Locating Turkeys: 5 Calls That Work

On a perfect turkey hunting morning, the bird gobbles on the roost, answers the hen turkey calls, and strolls into range. This scenario however is the exception and not the rule. On any turkey hunt, many things can go wrong. The adult turkey gobbler can have hens with him, he could be a pressured turkey that shuts up on the ground, or he may just not feel like coming in to the calls. So, a lot of your time in the woods will be spent searching for a hot gobbler. How do you find them? Here are some good locator turkey calls to find that bird.

1) Owl hoot-More turkeys have probably been enticed into gobbling by owls than anything else. There is just something about that hooting sound that makes them respond. They work best early in the morning while the birds are still on the roost. But that’s not to say they won’t answer an owl later in the day.

2) Coyote howl-This is effective at creating shock gobbles but only at long distances. You would never want to use this near the roost. Walking and calling, otherwise known as the run and gun method, would be best for this type of locator call.

3) Crow call-Crows irritate a lot of animals including turkeys. This is another call that works best in the morning from around 8 to noon.

4) Hen yelps-Loud yelps will carry a long way and will certainly fire up a lonely gobbler. The only drawback is a silent tom that comes in on you before you are ready. And you need to be able to get set up instantly if a bird fires up near you. Chances are he is on his way in a hurry.

5) Canada goose-Much the same way they answer owls and crows, gobblers will try to outdo a big Canada. This can be especially effective around rivers and lakes that have resident Canada populations.

Try these calls to locate that tom turkey this spring. Are there any other suggestions for locator turkey calls out there? Please include your favorites in the comments section.   

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Turkey Decoys: 5 Ways They Work Best

Two mature gobblers approached down the ridge, headed in the direction where they last heard that hen. Easing along, they were on high alert. Then they spot her but there is a problem. A jake has moved in on her! They trot at the jake, determined to show him who the bosses are. They attack him but he doesn’t run. The decoy falls to the ground as the shotgun blast shatters the quiet spring woods. The hunter approaches the tom and smiles, the decoys have done their job again. Here are five tips for more decoying success this spring.

1) Set your decoys at the proper location-Sounds simple, right? But if the decoys are at the wrong angle or distance it will be a problem. Don’t set the decoys directly in front of you. Turkeys can spot anything out of place in their environment so lead their attention away from your location by placing the decoys to the left or right. Always keep the decoys within 20-25 yards. Then if the gobbler hangs up short he will still be in ethical range. Remember that the gobbler will approach the male decoy head on.

2) Use the right decoy-As the season progresses, strutting toms need to be replaced with jakes. Dominant turkeys will rough up the younger birds so you can scare away one that has been recently whipped with a full strutter. Go with a half strut jake, mature toms have confidence they can run off a youngster trying to breed a hen. Use either a feeding hen with a Jake near her or a breeding hen lying on the ground with the jake directly behind her.

3) Set the decoys in the open-Turkeys need to see your decoys. Open field edges, old roads through the woods, clearings, these are all good spots to set up. Just be sure that you have a solid place to hide near the decoys.

4) Hens are your friends-Attracting hens to your decoys can be the difference between closing the deal and going home empty handed. They will be curious and will often check out hen decoys closely. Try to keep her around if she wants to leave by calling to her as she walks away. A dominant hen will turn around and scold the decoy. A live hen calling in your decoys is always a good thing.

5) Try different set ups-Use active decoys in a line like they are walking away. Use a jake in combination with a feeding hen or a breeding hen. Keep plenty of open space in the decoys, especially if you are using a large number. Just like waterfowl decoys, there is no perfect combination that always works.     

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Turkeys and Technology

Technological advances have changed the way we live. That is a fact that has made its way into the hunting world in a big way. One of the best hunting inventions has been the smartphone. The phone you say? Not some new gun, clothing, or ammo? Correct, the applications available today can make you a better hunter. Here are a few that bear consideration for use this season.

Motion X GPS
Sure, your phone already has GPS capability. But it leaves a lot to be desired in most cases. Motion X can find your position quickly and record personal moment with waypoints and elevation. Up to 500 waypoints can be stored and maps can be downloaded and stored for future use. It has an integrated compass and you can share your tracks and waypoints to social media or e-mail.

WeatherBug Elite
Nothing can ruin a hunt faster that unexpected weather changes. Most phones can give you basic information but that is all it is. WeatheBug predicts weather conditions by the hour and tracks storm paths.

Trimble GPS Hunt
This app is useful for many hunting situations making it very versatile. It has it all, public and private land boundaries, owner info for private ground, topographical maps, terrain maps, and much more. Weather info is included with 7 day forecasts, moon phases, and sunrise/sunset times. You can get the basic version for free or upgrade to Elite and Platinum levels depending on your needs.          

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Public Land Turkeys-Find the Road Less Traveled

Land open to public hunting exists all around the country. And many of these areas offer very good hunting opportunities for multiple game species. The major drawback of public land is, well, it’s open to the public. That means stiff competition and more pressure on game. Or does it?

