Sure-fire Turkey Tactics


The other day I was sitting in my home looking out the window at the 20 or so wild turkeys in my cornfield looking for food. These were some truly big, wild birds that would make any hunter proud to bag. After a bit, the birds decided it was time to leave and I watched them all at once take a running start and struggle to lift their bodies into flight. After they became airborne, they headed straight for the protection of the nearby timber. As they disappeared into the trees, I started thinking of the upcoming turkey season. Now keep in mind, depending on just what state you hunt in, these season dates will vary.

Currently, all across this great nation of ours, wild turkey numbers are at an all-time high. More than ever, hunters are able to get out into the field and enjoy the thrill of hunting this beautiful bird. But to be consistently successful in your hunt, there are some things that you have to take into consideration to make your hunt successful.

Turkey hunting has really changed dramatically in the last 20 years. Not only are turkey hunter numbers at an all-time high, but hunters are also much more knowledgeable in the art of hunting a turkey. So even though the number of birds has increased, larger numbers of hunters have put increased pressure on these birds.

Let’s talk about a few proven tactics to help you succeed in bagging that trophy bird this spring.

One of the first things that you have to do is consider the area you intend to hunt. Try and get out and scout at least three or four locations that the birds have been known to use prior to the opening of hunting season. Locate and make a note of the areas that you find them in. For this, I have found that the use of a portable hand-held GPS unit works well. You can simply enter a waypoint into the GPS and be able to go back to that spot time after time with accuracy. There is no guesswork involved, and you can also store multiple locations for future use. These GPS units are getting relatively inexpensive in cost and are something to consider investing in. When you scout these areas, try and spot birds from a distance. This will also help to keep the birds relaxed, and they will remain in the area longer if they do not feel threatened. When you are doing your scouting of these birds, make it a point to listen to them and see how they are calling. Turkeys do not always call the same; you will find that they will often have slight variations in the way they call. And by taking the time to listen to them you will have a better idea of how to call when hunting. Sometimes, using the wrong variation of a call will actually get the birds to spook and suddenly move from the area, which can cost you a good clean shot.

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Another thing that works well is to try and hunt during a time when other hunters are not in the field. It seems that many folks who hunt turkeys tend to focus their efforts toward the early-morning hours and ignore the rest of the day. Most of these hunters are gone by noon. By hunting later in the day, you give these hunter-pressured turkeys a chance to calm down and relax, making them very vulnerable to the late-day hunter. In fact, I have taken my biggest gobblers over the years hunting this way. You have to remember turkeys do not like human activity and traffic will cause the birds to become extremely skittish.

Now I realize that some hunters may not be able to take advantage of the afternoon hunt, so try this: Head into the area you intend to hunt very early and get settled in. When doing this, you will want to be on the lookout for roosting birds. When you do spot them, you will want to try and determine just which way the birds will fly down. By having an idea of this, you will be able to set yourself up in good position to these roost areas. While you’re watching these roosting birds, take and make a series of soft hen calls to get the turkeys’ attention. The reason is to try and steer the bird toward your area. The closer you can get the turkey to fly in, the better. This will help to ensure a good clean kill if that is the bird you decide to take. The reason I say this is that when I’m in the field, I make it a point to be very selective in which bird I harvest. In fact, there have been many times when I have passed on birds and came home empty because I did not find the turkey I was looking for. This selective harvesting is a great way to hunt, and will only help future populations of birds. To me, a successful hunt does not necessarily mean making a kill, but it’s the overall enjoyment of the challenge of outfoxing a wily tom.

You want to remember that when afield, if you find the hen turkeys, you will notice that the big toms are going to be close by. Look for areas that have good feed available and you will find the hens. When you’re hunting this kind of a situation, you will want to try and locate yourself between the hens and the toms if at all possible. Now, if you are successful in doing this, you will want to aggressively use a dominant hen call at this time. The reason is that the hens you have spotted will more often than not respond with some type of call of their own that is trying to show their dominance in the group. Again, make sure you do this call very aggressively for best results. You will know you’re successful when you hear her yelping back at your call. Once you get the hen to yelp back at you, ease off and let her continue calling—all this racket that is being caused will draw the toms to the area. One thing for sure is that the tom will want to be with his girlfriend when he hears her yelping going on and this will cause him to concentrate on her and let his guard down. When you see this movement, the next move is up to you.

If you decide to take a bird, make your movements very slowly, taking careful aim and humanely make the harvest. If you decide not to fire, that’s fine too, just relax and enjoy the moment. Making great memories is what it’s all about anyway.

Email your fishing and hunting questions to Mike Cyze at: You can also check out his Blog at: or listen to Mike on ESPN Radio.