Turkey Hunting Tips and Information
Turkey hunting is one of the fastest growing sports going, many new hunters start hunting every year. As a result of this we feel there is a need to pass on some information that can help new hunters not only kill turkey but also stress the safety of turkey hunting. With all of the new hunters in the woods each year safety has to be the number one concern. Each year there are to many hunters shot by mistake by other hunters in all parts of the country. Be sure of your target before you pull the trigger. No one wants to live with the horror of shooting someone while hunting.
Turkey hunting can be a dangerous sport, you as a hunter must do everything you can to see that you don't shoot someone or get shot yourself. Don't take anything for granted. When I first started turkey hunting about 20 years ago I was almost shot by another hunter because I took for granted he knew I was a hunter and not a turkey. Always pay attention to what is going on in the woods around you.
Never wear anything that is red, white or blue as these are the colors of a gobblers head and what other hunters are looking for. Make sure socks are covered at all times, as well as the neck of a tee shirt. When I go into the woods I'm totally camouflaged from head to toe.
I once ran into a guy hunting with turkey feathers stuck in his hat. I asked if he was a new hunter and he said yes, why? When I pointed out how dangerous it could be having turkey feathers in his hat he said the never gave it a thought. He thanked me while pulling the feathers out of his hat stuffing them deep in his pocket.
Always set up against a tree that is larger than your body if possible, this does two things. First it will help break up your outline so it will be harder for a gobbler to pick you out. Second it will protect you from someone that may slip up behind you, see your movement and mistake you for a turkey. Next thing you know you are shot.
Today hunters have more patterns of camouflage available than ever before. Most are effective so it becomes a matter of personal preference. The main thing you need to remember is total camo is a must. This means not only shirt and pants but gloves and face net as well. Many hunters also camo their shotguns, it's not required but it can help. I personally don't have my shotgun camouflaged but it has a matt finish so there is no glare in the sunlight.
One thing that you need to consider is the condition of the woods you will be hunting. What I mean by that is the amount of foliage there is at that time. Sometimes here in Kentucky at the start of the season the woods doesn't have much foliage. As the season progresses the woods fills out and becomes much more green. For this reason I will start with a camo like Realtree advantage that has a lot of brown in it like dead leaves. Later as the woods becomes more green I switch to a camo with more green in it like Realtree Extra Brown. I don't think the brand is as important as your confidence in the camo you wear.
Today's turkey hunters have a million calls to choose from. There are so many it can be hard to decide what call to buy. If you are just getting into turkey hunting start with simple calls like box calls or slate calls. They are easy to learn to use and will call any turkey in the woods if he wants to be called. I like the new type slate calls available today. They are made from materials that will allow them to work even if they get wet. A call that I have had good luck with the last couple of years is Ol' Yeller made by Knight & Hale. It's made from a material called Slatek and works great in rain. It also will produce several tones depending on where you position the striker on the call. It can get real coarse or high pitched based on the position and pressure of the striker. It's a great locator call because it can get real loud and high pitched which will allow the sound to carry a long distance.
New hunters should keep their call types simple in the beginning and learn to use them good. They should also keep their calls simple, learn to make good yelps and clucks and then learn how to purr. A few yelps and clucks will call any turkey in the woods if he wants to be called.
As you become a more experienced caller you can try a diaphragm call. They will allow a hunter to make calls without making much movement. They take a lot more practice to learn how to use but they add another sound to your calling.
Each type of call has its own sound so it can be good to be able to use several types of calls. If you are hunting an area that has been hunted by hunters using one type call sometimes using another type call will make all the difference. After many years of turkey hunting I personally carry about four types of calls and two or three types of diaphragm calls. With that I also carry several types of locator calls such as crow and owl.
Like most things in hunting the best shotgun is a matter of personal choice. There are a number of good turkey guns available to choose from. Some hunters like to use scopes on their shotguns but I personally don't like scopes on shotguns. You will need to see what works best for you.