Every public property has popular access areas, usually ones that are close to major roads or highways. Through pure ease of entry these spots will receive the most pressure. But most properties owned by states or the US government will be large, encompassing thousands of acres. In all that land, there are bound to be parts that seldom see a hunter. Getting to those hard to reach places is challenging but far from impossible.

The first step is research. Technology has made that much easier with applications that can be downloaded to your devices. A great example of this is Trimble GPS Hunt. You have detailed maps, weather forecasts, sun and moon phases, and much more at your fingertips. By studying the maps, Recon Hunt also color codes marking public land boundaries, you can locate alternative access points. A great way in to hidden hotspots is water. Often these public lands have creeks, rivers, and lakes either running through them or on a boundary. Slipping in the far reaches via boat can get you in the backcountry without walking for miles.

Banded and Avery Pro-Staffer Dwayne Padgett off South Carolina bow hunts for turkeys exclusively with over 50 birds to his credit with archery equipment. One of his favorite spots in a public tract not far from his home. His key to success there is hunting far from other hunters on the far boundary. “A couple of friends and I knew there were plenty of turkeys on this place but so did every other turkey hunter around,” Dwayne explained. “We located a back way in but we would have to take a boat to get there. It’s now one of our ‘go to’ spots because we did our homework and were willing to do the work to get there.”

So, don’t let a full parking lot dissuade you from hunting public lands. Poet Robert Frost said it best, finding the road less traveled by can make all the difference.    

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The One Tactic You Need To Use This Turkey Season

You’ve done your homework, roosted that big gobbler, and put yourself in the perfect spot before dawn. Done deal right? Well, maybe if he is in the right mood and follows the plan. But any experienced turkey hunter knows mature toms are very unpredictable.

So you are in position, he gobbles on the tree. He answers your call and flies down at dawn. He gobbles again, once, twice, ten times. But he isn’t coming any closer. He expects that hen to come to him and not the other way around.

Now you hear him gobble again in another location moving away from you. What went wrong? Nothing really, he is just being a turkey. Now try this. Head quickly straight to the spot where he flew down and began gobbling. Get into position there and give a quick yelp. Get ready because many times he will turn right around and head back to the hen he thought wasn’t coming to him. Boom!!!       

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Putting Turkeys to Bed-3 Top Roosting Techniques

An owl confirmed his location, perched on the limb he sounded off from the evening before. The gobbler sounded full of himself this morning as he thundered over the top of the next owl hoot. Your anticipation runs high.

Hearing him fly down, he is now around 150 yards away from you position. A soft call series produces a gobble, then another. Soon a red head is in view, an excited tom heading for your decoys. He closes the distance to within 30 yards and the shot is true, another successful spring morning in the turkey woods.

It’s seldom this easy but you improved your odds of success tenfold by choosing the right location. That all begins and ends with locating roosting sites. Here are three tips to help you put a bird to bed.

1) Scouting-Start by getting there early, mid-afternoon is not too soon. Check areas where you have located birds before. At the very least, find an open area near large trees with sufficient limbs large enough to hold a twenty plus pound bird.

2) Waiting-It’s easy to assume that a bird will roost very near the area where you last see him in late afternoon. Resist the temptation to leave early and wait until you hear the bird fly up for the night. Ideally the bird will gobble when this happens, keep a locator call handy to prod him into doing this if needed.

3) Sneaking-Getting in and out of the area undetected is a must. Let full dark take over before you leave and come back well before daylight. Try to keep all noise to an absolute minimum.  

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Aiming to kill a big gobbler? Here’s where to do it.

The bird’s last gobble still hung in the air, a booming double cutting off a yelp from the call. He was closing distance fast now and heading right for the decoy pair set in a clearing. Heart pounding, the hunter held his shotgun with trembling hands. Closer the gobbler came; his red head a sure sign of his excited state. Even closer now, the shotgun’s fluorescent bead wavering at the bird’s head. At 30 yards the bird stopped and puffed into full strut. Gliding back and forth the put on a show for the pair of decoy hens. Suddenly, he dropped out of strut and approached. Finger squeezing the trigger, the shot exited the barrel, sending the payload at the turkey’s head.

As the tom sprinted away, disbelief filled the hunter’s mind. How could you miss? It’s a lot easier to do than people think and if you hunt turkeys long enough it is going to happen. Put together the factors and it’s easy to see how it happens. Better shotshells shoot tighter patterns. Better choke tubes combined with those shells draw the pellets even tighter. So now you are shooting what is basically a rifle and very close range. Add in nerves and misses happen.

A big factor is aiming point. A turkey’s head is only three inches wide on average. That’s right, three inches! Putting the bead directly on the head can produce results but a lower spot is a better choice. How low? Many hunters will tell you the base off the waddles. Even better is the base of the neck. This increases margin for error enough to minimize misses. Try this on your next hunt and carry that bird out instead of watching him flee.      

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Hen between you and that gobbler? Call her in.

