunter’s best friend. Solid construction, smart controls, great balance, and perfect features made this my top choice when looking for a dedicated turkey gun. And the cons are minimal.

As of this review the shotgun has an MSRP of $1189 and I have seen it for sale at store prices as low as $850. You can certainly get a cheaper turkey hunting shotgun, but you can’t get everything the 940 Pro Turkey has for less. It is a great gun; I highly recommend it. 

Be sure to listen to The New Hunters Guide Podcast, and check us out on YouTube

Till next time. God bless you, and go get em in the woods!

George Konetes Ph.D. – Founder and Host of the New Hunters Guide.

The New Hunters Guide is simply what George wishes he would have had when learning how to hunt; a single place to get practical hands on knowledge about different kinds of hunting, gear, strategy, and tips that can improve your comfort and fun factor in the woods.

When the weather, habitat, and food sources fully shift to their winter phase, your hunting strategies should also shift to give you the best possible chance of success in the deer woods. On this episode I talk about how to hunt deer in January and what is unique about that month in the whitetail season.

January is a unique time of the deer season. Everything is different in how the woods look and feel. The cover is gone, the food is scarce, the days are short, and the air is cold. Deer are very much huntable, but they are not in the same places doing the same things they were during the rut. 

Shorter days means less daylight movement, but the deer are still there. In order to hunt them you must see things through their eyes and understand their core needs, namely food and cover. Finding food sources is more important now than ever and finding food near any kind of cover is like finding gold now that woods are bare and empty.

Deer are also less stressed as the busiest time of the hunting season has passed, however due to how wide open the woods are, spooking deer at this time of the season can send them running far away where they might discover better places to hang out. Stealth is of the essence.

If you are hunting deer in January you must realize that the deer are less forgiving. If you make a mistake or push the deer, those particular deer may not return for days or weeks. The season could be over by the time you get another chance at them. This doesn’t mean other deer may not come around but the bottom line is they are more skittish and have to run further in order to find reasonable cover so that they feel safe again.

So strategy and tacks need to change when hunting this time of the year. However, if you are willing to make a few adjustments and hunt this part of the season for what it is, you can be very successful in the deer woods. For some people, this is their favorite time to be out.

Listen to podcast episode for all the info.

Nothing can help you bring home more ducks than setting bad habits right. You cannot spend your way out of bad habits and no amount of gear can compensate for them. On this episode I talk about how to identify and correct some habits that will make you a better duck hunter. 

All you need to do to form a bad hunting habit is nothing. Making bad habits will happen by default, breaking them takes humility and work. But there is no faster way to improve and become a more successful waterfowl hunter and breaking bad habits. 

Some bad habits include:

  1. Not Practicing – Nothing will help you take home more ducks than practicing in the office season and there is no better and more realistic way to practice than by doing a few sporting clays courses. Put some of your gear money into a practice fund.
  2. Not Testing – Every gun, ammo, and choke may produce different and sometimes very different results. If you do not pattern test your gun every time you change something in your setup, you will not know what your performance and limitations are. 
  3. Lack of Stealth – Whether you are in a blind or on foot, stealth is vital to duck hunting. It is too easy to get careless and think you are invincible because you don’t see any ducks. But that doesn’t mean the ducks cannot see you. Do everything you can to minimize movement and keep your volume level low.

Listen to the episode to hear more about these and other bad habits. 

Everyone wants to hunt turkeys on endless thousands of acres of unpressured land, but the reality is often far from that. Some people only have access to small properties, sometimes just a few acres. Can you really hunt turkeys on small parcels and find success? The short answer is of course. But you cannot hunt those small properties the same way that you hunt large properties, you need specific strategies and tactics for small land.

There are two main approachs that I am going to cover in this article for hunting gobblers on small properties. The first is your traditional scout and hunt, just like you might do on public land, but with limited space. The second assumes you can enhance the property to draw more turkeys and make the most of a tiny parcel.

How Small Can A Property Be To Hunt Turkeys?

You can hunt turkeys on properties as small as one acre. It’s not easy, but you can do it. And since you don’t have to track a turkey after a good hit, you can shoot and recover it in a very small area. I consider a property small if it is between 1-40 acres. At that size you are unable to run and gun much, you likely have limited locations you can setup, and your ability to move and use terrain to your advantage is going to be limited. So, most of these tips are going to be aimed at properties in that size range. Want more info on this subject on the go? Download my podcast episode: How to Hunt Turkey’s on Small Properties. 

First Thing – Are There Turkeys?

