Most turkey hunting failures result from three main issues. If you can fix these, you will start taking turkeys. Some take experience to overcome but there are some shortcuts you can take. On this episode I give a very focused strategy to help new hunters overcome their biggest weakness and get their first gobblers.

The three main issues that ruin turkey hunts are:

No Turkeys. No matter how good your gear is or how impressive your calls may be, if there are not turkeys in the area you are hunting then it is all for nothing. There must be turkeys around to have a chance at turkeys. And if you want to take home gobblers, you cannot leave this up for chance. You must scout and figure out where the turkeys spend their time. Look for tracks, droppings, scratches, strut zones, feathers, trail camera footage, or listen for early morning gobbles. Employ any and all means possible to find out if there are turkeys around. This makes all the difference in the world.

Not Stealthy Enough. Turkey hunters are too often careless. Talking while they walk in, breaking branches, pushing through heavy brush, taking phone calls, loudly charging their shotgun in the woods, etc. Stealth is absolutely critical for keeping turkeys unaware and off guard. And then, even once finally situated, many hunters cannot sit still, they move and stretch and open loud candy wrappers. Turkey hunting is a game of stealth, you need to disappear. One movement or sound at the wrong moment will cost you a hunt. Never assume a turkey will gobble far away to alert you to be on guard. So many times, a bird came in, noticed you, and disappeared without you even knowing they were near.

Poor Calling AKA Overcalling. I think that you can get 80% of the benefit of calling with 20% of the skill. The basics are all you need to get turkeys to come in. Do not play with fancy or exotic calls that you are not comfortable with. Stick with the basics, call sparingly and stop calling when a tom is on his way to you and is closing distance. People often mess up a hunt by overcalling. They get so excited that they just call back every time the bird gobbles. Every now and then this will work but you need experience to judge that effectively. Toms want hens to come to them, they are gobbling to let the hens know where they are so the hens can come over. If you are close by and constantly calling, then a gobbler knows where you are and will likely just keep working to entice you to come over for a visit. He will get hung up too often. This is another reason I caution against decoys and did the article: How To Hunt Turkeys Without Decoys.

Each of these issues can ruin a hunt but each can be addressed. You can scout in advance and find good places to hunt. And there are ways to amplify your steal capabilities if you have identified a good hunting location. Ground blinds for example can mask your movement and minimize your sound. They can help you overcome core weaknesses that most new hunters take years to improve. 

Listen to the full podcast episode to hear it all!

So, you have a gobbler coming right in and he stops just outside of range and will not come any closer. Every turkey hunter has or will experience these moments. But the hunt isn’t over, you can still get that turkey, but it might require a change of approach. On this episode I cover several strategies for successfully hunting hung up gobblers. 

Why do gobblers get hung up? People often think there is some mystical reason why a turkey would come in hot and then stall out just beyond your range. But this is actually very normal turkey behavior. Typically, the hen turkey comes to the gobbler when he calls or when she sees him. So, the gobbler may be coming in quickly to close the distance to get close enough to be seen and heard by the hen. And once he makes visual contact or comes within audio range, he will begin to call and strut to get the hen’s attention. He is trying to impress the lady bird.

Trying to get the gobbler to come right to the obvious hen is a little bit against nature, it certainly works sometimes, but it can be very problematic other times.

So, when a turkey is moving in quickly to your position and he sees your decoy 80 yards away, he may assume the hen can see him and he has gotten close enough to be seen and heard so he will start gobbling and strutting to win over the hen, expecting her to come to him. The same thing can happen when he gets in close, and the hunter continues calling. He may not see the hen, but he can hear that she is close, so assuming she is behind a nearby tree, the tom will start to gobble and strut trying to get her to pop out and come over.

When the turkey hunter goes quiet and has no decoy, the gobbler continues to come closer trying to close the distance and figure out what direction the hen has moved off to, he often comes to the last place he heard the calling from in order to try and figure out which direction to search next. So just by ceasing to call and not having a decoy you can prevent some hang ups.

