Here's a list of reasons why you or someone you know may fail come opening day of turkey season.
Last year, I was a bit reactive rather than proactive, yet quickly capitalized on my mistakes. There were several things that I did wrong on opening weekend of turkey hunting season that I will always be able to learn from. Each year, unfortunately, the list keeps getting longer over all. With that, however, I am able to share my experiences with you, to help you prevent yourself from conducting the same mistakes I make.
This year, instead of being reactive, I'm being proactive. I was able to sit down with Matt Dye of Land and Legacy to gather a list of tips and tricks that will help bring you success this turkey season.
Here are the list of reasons you will likely fail on opening day of turkey hunting season.
1. You Didn't Scout
Matt Dye says to never overlook pre-season scouting trips. During the early season, birds are typically vocal, gobblers are sorting out dominance among the flock and attempting to impress the ladies. Listen to where these birds are roosting and which direction they head after fly down. They will likely begin moving to an opening or ridge top to strut. If you are able to, using a good set of optics, we recommend the Mavin B3 or Nikon Monarch 5, at a distance, watch these birds. Nikon also offers a line of field scopes that allow you to scout at even further distances.
Scouting not only ensures you will know turkeys actually exist on the property, but when done correctly, you will know what specific birds reside there. Trail cameras are always a great tool for turkey hunting as well. If you are able to bait legally, a trail camera, properly placed for turkeys can help you to time and locate birds on your property.
2. You Didn't Pattern Your Gun
I brought my buddy turkey hunting last year for the first time as we hunted birds out on his farm. A very humble and quiet person he is, I thought he understood the importance of patterning his gun. After we called in this double bearded bird, he made a shot that had me sifting through the turkeys breast. Later, after the shot, I joked about him shooting the bird in the breast and not at the head. Although he managed to shoot the turkey, he was unaware that you should aim at the turkeys head while turkey hunting with a shotgun. All-in-all, we were able to salvage both the beard and meat form the turkey, but more so, learn from the experience.
The opportunity not only allowed us to talk about aiming location for turkey, but also brought us to patterning his gun. He was shooting a modified choke, in which most turkey hunters want to shoot a full, xtra-full or "turkey" choke. These type of chokes allow for a tighter group when shooting at further distances, minimizing the amount of shot that enters the body of the turkey. Bottom line, is you won't be chewing on BBs when you eat down on your favorite wild turkey recipe. Knowing your distance and your pattern at different distances will help you be successful on opening day. If you fail to pattern your gun, hopefully you brought luck and it just works out.
3. You Didn't Practice with Your Bow or Understand Turkey Anatomy
Here's another "learn from my mistakes" mistake. If you don't know the anatomy of the turkey by now, you are behind. I was behind last year when I missed (on my first shot) the opportunity at a beautiful Maryland turkey. The shot, I thought, looked great. I had practiced for weeks to ensure my bow was accurate and ready to hunt. I could hit a quarter at 30 yards, the only problem was, I didn't know where on the turkey, that quarter needed to be.
I screwed up, I made a mistake, don't let that happen to you. A turkey, especially in full strut, can appear as a big target when you are aiming at the body. Keep in mind a turkeys vitals are roughly the same size as their head and neck, so sometimes it may just be as easy to aim at their head. All in all, don't forget to practice and if you are taking a shot on a turkey with a bow, don't forget to know the anatomy of a turkey.
4. You Were Too Aggressive
If you come to find things just aren't too heated in the turkey world yet, you may have done a little too much strutting, pun intended. Coming in aggressively opening weekend can go one of two ways: Success or failure. To properly prepare for your actions, goes back to how well you scouted.
Matt Dye says that if you were too aggressive and scared away a Tom, its just a waiting game now. If you've spooked turkeys, it's time to get patient. If the gobbler you were chasing was hot, give him time. He will fire back up, but you will likely have to reposition yourself. Don't try to call him back to the same spot you spooked him. Move to get around to another vantage point and coax him in.
5. You Weren't Prepared
This is probably the number one, vaguely, reason you failed on opening weekend. Overall, you just didn't prepare yourself. If you are a deer hunter, you may spend countless hours and days preparing. Shooting your bow and sighting in your gun is part of your preparation. Scouting, looking for patterns, gathering trail camera pictures, this is all very important to achieve success.
If you are calling, or trying to, videos on YouTube can show you how to successfully call, but even that takes practice. There are so many things, when it comes to turkey hunting, that you should be prepared for. It can go as far as forgetting your face mask or face paint. The best way to ensure you are prepared, is to "hunt" a day early. What I mean by that, is get up at the same time you prepare to the next day. Jump in your vehicle, drive to your parking spot, get out and act as though you are walking in to hunt. Simply set up by your truck and see what you forgot.
Hopefully you remembered everything, and hopefully you gave yourself enough time. If you forgot anything or arrived late, you can go home and try again. It may seem like overkill, but if you aren't prepared, there may not be any kill at all.