I feel that a 12 gauge 3" magnum is needed to cleanly kill a turkey. They can be killed at close range with 2 3/4" shells but you cannot rely on getting a close shot. The newer 3 1/2" magnums are even better but not required. I like a pump because it is a little lighter than an automatic. My turkey gun is a Remington 870 SP Magnum fitted with a slug barrel with a extra full turkey choke. I installed a set of fiber optic rifle sights on it for the early morning. I like the short barrel length and the rifle sights allowed me to zero my pattern in like you would a scope. To me it's the best turkey gun going.
One thing that can't be stressed to much is patterning your gun to see what shot size or shell gives you the best pattern. Every shotgun can pattern different and even two guns identical can pattern different. Try different brands of shells in #4, #5 or #6 shot to see what patterns best. I like to pattern my gun at 40 yards using a turkey head for my target. If you need a turkey target you can print one here.
Turkey decoys can be very effective if used correctly. I have had good success using decoys in a field set up but not as much in a woods set up. The reason is simple, a gobbler has much more trouble seeing a decoy in the woods. I still use them at times in the woods depending on how open the woods is. I try to use a decoy in fields as much as possible. When setting up my decoys I try to set them up a little to my right side being a right handed shooter. If you set then up on your opposite side it will make it harder to get a shot. Also setting your decoy up to one side will help keep a gobbler from seeing you. He may be watching the decoy more and will not see you as easy. I like to set up my decoy at about 20 yards. This serves two purposes, first as a range indicator and second it may help get him to come in to my gun range if he hangs up.
Setting up on a gobbler is just about the most important thing you do. If you set up correctly it can make the difference in getting a gobbler or not. As any turkey hunter will tell you, always set up above the turkey so you will be calling him up hill. Don't try to call him down hill. On level ground it's not an issue. Next don't try to call him across a creek, ditch, fence or hollow. They will even hang up on a tree lap at times.
I like to set up in an open part of the woods where he feels safe and can strut. The last thing I try to do is set up in a spot where when he comes over the hill he in in range, this does not allow him much time to look around and see me. When he comes over the crest of the hill he's a dead bird.
Caring For Your Bird:
After you have killed your turkey you will have a fine meal and a beautiful trophy for years of memories. One of the most important things you will need to do is get the bird field dressed as soon as possible. In most states the spring seasons are set when the temperatures are starting to warm up. A turkey can spoil fast if not cleaned right away.
There are several ways to cook your bird, this will determine how you will need to clean it. If you plan to bake it like a traditional turkey you will need to gut it and then pluck it so it can be baked with the skin on.
Some people like to smoke their turkey in a smoker, if so you can skin the bird after it has been gutted. Then there are others who prefer fried turkey. They fillet the two breast from the bird without gutting it. This can be done by skinning back the breast then cutting each side of the breast off.
Deep frying a turkey is also very good and it can be done with or without the skin. Regardless how you choose to cook your turkey you will be pleased with the end result. My three favorite ways to cook my turkey is deep frying, smoking or frying into turkey strips. You will find a couple of our recipes to try here. I hope you enjoy.
Having a full body mount of your turkey is very expensive and many hunters don't have the room to display it as well. An alternative for you may be a fan mount, they also make a nice mount. It's not very expensive to have done in most areas or you can even do it yourself.
First cut the tail fan off the turkey above the tail feathers keeping some of the meat on it. After you cut it off the bird you will be able to see how much excess meat that can be trimmed off the fan. Trim off as much of the meat as possible and still keep the tail intact. Place the fan spread out like you desire on a piece of cardboard with the meat side up. Use straight pins through the quills to hold the fan in the position you want. Cover all of the exposed meat and fatty tissue with a heavy coating of Borax and store somewhere dry. It will take a couple weeks to cure the fan. After the fan is cured take some of the excess small feathers from under the fan and trim off all the down leaving only feather. Next take a hot glue gun and glue the cut feathers over the exposed cured meat area until all the meat is covered. I make a trophy board like used on a deer head and turn it upside down and screw the fan to the board. Below the fan I screw small brass hooks to hang beards on. Click on the thumbnail picture below to see an example how it turns out.
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