Everything seems perfect, bird is sounding off on the limb, weather conditions are right, your position is sound. Then you hear her. A hen is between you and the bird and she is yelping and cutting. The tom is going crazy gobbling at every turn. It’s impossible to beat Mother Nature so now what? Make her mad and bring her to you.

Women don’t like competition for their men in any species so take advantage of that fact. Mimic her calls to the gobbler but raise the volume level above hers, get aggressive with it. She yelps, go over the top of her. She cuts, fire back. Often this will be enough to make her come your way and give the “intruder” a piece off her mind. And in doing so, she is leading the gobbler to your set up. This is not always going to pay off but it is always worth the effort. Otherwise, she is going to lead him away for sure. Remember, the key is to be louder than she is. An angry hen just might lead you to a trophy gobbler.             

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What’s so hard about turkey hunting? It’s not if you have one thing.

Late evening was rushing in and daylight growing short as the gobbler eased towards the woods. He didn’t know he was being watched through binoculars several hundred yards away. As the last light fell below the western horizon, the man heard him gobble while flying up. There the bird would spend the night on his chosen limb. The man would return in the dark and set up with hopes to lure the tom into range. Plans set, he slipped from the field and returned to his truck parked about a half mile away.

As morning was still an hour off, the hunter eased into position across the field from the roosted gobbler and carefully set two hen decoys and a jake. He hoped the older bird would react aggressively to the sight of a young bird with hens in his territory. With dawn approaching, the local owls began hooting in earnest and they goaded the turkey into gobbling. He would sound off over the top of the owls showing his dominance. The hunter resisted calling to the bird, choosing to wait until the turkey flew down.

The clear spring sun had crested the trees and it had been twenty minutes since the last gobble on the limb had pierced the air. Now it was time to call. The hunter scratched out a raspy yelp on his favorite friction call. Nothing returned the sound. He waited another ten minutes and tried again, still no response. Switching strikers, another series was sent out. Paydirt! The gobble thundered from the edge of the woods near a group of tall oaks. Soon the red head of an excited tom bobbed into view. Spotting the decoys, the bird closed the distance quickly to take the hens away from an upstart jake. The shot was taken at twenty yards and opening day was in the books.

Sounds so easy, doesn’t it? The plan worked to perfection but a huge factor was in play the entire time. The difference maker between success and failure on this morning was patience. Instead of calling at the roosted bird, the hunter waited. Instead of moving when the initial calls seemingly fell on deaf ears, the hunter waited. Patience is the most important tool in a turkey hunter’s arsenal. It’s not easy to stay put but when you think you should move give it at least another thirty minutes. Stay calm, stay put, and collect more fans and spurs this season.    

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Want to Take the Turkey Slam? What You Need to Know

There are five subspecies of turkeys in the United States. One of them, the Gould’s, is primarily a Mexican resident but some have recently been reintroduced in southern Arizona. However, the “Grand Slam” is considered to be the Eastern, Osceola, Merriam’s, and the Rio Grande. Harvest them all and you achieve a turkey hunting milestone. But it is not easy. Here are some facts about each bird that will help you achieve your goal.

Eastern-Considered by most turkey hunters to be the wariest of them all. They are by nature more cautious and do not respond favorably to hunting pressure. They do have a wide range however so your options are many for where you go to hunt them. Iowa birds tend to be giants; a 25lb Eastern there wouldn’t raise an eyebrow. South Carolina has them in droves but they are smaller birds. So taking your Eastern may be more of a study in patience but you will get it done.

Osceola-This is often the last turkey hunters need to finish the Slam. The reason why is their limited range. They are only found in southern Florida in a population that fluctuates between 80,000 and 100,000 birds. A limited range plus a limited population equals limited opportunities. And you add in the swampy terrain they live in and that equals a hard bird to hunt. They are very similar to Easterns in many ways but are generally smaller in size and darker in color. These birds are wary so techniques used on Easterns apply here as well. Plus, watch out for snakes!

Merriam’s-This is a striking turkey that lives in striking country. Their traditional haunts are in the Rocky Mountains, the states of Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico. But they have been transplanted into other states, California, Washington, Oregon, Utah, Idaho, Nebraska, Wyoming, and South Dakota. Merriam’s were named after the first chief biologist of the U.S. Biological Survey, C. Hart Merriam. Terrain is an issue with harvest for these turkeys as well but many times it can be used to the hunter’s advantage. Spot and stalk methods work well as you can see the birds from a long distance, allowing maneuvering into position for a shot. Both the gobblers and hens are very vocal so an aggressive calling style works well.

Rio Grande-Every turkey can be difficult to deal with but the Rio Grande is easier than the others. They live in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas primarily and they have a large population, over one million birds. Open terrain with low trees tends to typify the lands they live in and they are very vocal in nature, much like the Merriam’s. They are less pressured as a whole and can be more susceptible to calling. Often, they can be seen running in big groups with several toms competing for that hot hen.

There is the lowdown on the turkeys you need to achieve the Slam. Then, on to the World Slam adding Gould’s and Ocellated. But that is another post, stay tuned!  

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