By: Tom Claycomb
You hear people make fun of a turkey’s intelligence, but that’s just because they have never encountered a wild turkey, much less tried to outwit him. A wary gobbler can be as smart as any bird. Judging all turkeys’ intelligence by that of a Jake is like judging a human’s football playing skills by watching a grade school football game as compared to the Super Bowl.
Granted, in the spring, a gobbler may make some slips, but all animals are vulnerable during their mating season, aren’t they? And come to think of it…..men may be even dumber. I won’t go into how many dumb things I’ve seen men do; I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of examples yourself.
But back to turkeys. What are some tips that might give you an edge on bagging your gobbler this spring? Well, first let’s go over a couple of basic items that might be so obvious that you forget to do them:
Choose the proper ammo. I’ve tested a ton of turkey loads, and hands down, the most effective I’ve ever shot is HEVI-Shot. I’m not real sure that I don’t favor their blend load. It has 5, 6, and 7 shot and has a deadly pattern.
Sight in your shotgun. Many people never even think about this. You need to aim at a body part when turkey hunting, just like when you’re deer hunting. Aim at the neck and not the head. If you aim at the head, ½ of the BB’s go harmlessly whistling over his head.
Use shooting sticks to eliminate movement. When set up, calling, have your shotgun already propped up on the sticks, ready to shoot.
The modern turkey loads will reach out to longer distances, and the bead sights on your regular shotgun just won’t cut it. Think about getting a red dot scope, like a Riton Optics and their 3x Magnifier. You’ll be glad you did.
My buddy Ed Sweet says if he can only have one decoy, it’ll be a Jake. When a gobbler comes in, he’s going to run right up and challenge the gobbler. And make sure that you set up your decoys within shooting range.
I’m old school and love the old box calls. I like the Quaker Boy Hurricane Supreme. It is still functional even when wet. But I have to agree, when a bird is coming in close, and you’re about to shoot, that isn’t the best choice. You HAVE to become proficient in using a reed call. That way you can keep calling right up until you shoot. Some people tape a push box to their forestock which allows them to call until they pull the trigger.
Be camo’d to the max. Turkeys have legendary eyesight. Wear camo gloves. Our hands are the source of probably 70 percent of our movement.
Just because you don’t hear anything doesn’t mean a turkey isn’t sneaking in. One year my brother and I were on a turkey hunt in Texas. We’d had a lot of action but hadn’t filled a tag yet. We’d spotlight for varmints until midnight and get up at 5:00 to turkey hunt. About 11:00 the sun was getting warm, and I was about to doze off. My brother was calling and started hissing and pointing behind us.
A gobbler had snuck in without making a peep and wasn’t 15 feet away. I had to turn around and shoot him left-handed. So don’t give up because you don’t hear anything.
Which brings up a closely related subject. I call a lot. Just because they don’t answer doesn’t mean they’re not hearing or coming in. Same thing when calling elk. Everyone says elk don’t talk as much because the imported Canadian wolves zero-in on them if they do, so we need to call less. But I’ve called in plenty of bulls that slipped in and didn’t make a peep. So yes, they may not talk as much, but they still come in just as much.
Usually you’re running gunning and doing multiple set-ups. Take a piece of camo burlap to lay over two sage bushes to hide behind, or better yet, I like the Ameristep Throwdown blinds. They’re super lightweight and compact and handy to carry. Also, it doesn’t hurt to carry a short stool so you’re comfortable and not moving.
And in closing, as my daughter would say, “Daddy, you’re not known as Captain Safety.” Granted, I live a wild life and have spent my share of the time in the emergency room. But the older I get, the more I try to stay alive. I don’t understand exactly why, but it seems like a huge percent of the hunting accidents occur with turkey hunters. If you shot or killed someone, that would devastate you. So, don’t set in line with your decoys in case someone comes sneaking in and shoots one. Put an orange cloth on the backside of the tree you’re leaning against.
Well, good luck this spring. Hopefully some of these tips help you fill your tag, and if you don’t want to smoke your turkey, think about using some of the Hi-Mountain Seasoning spices and making turkey jerky out of the poor lovesick bird.
Tom Claycomb III is a product tester for outdoor manufacturers, hunter, and outdoor writer, writing from Idaho.