Follow these tips for a rewarding spring turkey hunt.
Turkey hunting can provide instant gratification or it can feel humbling. You can be out before sunup and not hear a single gobble all day, or you can bag a giant gobbler before most of your friends are leaving for work. Success is never assured in hunting (that’s why they call it hunting and not harvesting), but a little preparation goes a long way, and I’m here to tell you how to get the jump on spring turkeys.
Why should you listen to me? I’ve been turkey hunting for sixteen years, and I’m well-versed in the art of getting ready for the big day. By April 15 (the start of spring turkey season in Oregon) if I wasn’t in school, I was in the field. My advice is the same for hunters of all ages and experience levels: fortune favors the prepared.
1. Location, Location, Location
A few weeks before opening day you should have a solid idea of where you’ll be hunting. If you’re hunting on public land, pick up a map when you buy your tag or ask friends where they’ve seen birds. If you’re hunting on private land, landowners will usually be able to point you in the right direction (turkeys can be a nuisance on farmland, and many farmers are more than happy to be rid of a few birds).
Scouting is the best and most important thing you can do to help your opening day odds. A few days before the start of the season, scout the area where you plan on hunting. Watch where the turkeys like to roost or where they feed throughout the day. You’re much more likely to fill your tag if you’re familiar with where the birds want to hang out.
Scouting is also a good time to practice your calling. My calling suffers if I don’t practice for a long time, and I’ll take any opportunity I can get to call in a space without four walls.
3. Early to Bed, Early to Rise
You know the old saying, “the early bird gets the worm?” In turkey hunting, the early hunter gets the bird. Turkeys start feeding and breeding before sunrise, and you don’t want to still be in bed when all the action is happening. Get a full night’s sleep, wake up before sunrise, and get moving.
One of my first hunts happened exactly like this. My dad and I hiked through some Forest Service land the evening before opening day, calling and listening. We listened to the birds settling on a hill, and knew where we were going to hunt. The next morning we hiked up the hill before sunrise, and an hour later we had killed our first tom (I was six). We heard clapping and calling from a neighboring hill, where some hunters were watching the whole thing.
Turkey hunting is deeply frustrating when it doesn’t work out, but when it does it feels amazing. I wish you all the best of luck, and make sure to tweet us your hunting pictures.