But what do you do after the tom has hung up? There are numerous strategies you can employ to change things up and get the turkey to commit and cover the last few yards worth of ground to come into range. 

Listen to this podcast episode to hear all about it!

Does all of the best turkey hunting happen early in the morning? Some professionals say yes, but others say no. The bottom line is that there is still good turkey to be had all day long IF you know how to take advantage of it. On this episode, I give strategies to successfully hunt spring gobblers later in the morning after many hunters have already left for breakfast. 

Turkeys are indeed the most vocal early in the morning, you can often figure out where they are roosting and hear some very exciting gobbling. This is fun and exhilarating but that still does not guarantee success, even when you have the perfect spot, and you are surrounded by turkeys. It can still be hard to connect when everything is working perfectly because the turkeys have their own plans, and we cannot always get them to do what we want.

As the morning wears on, turkeys get less vocal and are harder to locate. Many hunters get bored with this and head out of the woods, but the truth is, the odds of a turkey coming in later in the morning may increase. Once gobblers have bred the hens they were with at first light, they often find themselves alone and are more likely to take action when they hear you calling. But they may gobble little or not at all. They make quietly and slowly sneak in to find you. 

If you make some adjustments to your hunting style and strategy you can have very successful hunts after sleeping in and lazily strolling into the woods at 9:00 a.m. or 10:00 a.m. The big key here is stealth, moving slowly, quietly, and with cover whenever possible. You are more likely to spook gobblers because you won’t hear them to know where they are, so you have to move quietly.

There are several ways you can hunt birds this time of day, such as stealthy sits with infrequent calling hoping to ambush a quiet gobbler as he stalks his ways into you or running and gunning to cover ground and create more opportunities. This kind of hunting can be very productive but too often people mess it up and hurt their chances because they make a few simple and easy to avoid mistakes. Taking a little more care can help a lot, especially if you have limited acres to hunt or limited energy to cover lots and lots of ground. 

Listen to the podcast episode to learn more about how to hunt turkeys late, lazy, and quietly. 

When is the right time to upgrade to a dedicated turkey hunting shotgun, and should you? Much of what dedicated turkey guns offer is ergonomic in nature, they provide little functional advantage. However, they do you give you one very important benefit that may be worth the price alone.

Here is a link to the Mossberg 940 Pro Turkey Shotgun and Holosun 507k Review I mentioned in the episode. 

Turkey hunting typically involves a single shot, which means any shotgun with the proper choke can provide optimal performance. So upgrading to a pump action shotgun or a semi-automatic shotgun does not give you much of an advantage. Adding camouflage to the gun provides only a slight benefit, and while a shorter barrel may be helpful, you can always buy a shorter barrel for your current shotgun.

The biggest reason you may want to upgrade to a dedicated turkey gun is the benefit of optics. A good red dot or low power scope can provide you with a massive benefit that regular shotgun sights do not provide. They enable you to hit your target even if your shooting form is compromised due to sitting on the ground in an awkward position. 

I believe that most turkeys which are missed, are missed because the hunter did not mount their shotgun properly due to the rigors associated with hunting from the ground and shooting from an awkward sitting position. They had their front bead on the turkey, but their eye was far enough at an angle that their pattern missed the turkey or only scored a marginal hit.  They then blame the gun, the choke, the ammo, and everything else except the real cause, they shouldered the shotgun in an awkward position.

A good optic can give you a fixed aiming aid that can help you hit the target even if you are somewhat out of alignment. If you miss alot of turkeys, they can be a game changer for you.  In truth a good hunter with proper form does not gain much from adding an optic but turkey hunting often compromises our shooting form. Here my full article that goes deeper into this subject:  How To Fit A Shotgun To You – Length of Pull, Comb Height, & Cast

If your turkey hunting shotgun setup works good for you and you are consistently hitting turkeys then there is no reason to consider a dedicated turkey hunting shotgun. But if a gun that is better tailored to this pursuit appeals to you, and adding an optic may be helpful, then this could be a good purchase decision.

