View Full Version : Turkeys 101

March 1, 2005, 08:13 PM
Hey all - I'm going to hunt turkeys for the 2nd time in the spring - 1st time really in earnest, and want to get up to speed on the basics:

1. How many decoys, and of what type do you use?
2. At what times of day, and with what frequency, do you call a certain sound the birds make. Generally, what's the calling method that works best?
3. What features in the terrain do you look for to stake out a good spot - obviously near the roosting area, if you can figure that out, but other than that?
4. At what point do you give up on a spot and move?
5. What size shot - 4, 5, 6, what?


March 1, 2005, 08:26 PM
Pattern is very important .Assuming a shotgun with sights and turkey choke, get turkey targets and pick the best patterning ammo.You want a tight uniform pattern, I prefer #4...I've always heard that the most common mistake is calling too loud and too often !....In this area I would look for acorns for a good spot and if you know where they're roosting maybe between the roost and feeding area for the early morning.I always see them during deer season especially opening day !!!

March 1, 2005, 08:31 PM
No Decoys
Early morning - Sometimes the onset of dusk
Look for trees with bushy tops but not so bushy I can't get a clean shot
I usually call for an hour to three hours then move or go home :)
Number 5 Shot - Winchester Premium(?) Turkey Loads in 3.5" Mag (does kick :D)

I think that's about it. I'm usually full BDU camoflague (military style) I still don't buy the scent lock clothes... no sense turkey's are dumb but they can see.

I do have the benefit of watching them in my backyard although I cannot shoot them I do learn from them and how they act. They are finicky and frightful creatures they are very easiliy spooked and are VERY curious. They will come up to my back window and gobble to wake me up.

bill k
March 1, 2005, 08:38 PM
I use a crow call to find the area they are in. Turkeys hate crows, so if you have crows in your area it might help, it does here.

March 1, 2005, 09:50 PM
OK, so I should buy 3 or 4 ammo types and test to see which patterns best in my gun, sounds like. Check. Get up well before dawn. Check. Decoys not really necessary. Check. But which sound do you make at which time (gobble, cackle, purr, etc.), and in what sequence - and it depends on whether you want a hen or tom, I take it, but which for which. Any other details that might help me out?

So if turkeys hate crows, then I assume they'd steer clear of them. So do what, call in one place to run the turkeys out, then run to another place where you've driven them? :confused:

bill k
March 1, 2005, 11:00 PM
No, turkeys will warn crows to stay out. You here them so you know where they're at. It gives a very good idea of there location. That's why you have a crow and a turkey call in your vest.

Arizona Fusilier
March 1, 2005, 11:41 PM
FF, entire volumes have been written on this; I would encourage you to seek out a few. As for me, my turkey expertise is sadly limited to "book smarts", despite having a go at it a couple of times.

The important thing is to positively identify the game is in your AO in the first place, something I haven't mastered yet.

As far as some modest specifics in calling, from what I've read, it largely depends on whether you have positively identified a roosting tree, and how far away you are in the AM, which is the best time to nail 'em.

If you have, starting out with a gobble gets the gobblers excited, being fearfull that somebody else is down there already getting his hens!

If not, starting with a few clucks and purrs to lure one in that hasn't found his yet is the flip-side of that advice.

But to borrow a tried and true sage saying from Fort Benning, "It depends upon the terrain and situation". ;)

March 2, 2005, 12:19 AM
Bring an owl decoy this way the crows will go after the owl and you can shoot some crows if you can't get any turkeys :D

bill k
March 2, 2005, 10:04 AM
Get this months "Peterson's Hunting" magazine, this issue has several articles on tactics, calling, scouting and more. You can't miss it in the rack, its cover is a Turkey.

March 3, 2005, 03:14 PM
Bill K, the absolute best locator call I have ever witnessed was an RF-4 Phantom from the Air National Guard coming over the canyon low. It was almost disheartening to hear how many gobblers there were that you could not get to make a peep.

Anyhow, back to the question: Federal Premium #4 shot is a good standard, although #4 Hevi Shot has also impressed me. I think it is possible to have too tight of pattern, as you might find yourself with a shot from a cramped, awkward position that doesn't allow picture perfect sight pictures.

