How to Pick a Turkey Tree

For first time run-and-gunners, the concept of selecting a turkey tree seems simple enough, just pick and sit. However, after hunting with the host of the Turkey Hunting Podcast, Andy Gagliano, on a trip to Alabama, I realized there’s a lot more to it than plopping down against any ole tree.

With the decoy set up out in a green field atop a rolling Alabama hill, Gagliano directed me to find a tree for the mid-day sit. I looked around and found a tree at the edge of the field. I thought it was a sufficient choice and began to sit down. 

My mentor watched carefully and kindly suggested I move into the tree line 10 yards. He explained the farther into the woods I get, the more cover I have to hide my movements.

I smiled and walked farther into the woods. Now with an adequate amount of cover, I backed up to another tree. And before sitting down, looked to Gagliano for approval. 

Instead of receiving the nod I was hoping for, he walked over to me and whispered, "You may want to find a different tree." I winced, apologized and asked why.

“Do you see this tree in front of you?” he said.

“Yes,” I replied

“It’s too close to you,” he said. “If you needed to swing your gun barrel, you’d have to pick it up and over the tree. That might hinder your shot opportunity.”

His guidance made me realize I didn’t know anything about picking a turkey tree and would likely strike out if I tried again.

It must be known that up until that hunt, I grew up turkey hunting from the comforting walls of a blind, and although his intentions were good, the thought of selecting another unqualified turkey tree made me feel insecure.

That’s when it dawned on me, I could continue to learn the hard way or instead, ask for help and learn how to go about picking a turkey tree from an experienced run-and-gun turkey hunter. So, that’s what I did.

To save you the embarrassment I endured, I’ll share his expertise. Here are six rules to follow when picking a tree to set up against during a turkey hunt.

  1. Walk into the woods 10 or 15 yards before you start eyeing trees. Having some distance between you and the open air will provide cover and shield your movements.
  2. Find a tree with a 90 degree angle between its trunk and the ground. If dirt has built up against the base, dig it out so that you can sit on a flat surface. Doing this will ensure that you aren’t sliding downhill, making your long sits easier.
  3. The tree you lean up against should be as wide as, or wider than your back and shoulders so that your body outline is concealed. 
  4. Your ideal tree should have a five-foot radius of space in the directions you plan to shoot. Meaning there shouldn't be any trees or brush in the way of your barrel, should you have to swing it. 
  5. If you spot an ant hill, snake or other creepy crawlers frequenting the base of your tree, it’s best to move on and find something else. No one wants ants in their pants…
  6. Piggybacking off the rule above, if a tree has dangerous plants like poison ivy, oak or sumac, or thorn bushes surrounding the base, you should either remove the nuisance plants or find a plan B tree. Toting a small sheers or saw may be helpful in these instances.

Once you get situated against the dream tree, free the area of crunchy leaves or sticks that may make noise should you need to stretch or move. After the area is clear, practice shooting in all directions and visualize the longbeard you’re about to kill.

The art of picking a successful turkey tree is just as important as the use of calls and decoys. Finding the right one will be worth the search, and the more you do it, the easier it will get. 

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