Cure these ten ails and you'll bag more birds, guaranteed.
Turkey hunting isn't easy, but it's not the impossible mission that it's often made out to be.
There are some common mistakes that most new turkey hunters make -- and some veterans, as well. Here's a list of the most likely reasons you've struggled to fill tags in the past.
1. Your setup stinks
You could probably ignore the rest of this list if you learn to correct your setups. You can be a great caller, use the best decoys, and hunt the very best ground, but if you aren't careful about your setup, you won't kill many longbeards.
When setting up on roosted birds, try to get within 100 yards. Make sure you're positioned in a manner that will provide concealment and allow you to stay still.
Identify any obstacles -- fences, deep ditches, creeks -- and don't try to pull a bird across them.
2. You're calling too much, or too little
Calling is a critical part of success. You have to know when to pour it on and when to keep things quiet, and the only way you're going to learn is experience.
Try to let the birds tell you what they want. I prefer to start off softer and dial things up as needed.
3. Your rhythm is wrong
Calling turkeys is more about rhythm and cadence than it is about sound quality. Some calls just don't sound great. But if you work that caller in the correct rhythm and cadence, turkeys will still respond more often than not.
You don't have to be a champion caller to kill a gobbler, but you do have to know what turkeys sound like and mimic that cadence.
4. You give up too soon
The classic turkey hunt is the one where you set up on a roosted gobbler and kill it into gun range when it flies down. That's also one of the least likely scenarios to happen each spring.
More often than not, that gobbler is going to be roosted near hens. Real ones. And those live decoys will pull that bird away time and time again.
Later in the morning, especially later in the spring season, the hens will spend time each day incubating eggs on a nest. This is your opportunity.
Lonely gobblers are much easier to call in, so stop leaving the woods too early.
5. You're moving too much
You can get away with some movement while hunting deer from a treestand, but move on the ground when a turkey is in sight and you're in trouble.
Turkeys have exceptional eyesight and they're creatures that are eaten by just about every toothy critter in the woods. When they see movement, they seldom stick around to see what it is. So sit still.
6. You aren't patient enough
Hearing a turkey gobble is a primary reason I hunt them. But all too often, savvy birds simply don't talk much. If you've heard a bird gobble, you need to give that bird time to work into your position and understand that it may do so without making another sound.
I'm as impatient as anyone. If I don't get a response, I'm hard to keep in one spot. But I always try to allow at least 10-15 minutes after I've made my last calling sequences before moving. Many times, I'll see a gobbler in that time period coming in without making a peep.
7. You're listening to the wrong advice
There is no shortage of "turkey content" available online. Some of it is great, and some of it, well, not so much. But keep in mind that some turkey hunting gurus spend the bulk of their spring season going from one "camp" to another -- each one of them on lightly-hunted property set up specifically for special guests like turkey hunting writers.
While those guys have killed a bunch of turkeys, they aren't exactly doing it in the real world most of us spend our time turkey hunting in. You are the best judge of the situation you're hunting. Don't expect every hot tactic to work on birds that are heavily hunted.
8. You're not ready to shoot
I'm guilty of this more often than I care to admit. I'm just not a fan of sitting with my gun on my shoulder and the forearm on my knee. It's not comfortable to me when I'm turkey hunting and so I usually find myself unprepared from time to time when a gobbler comes in silent.
But you have to be ready when that bird appears. If you're caught off guard, wait until the bird's head is hidden by something (including its tail fan if it's strutting) and get that gun up.
9. You can't hit anything
A turkey shotgun is a shotgun. True enough, but it's not like other shotguns. Pattern your gun before the season and make sure you're putting at least 10-12 pellets in the head and neck area of the target.
Some guns will pattern best with certain loads and pellet sizes. The time to find out what that preferred combination isn't when a gobbler is hammering from 25 yards.
10. You haven't put in the time
The best thing about turkey hunting? You learn something new every time you go. While there are some "rules" to this game, nothing is set in stone. And there's nothing you can't fix eventually. If you've struggled to fill tags, keep at it.