If it is windy, you can't call too loud, unless a bird is in sight. (Windy in Nebraska is 20 mph plus) If it isn't windy, take it easy on the calling, start out like they are 50 feet from you.

One decoy is plenty, and they seem to give the gobbler something to focus on so he stops looking for the origin of the call, which would be you. I would recommend one of the semi-flexible ones that can be stuffed in a bag, so it doesn't bang into everything walking through the woods like my hard plastic one. Tie the stake to the decoy with a piece of cord or string, as they tend to get lost in transit.

Roosts are usually located on a sidehill with a clearing somewhere at the bottom where they can make a comfortable landing. The open landing place is a biggie.

I have seen more birds called in during the afternoon than the morning, the lastest being a half hour before sundown.

P.S. turkeys will come uphill, downhill, across water, and any old way they want to investigate a call. I missed a chance at a nice gobbler when I saw it jump a stream that I had read that they would never do, back in my earlier days. They don't like to leave hens for a call, but would you leave a couple of sure things for an anonymous phone call if you were them?

March 18, 2005, 01:13 PM
I've been hunting turkeys for about 20 years and I'm still learning. They are the stupidist and smartest bird you will ever pursue. Some days you can do everything just right and still not get your bird and other days you can do everything wrong and the turkey will just stand there until you kill him (this usually happens to other people, not me). The best thing you can do is buy a few videos and watch them over and over. The most common mistake is overcalling. A gobblers normal routine in the spring consists of him gobbling and the hens come running. Get his attention and then shut up. He knows where you are, the trick is keeping him interested without spooking him. The more you do it the better you will be at reading his actions. Concealment is very important and minimize your movements, their eyesight is unbelievable.
The decoy question always comes up. Be careful on public land, some people try and stalk turkeys (not smart nor effective). I've been using decoys for the last 5 years and I use featherflex 2 hens and 1 jake. They are very realistic looking and I have had mixed results. When I look back, I called in more turkeys when I set up in the woods with limited visibility. I would choose areas with limited visibility (45 yards max). This way as soon as I saw the gobbler he was in range. When using decoys you are more apt to set up in a field where he can see a lot farther out and subsequently has more time to survey your set up and get spooked.
You have to pattern your gun, try different brands and determine your max range.
Aim for the neck/head area only.
I use an owl call before daylight as a locator call only, the same goes for a crow call after the sun has risen.
If you know turkeys are in the area, stay put for a while. If you aren't getting any responses call about every 15-20 minutes, sometimes they will come in on you and never make a peep.
Good luck, You do it once and you are hooked for life.

March 22, 2005, 09:34 AM
Thanks a LOT, Lokmdown. Can anyone recommend 1 or more specific turkey videos to watch? Where can I get a bunch of these cheap?

March 22, 2005, 11:49 AM
If you have "dish" network satelite TV, you have 3 channels that show hunting and fishing shows most hours of the day. Right now most of the shows deal with turkey hunting. Outdoor channel, OLN and the mens channel. ESPN and SPIKE (used to be TNN) also broadcast hunting shows on the weekend. I'm not sure if "direct TV" or Cable companies carry all of these or not. Check your listings. If you have to buy a video, look in the Cabelas catalog, you can get vidoes that last up to 3 hours for $10.00 and some even come with a call. Good luck

