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Main Content

Spring Turkey Hunting

By Ed Harp

Study your local habitat. Turkeys, like most wildlife, are creatures of habit. They’ll always be found in the same general area. Prime locations will have trees substantial enough to hold them when they roost at night — they are heavy birds — and there’ll be water, food, and enough ground cover to protect them from predators nearby. 

The water’s no big deal. They have to have it, but they don’t need a lot of it. Almost any creek, spring, or long-neglected pond will do the job. 

Food is another matter. The most reliable sources are soybean stands and clover fields. They offer both vegetation and insects for a spring diet. 

Observe their habits. Pay close attention to what the resident turkeys on your land are doing. If they come off their roosts at a particular time in the morning and follow a certain path to water or food, you can pretty much bet they’ll do it every day.  

The only real exception to that is when there’s nasty weather. Heavy rain, spring snow, and high wind will force them to stay in their roosts longer than normal. Still, they can only go so long without drinking or eating. They will come down. 

Use calls and decoys. Calling a turkey is as much art as it is science, and there are a dozen different types of calls around. If you’ve never done it, practice before you actually go hunting. There are plenty of how-to videos on the Internet to help you learn.  

Decoys are another option. They’re not all that expensive and, if placed strategically, will work for a while. The phrase “a while” is critical. Like a lot of things we do to attract or run off wildlife, the birds will figure out they’re fakes quick enough.  

Stalk smartly. If you’re not a highly experience hunter, it’s probably best to position yourself at an ambush point — with or without the help of decoys — well before they typically move through the area. Be very quiet and still when you do this. Turkeys can hear and see really well.  

Make a clean kill. The best option for most casual hunters is a 12-gauge shotgun chambered for 3 or 3½-inch shells. You need a tight pattern so a full choke is best. Most hunters use No. 4, 5 or 6 shot. Aim for the head and don’t take shots beyond 30 yards unless you know what you’re doing. 

Bow hunting for turkeys is for experts. If you can do it, your skill level is probably well beyond this basic article. 

Know the rules. Take a few minutes to review the rules and regulations where you’re hunting. Know what you can harvest and when, as well as what calls and weapons are legal. Don’t let an enjoyable day turn into a legal nightmare.