Whether you are new to the game or an old veteran, we all make mistakes.
Here are eight of the best ways to completely screw up a turkey hunt.
1. Sleeping In
Spring turkey hunting is not for late sleepers. Tight-mouthed gobblers generally give up their location before sunrise by gobbling on the roost. Even if they shut up after fly-down, hearing these predawn gobbles will give you a starting point for your hunt.
The most successful spring turkey hunters begin rising before dawn and listening for gobbles a month before the season. When the season starts, they are usually tagged out quick.
2. Calling Too Much
Too many hunters fall in love with the sound of their own calls, especially if a tom is gobbling responses. Sure, it’s fun to hear them gobble, but the best play is to call just enough to keep the bird approaching.
If he hangs up, get more aggressive. It is easier to start conservative and get more aggressive than to tone down your calling 30 minutes into a discussion with a gobbler.
3. Not Calling Enough
Old school spring turkey hunters yelped three times, waited 15 minutes, and yelped three more times. While this tactic has killed a lot of birds, you’ll see more success if you cater your calling style to the bird you are working and his mood at the time.
Start out slowly and work your way up to more aggressive calling until he starts coming. When you find out what he likes, keep doing it until you see that wrinkly red head in your shotgun’s sights.
4. Moving at the Wrong Time
Turkeys can see three times better than humans. Their eyes are positioned on the sides of their heads giving them about a 270-degree field of view. They are great at picking up the slightest movement, even from far away. They are also extremely paranoid. Move at the wrong time and your spring turkey hunt will be blown.
When you see a turkey approaching, don’t panic. Wait for him to go behind a tree or strut with his fan obscuring his vision before you move your gun. When you get an opportunity, make your move swiftly and silently.
If you get caught with your gun pointing the wrong direction, it is still sometimes possible to kill the bird. Move your gun slowly and smoothly to where it needs to be and be ready to shoot. The turkey will see the movement, but will often stick his head up for a second or two. Pull the trigger and put it back down.
5. Giving Up Too Soon
About half the gobblers I have killed have fallen after 9:00 a.m. when most hunters are back at camp or heading for the coffee shop.
A lot of hunters leave the woods after striking out early. If the birds were gobbling at dawn, they are still around. You just have to find them. You will hear less gobbling late in the morning, but if you do find a gobbling bird, your chances of killing him are pretty good.
Toms will often lose their hens around mid-morning and go looking for more. Be in the woods to capitalize when they do.
6. Hunting the Wrong Location
Some hunters get so caught up in hunting their favorite spot that they refuse to move to a new location. This is a big mistake in spring turkey hunting. Gobblers will tell you where they are nearly every morning. Sure, there will be days when gobbling action is slow or even non-existent, but returning to silent hunting grounds day after day is a sure recipe for a blown hunt.
Do what it takes to find gobbling turkeys to hunt. Call in a favor and hunt your buddy’s land. Find some public land in your area and give it a try. Just don’t make the mistake of returning to an area that has proven itself turkeyless.
7. Not Getting Close Enough
The less distance a tom has to travel to reach you, the more likely you are to kill him. A distant turkey coming to your calls can gobble up a real hen, get chased off by a coyote, encounter an obstacle, or simply lose interest. Get as close as you can before setting up to minimize the likelihood of any of these situations.
It is sometimes possible to slip within 75 yards of a roosted turkey. If he’s already on the ground, use terrain and screening vegetation to close the distance. Be careful though, the difference between close enough and too close is one step. If you spook the bird, your hunt is blown before it even begins.
8. Missing the Shot
There are few things more heartbreaking than finding a gobbler, picking the perfect set up, calling him into range, and watching him fly off at the sound of your shotgun. Fortunately, this doesn’t have to happen to you.
Pattern your shotgun before the season with several loads and see which one performs best. Once you have determined the best load, shoot it at ranges from 10 to 50 yards and determine your maximum range.
A lot of people miss turkeys by shooting at them when they are too far away or too close. Try to take your shot somewhere between 25 and 35 yards. At this distance, most loads have plenty of killing power and your pattern is spread out enough to give you a larger margin of error.
Aim for the turkey’s wattles and squeeze the trigger like you are shooting a rifle and you’ll avoid the disappointment that comes with a blown shot.
We all make mistakes and blow a few hunts. The difference between average and great hunters is how well they learn from their mistakes.
I have personally blown spring turkey hunts by committing all of these blunders. Learn from my mistakes and don’t blow your hunt.