April 19, 2005, 08:40 PM
Saturday morning, April 16th, I got my first turkey ever at around 8:30 a.m, and boy it's lotsa fun. Second turkey trip (first one was last weekend); first day out. (well I had bowhunted for turkey from a stand last fall, but no luck). Here's the brief story.... Okfuskee county, Oklahoma, near Okemah. Friend and I set up a tent blind on this one hill on 40 acres of land we were hunting...I had seen turkeys roosting not 100 yards from where we set up our blind back in deer season. Got out at 6am Sat, and they were already gobbling - we were late! We settled in and I started calling them in, as the more experienced caller of the two of us - neither had ever turkey hunted before this season, but I had practiced my calls; he hadn't. Sure enough, turkeys are heard gobbling all around us, and a few of them come in - my friend gets one at 6:30 am at about 20 yards with a Rem 870 with full choke and 2.75" shells. Then they pretty much quit gobbling between 7:30 and 8:00 am. But I kept calling, and sure enough, around 8:30, 2 jakes come in silently and walk up to my jake-mounting-hen decoy, and I smoke one of them with Mossy 935, with Kent brand shells, 3.5" 2 oz. loads. He didn't kick much. It was 24 yards approx. He was only about 14 lbs. field-dressed, 4 inch beard, and just 1/4" nub spurs, but he's my first turkey - I'm pretty pumped. I think I did a decent job of calling for my first time. I took pics, but with a regular cam instead of digicam, so I have to wait until I shoot the rest of the roll and scan one for posting here later on. I carefully butchered him and got quite a bit of meat - I think I got it all, but not 100% sure whether there was some back meat I missed. Gonna try again this weekend. Got a box call to go with my slate call since Sat evening and Sun morning were like night and day - NO turkeys come in, except hens - they must have been wise to my calls by then, or leery from the gunshots - no luck in getting a second one. Thinking I need to change up my calls to fool them. Seems like they had a pow-wow and the smart ones told the dumb ones to avoid that area - "ya know, where your two buddies got their fool heads blown off". :D Thanks for all your help, LokMdwn and others. :) Oh, these are Rios, I believe, from the tail feather markings and the high degree of vocality, if that's a word.

Oh, forgot to add, was using an "Ulti-full" choke on the 935, 2 steps up from the standard full that came with the shotgun.

April 20, 2005, 11:08 AM

April 20, 2005, 01:59 PM
Good Job and Congrats.

If you came home with a bird then you did everything right. Don't leave that slate call at home. Some days they will not respond to anything and other days they gobble back at everything. :)

April 21, 2005, 02:24 PM
One thing you should do if you plan on going out again soon is get another call. If another gobbler heard you calling, and then saw your bird die, he will put two and two together and that bird will never come to that call again. Use a new call if you are planning to go after that other jake.

April 25, 2005, 06:09 PM
OK, I got a big one this time. Again, Sat morning....lucked into an absolutely perfect hunt. I was on this new lease I'd never been on before, so knew really nothing about, but set up a blind Fri night about 11pm in the dark in this one clearing. As it turned out, it was the perfect spot, cuz it's the clearing this one flock is using to land in from the roost. So Sat morning, they're gobbling on the roost behind me, then about 6:10, they all fly down immediately in front of me just 15 yards away, about 8-10 of them (I had been calling a little). Well, the boss turkey immediately attacks my jake-mounting-hen decoy, and knocks the crap out of it, and I blast him good. So here I have a bird not 15 seconds after they're down from the roost. Later I looked and saw a line of sight from the top of the roosting trees to where I had put my jake decoy, just by pure luck - so looks like that boss had been sitting up there in the roost as the sun came up, eyeing that jake, just building up steam before they flew down - lol. He's a beaut - 7 or 7.5" beard, 7/8ths to 1" spurs; didn't weigh him, but he was prolly 20 lbs, give or take. So I'm on a roll. But to get to my questions, once again, I could not get another one all weekend long (Sat afternoon, Sat evening, & Sunday morning), and I *think* the problem is my calls:

1. The slate/friction call I had used, I didn't use again, under the theory that it would be worthless - cuz the jig is up on that one, plus my other one sounds identical to me, particularly with the way in which I make the call motions.
2. Per the advice here, I also had with me a new box call (Lohman's), but this call is what leads to my question...In the store it sounded great when I tested it, BUT when I got it out to the field, it getting bumped around or *something* caused it to have a metallic tone added to the end of the sound I was making...i.e. it made a good actual sound, but then following it up at the end, you could heard a metallic vibration coming from the screw/spring area. So, how can I eliminate the metallic sound; just adjusting the screw, what? Or, it is ok to take out the spring on a box call completely - will it still work without the spring - I think the spring is the source of the metallic sound. Anyway, I used that box call the rest of the weekend, and they were all around me, and I saw them at 60, 70 yards through trees, but way too far to get a shot - they wouldn't come to my box call - coulda just been henned up - may not have been the call. But, if *I* can detect that metallic ring, then I know the turkeys can, too, so I need to eliminate it.

