For years I avoided getting into Turkey Hunting because it seemed so complicated, so much to learn. But when I bagged my first long-beard one foggy spring morn, I knew I was hooked for life! To help flatten the learning curve a little, here’s ten common rookie mistakes to avoid;
1. Thinking that a $50 call is going to bring more turkeys than a $10 call. I got my first slate from a discount bin at an army-navy store. What makes a great call? Technique and practice!
2. Picking a bad position to set up: I’ve seen guys set up on inclines a mountain goat couldn’t climb, and proceed to call into a veritable canyon. Know where the sun will come up and make sure it won’t be in your eyes or highlighting you, it’s better to sit in the shadows. Luck has little to do with turkey hunting, it’s all about preparation.
For example, one year I set up in light cover surrounded by weeds and multi-flora rose with my back to a tree at the corner of a small woods. By turning my head very little,, I could see across two plowed fields and watch hundreds of yards of wood line. From this very spot I have shot three turkeys on different occasions.
3. Crowding other callers: At one public area I once watched a hunter come marching into the woods and plop down not twenty feet from another hunter. If you can even hear another hunter calling, you are in the wrong spot!
4. Not doing your homework: Don’t assume you know how your gun patterns, particularly with turkey loads. Don’t assume that because you can make your call squawk, loads of love-lorn toms are going to come running to you. Do your homework, read the books and magazines, watch the hunting shows, talk to veteran hunters,and maybe even go to a calling seminar. Above all, pattern your gun at varying distances with the load you plan to use in the hunt.
5. Calling too much: One of the best things that ever happened to me as a novice turkey hunter was dropping my call in the mud. A dirty slate is hard to work and while I was trying to get it in “full squawk”, a previously reluctant gobbler decided to answer me and break cover. Calling too frequently is the most common tactical error made by rookie longbeard seekers. Learn to listen.
6. Not enough Scouting: Any time I get a tip about a good place to hunt turkeys, I flag it as a BAD spot. Turkey hunters are famous for giving novices the bum steer to make sure they are out of the way. The only sure way to find birds is to scout them yourself. Hunt in the morning where you saw them roost the night before.
7. Stalking: there are some hunters who will tell you they always hunt turkeys on the stalk. Unless you are some kind of Ninja (and no, you aren’t) moving about is a sure fire way to spook the birds. Every turkey I’ve seen on the move has seen me before I got within fifty yards of him. Turkey have highly developed telescopic vision, and hearing ten times better than ours. Stay put and call them to you.
8. Underpowered shots: A shotgun is a powerful weapon at close range but you need every advantage you can get. I’ve seen turkeys pelted with three rounds, kicking up dirt all around them yet they run off. Do yourself and the bird a favor and use a real turkey load and a good tight choke.
9. Under dressing/Under Equipping: It may be spring, but if you’re in the woods before daylight as you should be, it’s cold! Also, you’ll need to sit perfectly still so dress like you’re in early deer bow season, or warmer. Always take the gear to the field that allows you to hunt harder, longer, and smarter.
10. Going in at Noon: The Spring Turkey season in Ohio only lasts until noon, but don’t give up! At twelve, I hike back to my car, grab my lunch, stow my shotgun, grab my gopher rifle and head back into the field. Early spring offers the best woodchuck hunting of the year as fields are freshly plowed and the crops aren’t up yet. Opportunity to make long shots abound, and you’ll often see turkeys in the field mid-day just to keep your spirits up. If you’re still out at dusk, listen and glass to find where toms are roosting. Also, bring a squeaker call and you might just find a coyote making his evening rounds. Given a chance, a day that started with turkey hunting can be one of the most diverse and enjoyable days of hunting you’ll ever have, and it’s just the cure for all that cabin fever.
Copyright Byron Scarbrough, 2011