Five Ways Turkey Hunting is Different

What to Wear

In short, camouflage, bug spray, gloves, and a facemask. While upland hunters have their own style – hunter orange required at all times, usually accented by tan chaps, and deer hunters are no stranger to camouflage, lack of complete camouflage will ruin your chances at even seeing a bird.  Turkeys have incredible hearing and eyesight. A face mask for deer hunting is largely optional, dressing for the weather and scent control more pertinent. A turkey will see you before you see a turkey but, unlike deer, their sense of smell is weak. Scent sprays, soaps and careful wind direction set-ups are unnecessary.

How to Hunt

Expect to be on the ground. Blinds are a possibility, especially if using a bow, but treestands are out, and illegal in some areas. Have a small cushion seat or waterproof pants – something that you can sit comfortably in for hours if need be. Depending upon how much time you plan to hunt, season hours, and property available, you may be able to try the run-and-gun method. Essentially, this means using a turkey call, listening for a response, and using the sounds to follow the birds. This falls between the constant walking of upland hunting and long waits of deer hunting.

When to Hunt

Early isn’t an option. Most states have turkey hunting hours that end at noon.  Be aware of season dates and limits for the area you are hunting as well as be sure you have the proper licenses, tags, and permissions. When hunting on an unfamiliar property, it is best to be out before sunrise. This is to try to locate birds on roost, or sleeping in the trees. Remember to keep an eye on the time and to remember that the time the sun rises changes. Turkeys rarely return to their roosting locations until later in the day. Sunrise is the best time to definitively locate birds without scaring them.

Open Your Ears

Quick reflexes useful for gunning flying birds are detrimental for turkey. Move slowly and limit movements. Following sign can be helpful, in example, locating turkey tracks in a dust bathing spot, but the use of sound is far more important than in any other type of hunting. Locating birds on roost is done not by sight, but by sound. Following birds throughout the day and attempting to lure them towards you is done by calling. Box calls, slate, and mouth calls are most commonly used, though a box call will likely be the best starting point for novices.

Where to Shoot

Most people hunt turkey with a shotgun, especially new turkey hunters. Shotgun pellets will not penetrate a turkey’s body, so one must aim for the head/neck of the turkey. This is much different than deer hunting, where a lung, heart, or shoulder shot is preferred, or with upland game, where the hunter aims ahead of the target, hoping to hit the body. An arrow will penetrate a turkey body, but one must be in closer range and more heavily concealed. It is not ethical, and often illegal, to shoot a turkey on roost.

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