The four big mistakes turkey hunters make can be prevented. Here's how.
Experienced turkey hunters know the animals they hunt.
Wild turkeys are intelligent, alert, and extremely hard to fool when it comes to calling them in with a turkey call. Any tiny mistake is enough to end a turkey hunt and send those smart, old Toms back the way they came.
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There is simply very little room for error when hunting these birds, and anyone who has gone after them more than a few times can tell you any number of mistakes they've made, plus the lessons they've learned the hard way while turkey hunting.
The best hunters make a mistake once and lose a bird, then never make that mistake again. Hunting is about learning those lessons and becoming a better hunter because of them.
However, there are times when turkey hunters make critical mishaps that are costing them birds, but they aren't aware they're doing anything wrong. These are the kinds of mistakes that can ruin a hunt and do so without even giving a hunter the benefit of learning from them.
Here are a few mistakes you could have made without even realizing you were doing it.
Sunshine & Metal
Turkeys have incredible eyesight, and they use that eyesight to their advantage when it comes to dealing with naïve turkey hunters. Most hunters spend a ton of money on the right camouflage clothing or leafy wear. We don masks, gloves and camouflage every part of our body until we look like a walking tree. By doing so, we assume a wild turkey can't see enough of our skin to make us out as a human.
That's a great idea, in theory. However, if we spend hundreds of dollars on clothing and head to the woods with a shotgun that glistens under the morning sun, we may as well be wearing a giant orange flag over our shoulders. Several shotguns are made with camouflage coating, and there are ways to camouflage any kind of shotgun, but if a hunter fails to make the effort to cover the freshly oiled barrel of his Remington or Mossberg, he may as well stay home.
There is nothing in the wild that shines like the metal or glossy finish of a wood stock, blued barrel shotgun. Wild turkeys will use their impeccable eyesight and keen intelligence to bust any hunter naïve enough to head to the woods with a gun that shines brighter than their car. Cover up the shine and eliminate the gloss.
So, you've found the perfect spot and you can hear that old Tom working his way towards you. He's 70 yards out and gobbling with every breath. You know it's just a matter of moments before he pops into view, so you get yourself ready. The gun is up and pointed in his direction. All you have to do is flip off the safety and pull the trigger.
The only problem with that scenario is that wild turkeys don't follow a pattern. There is no script in the wild. More than likely, that Tom will try to flank you at 50 yards and you'll have to move. Once you do, it's all over.
Wild turkeys will bust you on movement every time. It doesn't matter if you move the barrel of your shotgun one inch or 12. The movement you make by shifting positions is often enough to earn a warning cluck and a backside view of a retreating Tom.
Never move until you know you can't be seen. Don't assume the big Tom coming to you can't see your movements. Wait until you know he's behind a tree or is facing away before you shift positions. It's better to wait and be sure than to take a chance and watch him retreat.
Depending on your hunting method, finding the right place to set up and call in a turkey can be a challenge. Whether you hunt wooded land with thick undergrowth or farm land with wide open fields, finding the best visibility and cover is always an interesting chore. What you don't want to do is put yourself in a position where the turkey will catch you facing the wrong direction.
One of the biggest keys to success in turkey hunting is a hunter's ability to predict where a turkey will be when he gets within range. Movement isn't allowed and in order to be ready for that one or two second shot window, it is vitally important to never be caught with your metaphorical pants down.
When you hear a Tom gobbling close by, take a few extra moments to look around. Make sure you are putting yourself in the best possible position to catch the bird unaware. Don't just drop down next to the first tree you see after he answers your call. Taking a few extra seconds to choose a better location can mean all the difference between a successful hunt and a story after the fact that starts with an excuse.
Attention to Detail
The common theme amongst turkey hunter mistakes is lack of attention to detail in regards to the animal being hunted. Understanding the true extent of a turkey's ability to bust you with the slightest movement or see the shiny barrel of your gun makes all the difference when it comes to being successful in the field.
Wild turkeys are survivors. Instinctively, they understand that every predator in the woods is after them. Because of that high intensity alertness, wild turkeys pay attention to everything around them. If the hunters chasing them fail to do the same, then wild turkeys end up with all the advantage.
Before heading out for your next turkey hunt, take a little time to think like a turkey. Don't let unknowing mistakes cost you a shot at your target.