Also keep in mind that if you only use the shotgun for turkey hunting, you can sight it in for your favorite turkey load once and save money vs. having to do it every season when you put an optic back onto an all purchase shotgun. And if you are shooting TSS, that can save you alot of money every year.

Listen to the podcast episode to hear it all! 

Some of the saddest stories in turkey hunting happen after you pull the trigger. And they are nearly 100% preventable. On this episode I am going to talk about what you should do immediately after shooting a turkey to make sure you take the bird home, and you make it home safe. This is about much more than the obvious. 

There are two big concerns that present themselves immediately after pulling the trigger on a turkey.

  1. The first one is staying focused and on task until you can 100% confirm a clean ethical kill and the bird is not just stunned or wounded and about to run or fly away.
  2. The second one is safety for yourself and other people or property. So many things awful things have happened when people let their guard down and begin to celebrate a successful turkey hunt. Adrenaline is pumping, excitement is soaring, and we can easily make bad and unsafe decisions, and I am talking about a lot more than firearms accidents. 

You will want to celebrate a successful turkey hunt, and you should. It is a great accomplishment. But many birds have been lost because people celebrated prematurely, and life and limb have been lost because hunters celebrated recklessly. YOU MUST take responsible action immediately to confirm the kill and then set a handful of events in order to assure safety. Yes, shotgun safety is paramount, but there are other serious injuries that can occur beyond firearms accidents.

When a turkey goes down, even with the cleanest possible kill, it will still often thrash and flail on the ground. Kind of like a chicken with its head cut off. The bird is dead. It is not suffering, but the nervous system of the creature is in shock and muscles will continue to spam, sometimes off and on for a few minutes. It is easy to forget that turkeys are armed with brutal spurs that can cause serious damage to people. Children are especially at risk for being injured as a result of moving too quickly.

The biggest thing to keep in mind is that the hunt is not over until you have confirmed the bird is not breathing and tagged the turkey, and you are not out of danger until you are in your vehicle. Some of the worst accidents happen while walking out of the woods with a dead turkey. You all of these issues are largely preventable.

If the first thing you do is stop and pull out your cell phone to take photos and text people, you may find no bird to take photos of and have no idea where the bird went. You may also find yourself moments away from a terrible injury that you will likely not see coming.

In this podcast episode I share several real-life events from new hunters, professional hunters, and youth hunters where the simple steps I outline were not known or not followed. Taking very simple, obvious precautions can help you make sure you fill your tag with a spring gobbler and get you home in one piece to tell the story.

I also go further still and outline what to do with the turkey once you get home and talk about how to field dress a turkey as well as some wild turkey cooking basics

Listen to the full episode to hear it all.

Turkey vests have a lot of pockets, but what should we put in them? You might be surprised how little you really NEED to take with you hunt turkeys effectively. On this episode I talk about the top 5 things you must keep in your turkey hunting vest at all times!

What should you pack in your turkey vest? This is an often-asked question. But first and foremost, we need to recognize what a turkey vest is and is not. It is not a backpack, but it can give you some of the function of one. It is not a coat, but it can give you some warmth and handy front pockets. It is a very specific and specialized system.

I am a fan of turkey vests because they are a combination backpack, seat, and front pockets. They give you everything you need in a small light package. They can take the place of a backpack and do more, if you use them properly. 

The turkey hunting vest is a very specialized and versatile tool. Some have so many pouches, pockets, and folds, that you could bring enough gear to camp with. I recommend a more minimalist approach, only taking a handful of core necessities. Why? Because I want to travel light. Light is easy, light is fast, light is quiet. All things that are important to turkey hunting.