On a related subject, what brands are your favorite (a) slate calls/strikers, and (b) box calls? - those are the two types that I seem to be able to get decent sounds from... I've got an H.S. friction call and a Knight's friction call; and a Lohman's box call. But there's a zillion choices of course, both brands and models, some of which I cannot take out of the box to try in the store because the packaging is not designed in a way that allows opening/re-closing of the package without tearing it up.

April 25, 2005, 09:26 PM
I like Primos calls. From what I've heard, the Primos Power Crystal is about the best thing out there. But I'm going the have to get a new striker for it before the start of the decond season since a friend used it to call in a tom for another guy. Oh well, new strikers are cheap. :)

April 26, 2005, 07:24 AM
Good Job FF, looks like you are on a roll.

The slate/friction call I had used, I didn't use again, under the theory that it would be worthless - cuz the jig is up on that one, plus my other one sounds identical to me, particularly with the way in which I make the call motions.

With this statement you are making every "Turkey Call" manufacturer in the USA smile. :) You are giving these birds way too much credit. There are a few old cagey gobblers out there but I gurantee you that they don't sit around and compare calls. People carry a variety of calls because you never know the exact pitch, speed or volume of the call that is going to make that old Tom get fired up. I never used anything but a mouth yelper for the first 15 years I hunted turkeys. several years ago I added a slate call to my bag and this year I am adding a waterproof box call. I have added all of this because I have children now and I am not as mobile as I would sometimes like to be. Also a variety of different calls will sound like a bunch of different hens.

As far as your box call goes. Yes it should work without the spring, you just need to practice. Everybody has a different favorite call and the bottom line is your favorite will be one that has worked for you in the past and is the easiest to use. Quite a few years ago I heard another hunter yelping on what sounded like a box call and he was horrible sounding, to make matters worse he seemed to be moving towards me as if he was responding to my calls. I was all set to give this guy a piece of my mind when out stepped a hen. :p
All turkeys have different sounds just like people. If the birds are not responding to your calls, vary them a little and pay attention to what makes the gobblers respond. Some days they will not come to any call. Remember that the gobblers call and the real hens come to them. We are going against nature already by making him come to us. It stands to reason that it isn't going to work all of the time. You will learn something new everyday that you go out.

Also, keep in mind that if you killed a bird everytime you went out it wouldn't be called hunting. :D

I would have loved to see that Tom thrashing your decoy. :D :D

April 26, 2005, 01:00 PM
You might have to chalk that box call. Some box calls come with a blue chalk similar (if not identical) to pool cue chalk. I don't use a box call on a regular basis, but look at this:


Congratulations on your first two birds! Also, thanks for the detailed reports, as I am going to reread them for the information they contain. I have hunted turkeys since 1979, but I like to hear the details of every successful hunt.

My cousin and I screwed up setting up to close to the roost. We didn't have a good fix on it, and we set up almost underneath them, and when they pitched from the roost, they sailed several hundred yards away. Turkeys seem to need a fairly long glide path to come down, but would like to hear others confirm or debate what they think on the matter.

I will post my pictures, but I am having trouble with getting a picture up. Copy and paste doesn't work.

The jakes here in Nebraska have a tendency to flatten out in open fields and hold as tight as quail when they think they have been spotted. At least a dozen different times I or a partner have walked within ten yards of them before they figure out they have been spotted. One time the bird was in such short grass, I figured he was a dead turkey that had died from the shot of some other hunter. I was walking over to retrieve it when it jumped up. If you think that the jakes are pulling this on you, a predator call will cause them to perk their heads up and give away their location.

I will leave it up to the individual if stalking a jake like this their cup of tea to fill a permit.

May 2, 2005, 10:05 AM
thanks, arts....

Hunted 4 straight weekends. Got 2 birds, so batting .500 for weekends spent to birds taken. Oh, and when I measured that beard, it wasn't 7 or 8, it came out 9.25" measured from the very base, or 9.0" measured from where it would have started outside the feathers. So would you consider that a "trophy" or not? Put it with the feathers on a little mount with pic, or wait for a bigger one?

