Turkey Hunting Gear Tips & Tactics For Beginners
You have seen them. Out there lurking in the field. Strutting around like they own the place. Judging by their bold behavior, you might think turkeys would invite you to walk right up to them.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Turkeys can be an incredibly cautious and watchful bird. Their behavior at a distance is deceiving. Working that big gobbler within shooting range is more challenging than you might think.
That’s why Rustic Pursuits brings you our Turkey hunting gear tips and tactics for beginners.
Getting started in turkey hunting is going to require some understanding of turkey behavior in order to have a successful hunt. We point you toward the right gear to bring them in close and talk about the necessary tactics to drop them in their tracks.
What Gear Do I Need To Hunt Turkeys?
Camouflage that covers head to foot is an indispensable element of turkey hunting. Turkeys have remarkably good eyesight and they use it to their full advantage. Exposed pieces of skin are a dead give-away to wary turkeys.
You don’t want to be soaking in sweat when a gobbler is doing the slow-walk into your setup. It is best to have a lightweight long sleeve camo shirt as well as a jacket or hoodie for cool mornings. If temperatures rise throughout the day you can take off your warmer outer layers and still remain fully concealed.
You’ll need a camo face mask, and camo gloves as well. You’re likely to take them off and put them back on a number of times, particularly while getting set up. But once you start calling you’ll want everything covered. If a longbeard spots your face in the treeline he is unlikely to come pay you a visit.
Camo pants are another important article of clothing. We recommend cargo-style camo pants whenever possible so you can carry any extras that might come up. When you take off your gloves or facemask its nice to have them right there in your pants pockets for quick access.
And even with all that camo, you will still fare the best if you sit within some light brush or even a blind to break-up your outline and hide any movements.
The color of your camo will be important as well. Camouflage provides the best concealment when it closely matches the surroundings. As spring progresses your surroundings may become more green rather than brown. Choosing the right color for your hunting grounds will help to bamboozle gobblers at close range.
2. Turkey Calls
Calling in gobblers is half about knowing the right sounds to make, and the other half is just being where the big toms want to be anyways. That fact alone shows the importance of scouting and having a working knowledge of where the flock likes to frequent.
Obviously a turkey call doesn’t do you much good if you don’t know how to use it correctly. Turkeys make around 30 different sounds in the wild. Thankfully you only need to know a few of them to have good success.
Learning the hen yelp will take you a long way. Add in a few clucks and you are on your way to dropping a thanksgiving dinner. Practicing your calling skills before turkey season will build your confidence when it comes time to charm their waddles off. And just so you know in advance, your wife will hate you.
Box calls are easy to use and most designs mimic turkey sounds quite well. Slate or pot calls are a little more difficult to learn, but they can sound great as well. Both slate and box calls are hand-operated.
Even though they sound great, slate and box calls won’t allow you to take aim and continue calling unless you have a hunting partner doing the calling for you. The movement while operating a box or slate call can also draw the attention of wary gobblers.
Turkey hunters commonly use slate or box calls for distance calling while keeping a mouth call ready for close range calling. Solo hunters can minimize motion that will scare off birds while taking aim, calling, and shooting simultaneously.
When a perfectly timed cluck is needed to raise that big tom’s head so you can take a shot, mouth calls offer a lot of control. And for solo hunters, that is a difficult feat to accomplish with almost any other type of turkey call.
Old gobblers can get wary and highly educated on the tricks of hunters. Those wary birds are part of what makes turkey hunting so thrilling. But you have one thing that will frequently give you the upper hand: The shameless ego of a gobbler.
A dominant gobbler will keep a close eye on his lady friends. A young male jake that starts hitting on one of his girls is not going to be tolerated.
Capitalizing on that turkey egomania is best accomplished with a jake and hen decoy combination. The pair presents an open challenge to dominant longbeards.
You’ll find that turkeys in their second year will be particularly prone to respond to the Jake and Hen combination. Two year old gobblers waddle in front of the shotgun with little hesitation. Older dominant toms might be a little less eager.
So how to you persuade that cautious old spur-daddy? The plan doesn’t change: Challenge his pride.
An intruding mature tom moving in on the ladies is most likely to get that territorial longbeard’s blood boiling. Even finicky old gobblers are prone to puff up their chest and march in looking for a fight.
A strutter decoy can be simply magnetic to old wise toms – but be warned – less dominant gobblers may choose to keep their distance unless they have the numbers to challenge the old man to a fight.
How Can I Carry All My Turkey Gear?
You really need a turkey vest. There is no better tool for carrying your calls, decoys, water, your phone, food, shot shells, and whatever else you decide on. And a turkey vest keeps all of it quickly accessible where you can reach it.