The more you take the more problems you can have, the more things you can fiddle with and get busted with while moving. The more you have the more noise and the more time you need to get situated. A light vest without bulky noisy cargo is a much more practical tool.

Listen to this podcast episode to hear about the top things you MUST keep in your turkey vest.

Restuarant owners love to hear that the turkeys weren’t gobbling that day because they fill up around 7:00 a.m. or 8:00 a.m. with hunters looking for breakfast who gave up for the day.  We can and MUST break this dependance on gobbling to hunt turkeys, and if you are hunting right, you never need to hear a gobble to hunt all morning and fill your tag.  Listen to this podcast episode to hear it all!

Turkeys gobble for a number of reasons, it is not solely about mating. And they may gobble year-round. Likewise, turkeys can mate without gobbling, it is certainly not required. In fact, they will often not gobble while mating. Weather plays a part in gobbling as well, as do many various other factors, many of which are not fully understood. What we know for sure is that if we hear a turkey, we know one is there. But the opposite is hardly true. Not hearing a turkey only means you don’t hear a turkey. 

First things first, you should not pick a hunting location based on gobbling, you should select it because of sign. Real, tangible evidence that turkeys are in that area. If you scout and do that, you will have something that very few turkey hunters have. Confidence. You can be confident that whether you hear them or not, gobblers are in that area, and you have a chance to call one it and take it home. 

Most turkey hunters have no confidence, if they do not hear turkeys, they assume they do not exist and are not in their area. And without scouting, there is no reason to think they are in your area. So, the hunter who scouts well is not fazed by a lack of vocalizing toms, but the hunter who does not scout has no reason to stick it out if they do not hear any birds.

You can hunt and take turkeys no matter what sounds they make or do not make. It may require a change in strategy, it might take some different tactics, but you absolutely hunt them. And taking a turkey that never gobbled is no less fun! In fact, it is a great challenge, greater feat, and often feels like a greater accomplishment.

Turkey hunting is not birdwatching. If you work hard and do not take the easy way out, you will find turkey nuggets on your table again and again.

Listen to the whole podcast episode to hear more.

 

Most the time it is easy to tell the difference between male and female turkeys, but sometimes it is strangely difficult. Bearded hens can make things more complicated but a lot more can happen that makes it even harder to tell the difference between a hen and a gobbler.

People often ask, what percentage of hens have beards? The answer should be simple but data from researchers varies greatly between 3% and 20%. The most commonly accepted statistic I have found is around 10% of hens have beards. And hen beards tend to be shorter, thinner, and less pronounced than the beard of tom. However, what normally happens is not what always happens.

Hens and toms can share a lot of traits they aren’t supposed to have at times. Hens can have plumage similar to gobblers at times. Gobblers can have no spurs, lighter colors, and different head colorings. Some hens can be larger than normal and some toms can be smaller than usual.

At the end of the day some turkeys can be so mix-matched that it is not possible for even a trained hunter to properly identify them in the field, even if they have them in hand.  You may think I’m joking, but occasionally a bird comes along that even biologists cannot identify without checking its reproductive parts.

The big thing hunters need to know is what are the laws for taking a bird. If a turkey is legal and you want to take it, you probably should. People often say that killing a bearded hen is the same as killing a whole hatch of poults. But the truth is that predation and winter kill more turkeys than anything else.

That bearded hen may get eaten by a coyote by the end of the day. The whole hatch may never last a week if foxes and crows find it. Very few of those birds will live long enough to see the winter and fewer still will survive to breed. Nature consumes many of the turkeys that hunters think they are saving.

But the bottom line is this, if as an seasoned turkey hunter you have come to a point where you prefer to pass on bearded hens for the chance it may help the population then you should. If you’ve never taken a turkey before and you see a legal bird, and you want to take it, you should. Each hunter needs to follow their heart and conscience, not the collective input of Facebook groups. 

Listen to the podcast episode for much more!