Whether you have 1 acre to hunt or 1,000 acres, there is a common truth. There must be turkeys there if you are going to successfully hunt them. The advantage of larger properties is there are higher odds that they will hold turkeys, but you still need to find them. Small properties have their own kind of advantage and that is you can more easily scout a small area and look for turkey sign.

You need to scout. Not just to find out if turkeys are on the property you plan to hunt but to figure out how they are using that property and when. The four best ways to do this are by walking around stealthily before the season and looking for tracks, droppings, scratches, features, etc. The second is with binoculars from a distance and the third is by using trail cameras. Number four might cost you some sleep, but if you get out there before dawn and listen for gobbling you can learn ALOT.

If you can find the birds you can hunt them. Things are not necessarily over if you do not have turkeys actively on your property. The beauty of turkey hunting is you can call birds in from other places. But that is harder to do and it is hard to scout those other places if you do not have permission to hunt there. Your ears and binoculars are going to be the tools available to you. For more, check my podcast episode: How To Find A Great Turkey Hunting Spot.

Seasonal Turkey Occupancy

People have a notion that turkeys in the winter means turkeys in the spring, or turkeys in the fall means the birds will be there when the weather warms back up. In truth, today’s turkey behavior may give no useful indication about where they will be a couple months from now. The reason is that turkeys move, they cover ground, they look for what they need right now.

Turkey’s need different habitat at different times of the year. However, spring turkey locations this spring may be telling of where the birds will be next spring. If a property has good spring habitat, then it will likely be a place that is pleasing to turkeys every spring. Nothing is guaranteed but turkeys do tend to frequent old stomping grounds.  The same is true for other seasons, this year’s fall hotspot will likely be hot next fall too, but they may be nowhere near that area come spring.

So while I am scouting for turkey’s year-round, whenever I am in the woods, I know where I find them today may not help me find them in the spring. But the time I invest scouting around the spring season can pay dividends for future spring hunting seasons.

But I never Did It Like That Before…

If you do not have many acres to hunt, you may not be able to hunt the way you would prefer to. If you do not have big trees you may not be able to hunt sitting up against a tree like many turkey hunters. You will have to explore other ways to hunt that area. Bushes, blinds, and ground cover may need utilized. Terrain features, self-standing turkey chairs, or even pop-up blinds might be what you need.

If you cannot hunt the part of the property that is most likely to hold turkeys because it is not wooded, you do not have the luxury of just going somewhere else, you have to improvise. Keep in mind, the goal is to take turkey’s not to hunt your traditional way, or the way people do it on TV. Think outside the box, look for ways to use the land, the shadows, the elevation changes, anything you can to get a chance at a gobbler.

Learn Your Limits & How To Cheat Them

Property boarders are the arch nemesis of small parcel turkey hunters. Beautiful land divided up by invisible lines that dictate where you can and cannot go.  People often setup so that for a turkey to come into shotgun range, it will have to cross onto the land they are allowed to hunt. They setup markers, mental notes, etc, and this is good, you MUST know the boundaries. But there are ways to cheat.

Sometimes being 60 yards back from the property line is too far back to finish the deal. Keep in mind you can move right up to the property line to call, you even go side to side along the border and then retreat back deeper into the property if you can get a bird’s interest. You can also call and then move along the border quietly and setup with your shotgun aiming parallel to the property line, ready to take a shot from the side as soon as a big tom walks on your property. Think in three dimensions and with some fluidity and you can expand your options. A good hunting map app like OnX Hunt or HuntWise can be very handy for knowing exactly where you can and cannot hunt, here is a written review where I compared both.

The Strategic Sit

The most commonly used turkey hunting method on little properties is the strategic sit. This involves scouting and working to learn the best place for turkeys to be on your property, the best place you can hide to hunt that place, and then sitting in ambush. You will call, but not likely move much or at all. This can feel more like deer hunting than turkey hunting, but it gets the job done. And truth be told, many turkey hunters prefer to hunt like this.

The strategic sit hinges on strategy. Picking the best spot and hunting it the best way possible. Your options are limited so long stealthy hunts are going to give you the best odds. But to power through those long hunts, you must have the concrete facts that only scouting can produce; that there are turkeys in the area. Whether you hear them or not. If the results of your scouting are poor then your motivation will be poor too. Good scouting produces good strategy, and strong drive to stick to the plan because you know you have a real chance to succeed. People often ask about decoy use. There is a time for decoys but often I think they can be a hindrance. For more, here is an article I did: How To Hunt Turkeys Without Decoys & Be Even More Successful.