Being comfortable and holding still is important when you have a big gobbler slow-walking into shooting range. Most turkey vests come with an attached padded seat which adds a great deal of comfort to sitting on the forest floor for long periods of time.
One particularly great vest design combines the comfort of a seat with the gear carrying capacity of a vest. The addition of a kickstand frame in the back of the vest means your seat goes wherever you go. Take a look at our review on best turkey vests for more info.
How Do I Find Turkeys?
Scouting for turkeys often starts in the comfort of your vehicle. Driving roads with open fields can provide clues as to where flocks are frequenting. Winter flocks are particularly large and easy to spot. Scouting these areas on foot will give you a better idea of what specific locations to hunt come spring.
If turkeys have been in the area you’ll see their tracks left behind in any soft ground like mud, sand, or snow. Spring turkeys will usually feed on insects as they cross open fields.
Searching the surrounding forested areas will usually display signs like feathers and droppings, scratches, as well as dusting areas.
Turkeys constantly scratch at the ground to expose insects, nuts, and seeds. All that digging that a flock leaves behind makes it hard to miss their feeding grounds.
To get a sense for how recently the turkeys were in the area, be sure to look for droppings. Fresh droppings will be moist and appear quite wet. Droppings dry somewhat quickly depending on temperature, so dry droppings should not be taken as an indicator that turkeys have moved on.
2. Listen For Gobblers
Scouting for turkeys can be almost as fun as hunting for them. Once you’ve found sign that they are in a general area the next move is to get to those areas early and listen for gobblers waking up from their roosts. Turkeys aren’t quiet about dropping from their roosts. Listen for gobbling and loud thumping sounds as they hit the ground.
It’s important to avoid pressuring the flock. At best, spooking the flock will make them extra cautious. At worst, the flock might move on to another location, and you’ll be starting from scratch. Its best to plan on a few scouting days to zero in on where the flock might be roosting, and where they like to go at first light.
If you expect them to enter a specific field, positioning yourself in an elevated location will provide the best opportunity to see where and how they enter the field. Watching the areas they move through and where the toms strut will give you a huge advantage. Remember – putting your setup where the birds want to be anyways is just stacking the deck in your favor.
How Can I Call In A Gobbler?
We mentioned earlier that the two most important calls are the hen yelp, and the cluck. Getting those two calls dialed in will have you ready for action. There are other calls worth knowing like tree yelps, cutting, cackles, and even gobbles, but more important is knowing what works.
Turkey Hen Yelp:
In the wild, the plain yelp of a lonely hen is the primary call that a hen uses to call to a gobbler. With that being the case, it is the primary call we should use as well. The hen uses the yelp to call out to a tom in hopes that the two will eventually locate each other. Initially the hen yelps to provoke a gobble from the tom, and that will be your goal as well.
- Plain yelps from a hen will begin as soft 3-8 note yelps.
- Between calls the hen pauses for extended periods while listening for a response.
- After several tries with no response, the hen raises the volume and intensity of the yelp.
Its worth noting that longbeards will occasionally creep in stealthily, without making their presence known. The possibility of a sneaky gobbler coming in unnoticed is a good reason to remain as still as possible and be patient between calls. If you don’t hear an audible response, don’t immediately assume that there is no interest from a local gobbler.
The cluck is regularly made by both hens and gobblers. One particularly effective use of the cluck is as a reassurance of continued communication while a gobbler makes movements toward your location. Aggressive clucking can sound like a warning call, so it must be used gently. Following the cluck with a few soft yelps is a reassuring sign of both safety and interest.
For example, when the plain yelp elicits a few responsive gobbles and you know that a big longbeard is closing the distance, you don’t want to continue with loud yelping, and yelping, and yelping. Backing off and letting the gobbler work his way to you is a better approach. This is when the soft cluck and yelp can act as a subtle way of keeping communication happening without over-doing it.
- The cluck is short notes made by both the hen and the tom
- Single note or a series of notes with short 2-3 second pauses between notes
Learning these two turkey sounds on your calls of choice is essential if you want to call in a longbeard. Once you get a tom locked in and committed to finding your location, the excitement and anticipation of that bird strutting into range is profoundly exhilarating.
Listen to Female Turkey Sounds
To best mimic the lonesome yelp and cluck, you need to hear the cadence and rhythm of these calls. That education can come from experienced turkey hunters, but if possible it should also come from wild turkeys in their natural habitat.
Here is a video on the hen yelp and cluck:
Watching the real thing in action is by far the best way to learn turkey sounds. Watching turkeys will also provide a lot of insight as to how they behave, which is also very important.
Here is a great video on the hen yelp.