There are not many things we hunt where hearing matters more than it does for turkeys. Every gobble, cluck, purr, scratch, and footstep provides us with the strategic audio input we need to hunt these majestic birds. And yet the very practice of hunting turkeys damages our ears, both from gunshots but also loud calling. On this episode I interview Dr. Bill Dickinson, an audiologist and founder of Tetra Hearing, to talk about how important our hearing is and what we can do to protect and restore it. 

Here is the Tetra discount code that you can use to get 10% off your order. Go to Tetra’s website and use the code: NHG2410 at checkout for a 10% discount.

Most people do not think that one or two shotgun shots a year hunting turkey is enough to damage their hearing. The truth is, one shot, the next shot, could be the one that changes your hearing forever. And if it’s not, it can take a just a little bit more of your hearing away. Most people lose a little here and there until all of a sudden, they realize they have a real problem. 

But perhaps even more harmful than shotgun noise is loud calling. A box call or glass call can easily exceed the safe hearing threshold and cause you hearing damage every day you walk into the woods whether you pull the trigger or not. 

But if people do not protect their hearing hunting turkeys, they likely do not protect it hunting pheasants, deer, ducks, doves and other game. And every day you walk into the woods you are hurting your hearing for next season. You are also hurting your hearing for work, family, and everything else you will do for the rest of your life.

Hearing protection is not just important, it is crucial. And thankfully we have more amazing options available today than ever before in history to protect our hearing and even help us hunt better. Tetra Hearing has created the most sophisticated hearing protection and augmentation technology ever seen.

This is not just technology that prevents hearing loss, but it compensates for hearing loss and then enables you to hear the game that you are hunting from further away than you could normally, even with perfect hearing. Dr. Bill has created something truly amazing and special that is bringing back the joy of hunting for so many who were no longer able to hear turkeys gobble. And it is enabling a generation to protect their hearing and enabling them to hunt for a lifetime without sacrificing one of their senses every day spent afield. 

On this episode Dr. Bill breaks down some of the complexities of the human hear and how it works, the technology that goes into protecting it and enhancing our hunting. But more than that he shares how important hearing is at all levels of life. His work truly celebrates this amazing sense God has given us and all of the great things that flow out of it into our lives. 

Listen to full podcast episode to hear the interview, stories, tech, and much more. And you can watch my review of the AlphaShield’s below. 

 

When it comes to hunting spring turkeys, there is one thing that trumps gear, strategy, calling, ammo, stealth, and everything else. And that is SIGN. You could be the greatest turkey hunter in the world, a championship winning caller, with the best equipment that money can buy, shooting gold platted TSS shells accurate to 100 yards and none of it will matter at all if there are no turkeys there. Finding and hunting over sign is the single most important part of turkey hunting. 

You can make a lot of mistakes chasing gobblers and still get opportunities, still get seemingly “lucky” and take birds home. You can sp0ok birds day after day, you can miss birds, bump them, call badly, and worse, and still occasionally find success IF there are turkeys there to be hunted. It happens all the time.

But you can also waste days, weeks, and entire seasons hunting in places where there are no turkeys to be found. Sometimes they are areas that look like they should hold turkeys, sometimes they are areas with perfect food and habitat, and sometimes they are just traditional or convenient hunting areas. But none of that matters to the turkeys and will give them any reason to be there. We need to find them and go to the places where they are.

Scouting is an unending part of turkey hunting. We should scout before the season, during the season, and after the season if we want to find areas that have turkeys this year and may have turkeys again in future hunting seasons. Turkeys are sometimes drawn to specific areas and habitat year-after-year because in the spring it is quality turkey habitat. And if you can find a few of those honey holes, then current and past scouting can pay off by providing future benefit. But every year we need to be on the lookout for sign.

Sign comes in many forms and in this episode, I talk about numerous ways to find it and make good turkey hunting strategy decisions. Listen to the full podcast episode for more!