It Almost Feels Like Cheating

Some people lament the use of a ground blind or pop-up blind for turkey hunting. I used to be one of them. But I became acquainted with the tool while hunting a very small property. I have since come to adore ground blinds for this kind of hunting because of the many advantages. Yes, I would rather be covering ground, going toe to toe to gobblers, using the terrain and everything I can to bag one. But if I am hunting a small property, the ground blind provides unparalleled concealment, comfort, and a different but fun way to hunt.

I like to use mesh on the windows of my ground blinds which offers even more concealment. I have found myself surrounded by turkeys when in a ground blind, birds within a few feet of me. The rush, the thrill, the learning, are very intense. I never get that close when sitting against a tree, at least not for long. But I’ve sat in the middle of feeding and dusting hens for half an hour, not moving a muscle, trying not to breath at all, not even wanted to blink so I do not spook them, while waiting for gobblers to appear.

I think the ground blind is a great tool, and it provides fun and excitement of a different kind than more active styles of turkey hunting. The beauty is we can have it all. You can travel to public land and cover miles, and you can sit in a blind on private land and not move a muscle while the birds come to you. We don’t have to pick; we can do both. For the last few seasons, I’ve been using a very large Barronett Ground Blind. This works good because I can easily fit two large adults with gear in it and it is very sturdy, the most durable blind I’ve yet to use. Blinds are always smaller than they sound, take the number of adults a blind is rated to fit and subtract one to get a more realistic estimate. 

The Wandering Gobbler

Sometimes you will hear gobblers at first light near or on your small property. Other times you will hear nothing at dawn but the birds may make their way to your location after a few hours. Sometimes there are no regular birds on or near your property that you can call in. But there is always hope. There is the wandering gobbler.

Gobblers pretty much never stop moving during the morning, they are always on the go, looking for hens, food, and more hens, sometimes they will wander outside of their regular patterns, even going miles in a day. These birds can come within ear shot of you, hear your occasional calling and come in for a visit. They may or may not gobble. They can come out of nowhere and are unpredictable. But they provide hope for all turkey hunters who cannot move to another spot. They also give a reason to continue calling from time to time, even when you do not hear a response. For more, here is a podcast episode I did on How To Hunt Silent Turkeys.

The Circuit

Just because you have a small property does not mean you cannot move. If you have at least a few acres you can establish some kind of circuit that you can walk from place to place or from property corner to corner and call for turkeys if there is no early gobbling or activity. This is in some ways similar to running and gunning but your goal is to reach out beyond the borders of your property as far as you can to draw birds in closer.

You will want to find or prepare travel routes that should let you move around the property quietly and behind cover. You will also want to identify good cover at each point you intend to stop, and call from incase a gobbler responds and begins to come in. The good news is that you can learn your land exceptionally well when you do not have much of it. You can learn every tree, every hill, every bush. You can get to a point where you walk your circle on autopilot with great stealth.

Does Moving Help?

Does moving around on a property really improve your odds of success? It depends. On 3 acres, probably not. moving around is likely a liability as you may spoke the birds you are hoping to attract. If you have 40 acres however, you may have several distinct spots you can stop and hunt and be able to locate gobblers that may have been out of call range from your home base spot. You may have birds on the property that you can move closer to or try to get in front of. Your options increase a lot when you have a few more acres.

I have walked a circle around a 12-acre property, calling at maybe 4 or 5 distinct locations only to sit down at my last point on the circuit and see a turkey within minutes that was excited by what it thought was a hen, making its way across the property. You do not want to move very fast when doing this, try to stay at turkey speed. You want to play the part; this kind of movement can do multiple things to get birds engaged. Check out this video I did for even more strategies to hunt small properties.

Ammo And Chokes For Small Properties

Typically, on a small property, you are not going to be able to take long range shots. You also want to keep the turkey and your shotgun pellets on the property you are permitted to hunt. So, you tend to take shorter shots, or as I call them, normal shots. Usually, you are shooting at turkeys at an average of 30 yards or so. To do this, I am going to prefer smaller pellets and milder turkey chokes. Maybe that is #6 lead or #9 TSS with your standard XX Full choke. I normally use Winchester Long Beard XR or BOSS Tom TSS, I did these full reviews on each.

You do not need ultra-tight chokes because the pattern can be too tight at close range, and you can miss. I like smaller pellets because you then have more of them and better odds of a quick humane finish. ALWAYS pattern your shotgun in advance and choose a load and choke that will let you effectively hunt the ranges your property affords you. The gold standard is to get 100+ pellets in a 10″ circle at the range you plan to hunt. If you can do that, your ammo and choke are perfect. And keep in mind, within 30 yards, nothing can kill a turkey any deader than cheap #7.5 target loads. You only need “turkey ammunition” for longer ranges. 

Improving Properties

If you own the property or have permission to improve the habitat, there is a lot you can do for minimal cost to make a small property more desirable to a turkey. You can both draw more turkeys and hold more birds throughout the season. It may take some work though.

In a given day, turkeys are going to want roosting trees, cover, open areas, dusting areas, strut zones, food, and water. The smaller the property, the fewer of these things you will be able to provide. But the more of them you do provide, the more draw your land can have for gobblers.

How To Improve Your Turkey Habitat

Roosting trees are either there or not. There is no short-term fix here. All you can do is seek to draw them to your large trees with the hopes of getting them to roost close by if possible. Cover and open areas can be facilitated. Turkeys like brush to hide and escape and open areas to feed and be able to see predators from afar. If you have lots of thick brush, then clearing some of it can help improve the draw.

If you have lots of woods, then taking down a half-acre of canopy can enable you to create a small patch of grass on one side with regeneration and cover on the other. Dusting areas and strut zones are harder to fabricate but they are often found in flat dry open areas with low vegetation. Toms want to be seen strutting, and good dust is often found in areas with bare sunbaked dirt. Create those and you give turkey’s more of what they like.

Water provides some benefit but only if there are no other easily accessed water sources within about a half mile. A stream, spring, creek, or even just a few puddles is all turkeys need, normally they only take one short drink per day, depending on their diet.  Food on the other hand is maybe the single biggest thing you can do to attract turkeys.

Food Plots & Clover For Turkeys

There are many things you can plant as food for turkeys that will drawn them to your property, but there is only one that I recommend as a starting point for new hunters and that is white clover. Clover is easy to plant, and you do not need any heavy equipment. All you need to do is create bare dirt. This can be done with a lot of determination and a weed eater with a big pack of heavy line. It can also be done chemically with Roundup and similar products, a few applications in the spring and summer can create a perfect place to plant for the fall.

You do not need to plant acres and acres of clover, in fact just a 1/4 of an acre can make a big difference. For the last few years I’ve been using Imperial Whitetail Clover, which I think may be the best seed out there, and for a small food plot it can be very inexpensive. Even just 1/10 of an acre can help.  For a micro plot like that, you’ll need $10 of clover seed and $20 of pelletized lime. 

The best part about clover is it grows back every year and provides high protein forage during the spring turkey season. It also works great as a grass that attracts bugs for turkeys to eat, and it is fairly low in the spring, giving the birds a nice open area. So you get multiple benefits. Deer like it a lot as well. For more, listen to my podcast episode: Turkey Hunting Food Plot Basics.

Conclusion & Recommendations

A small property can be a great place to hunt turkey’s, especially if you are able to add some food and improve the habitat. Even a micro property can be a place you can take turkeys. The most important thing you can do is keep your mind open, think outside the box, and think beyond the season. You need to do everything possible to stack the deck in your favor. And that means scouting, strategy, and habitat improvements. 

I have taken lots of turkeys on smaller pieces of land and I have come to really enjoy this style of turkey hunting. In fact, I now enjoy it just as much as I do hunting big public land. Each is fun and has its own pros and cons. I hope this article equips you to make the most of the opportunities you have available and have the most possible fun hunting turkeys!

Be sure to listen to The New Hunters Guide Podcast and check us out on YouTube

Till next time. God bless you, and go get em in the woods!

George Konetes Ph.D. – Founder and Host of the New Hunters Guide.

The New Hunters Guide is simply what George wishes he would have had when learning how to hunt; a single place to get practical hands on knowledge about different kinds of hunting, gear, strategy, and tips that can improve your comfort and fun factor in the woods.

If you have a whole day to hunt ducks, why only hunt them in the morning? The truth is you can cram three unique duck hunts into a single day if you live in the right area. On this episode I talk about how to do everything possible to take home a limit of ducks over the course of a day.

The morning hunt is the traditional one that most people identify with, sitting in a blind with decoys out in front and calling birds in. This is a great way to hunt, and effective in many places if you’ve done your scouting. But it is far from the only way. This is likely the best way to start the day though. Get out early and try to bring home a limit of ducks early. 

The mid-day hunt takes on a different form. Once you have packed things up and gotten something to eat, you can run and gun, cover ground, and work to sneak up on birds on ponds, streams, and other bodies of water. This can be just as effective if you know the water in your area and have put together a good circuit.

The evening hunt is your last chance but it provides a good chance to get it done. The premise here is you have a whole day to hunt and do not want to go home empty handed or shorthanded. Hunting at the end of the day can be just as productive as any other time.

Listen to the episode to hear about all 3 hunting strategies for an all-day hunt.