Lessons learned, or so I think (the first one is applicable to any hunting season, or any time spent alone in a remote area for that matter):

1. Always park your vehicle up on top of a little hill or slope, pointing downwards at the precipice, so that if you leave your keys in the on position all night like a moron, to recharge your flashlights using the cigarette lighter charger, you'll be able to push the the pickup and jump start it - only works for standards, of course. 3 mile walk and friendly neighbor got me a jump start, to get home in time for work Monday. :o

2. Tent blinds work well in concealing your movement - dem turkeys can see good, and the movement from striking your pan call is plenty for them to see, and they take off, if not in a blind. I tried both ways. Oh, and just the existence of the blind will NOT make Rios spooky. Heck, at one point, after taking a late morning nap, I woke up about 11 in the back of my pickup truck, popped my head up, and off ran a flock of 6-8 hens not 40 yards from my white pickup, in plain view. It's *movement* that spooks them, not out-of-place items.

3. Those jakes will indeed come in silent after the gobbling stops, between 8:00 am - 2:30 pm, maybe later even, so keep calling and wait if you don't mind taking a jake.

4. It's definitely definitely best to find either a roost and accompanying fly-down area, or a strutting/display area, if you can, because if you don't get one right when the fly down, then most if not all of the big ones immediately get henned up. So do some scouting beforehand, and walk around listening for them gobbling up on the roost at dusk, to find the roost. And artsmom, you're right, the fly-down clearing was much farther than I thought it would be - there was a smallish clearing (20 yards across), not 30 or 40 yards from the roost, that they passed/flew over, to reach the larger clearing about 70 or 75 yards from the roosting area, which was also a much bigger clearing. But then again, since I'm talking about that successful hunt described above, they may have only passed over the smaller one on that day because they were following the leader, and the leader may have seen my jake decoy and flown farther than usual to go attack him - I dunno, but I *think* that the larger, further clearing was their usual fly down area. Yes, Lokmdown, it was comedy watching that big boy attacking my decoy. He knocked it down and then stomped on it a few times. :)

5. Like deer, they are pretty darned unpredictable...I thought I had them patterned after last weekend, but I didn't...they changed up the daily pattern entirely, that I had witnessed the week before. This may have been due to this one pond being almost dried up, which they had previously made their way to at around 7:30, or may have been due to colder weather, or maybe just cuz they felt like changing - dunno. But they DO seem to seek out water within an hour or two after flying down from the roost. They roam widely all over, so if you want a big one, you're better off walking and walking, stopping occasionally to hit a locater call, trying to get them to gobble, than sitting in one spot. As I said, if you're happy with a jake, however, staying put might work. In my very limited experience, the barred owl hoot, though it doesn't work every time, or even half the time, works occasionally, and much better than a crow call, or my fake sounding gobble from a box call. The crow call never worked. The barred owl hoot, and a hen yelp both worked occasionally to elicit a gobble - the hen yelp worked the best of course, even after prime time was over - even in the afternoon. Even though hens aren't yelping at that time, the yelp works as a shock gobble (whether it *ALSO* has the effect of letting the gobbler know you're probably not real, since "other" hens are NOT yelping then - I have no idea). Oh yeah, the coyotes howling & yelping a half hour or so before dusk worked the best of all in eliciting some gobbles - they seemed unable to keep silent at the coyotes, so you might want to pick up a coyote howl call as well.

6. Oh yeah, if you're ever hunting cows, bring your turkey decoys. At least 3 times, a cow stopped to sniff my decoys. Some cows are fascinated by turkeys that don't run off. Seriously, although I cursed the cows, the cows are truly a blessing in disguise I think, because since they roam all over, the turkeys get used to having sounds crashing through the woods after dark. This allows you to go out after dark to set up a blind near the roost, as well as make your way into your blind/setup before dawn without spooking them off the roost. One morning, the stupid cows were within 30 yards of the roost, unbeknownst to me, and I scared them off in the dark about quarter til 6 one morning - a few of them crashed right through, probably within 20 yards or so of the edge of the roosting area, making a hellacious noise, and it still didn't scare off the turkeys.

7. I'm not sure, but I could swear that once you shoot a bird near a certain set of decoys, then those same birds that are present and witness that will be scared off by those same decoys. I never got a turkey from this one flock to come near those decoys that I used for the successul hunt described; and at one point I literally saw the flock come in, see the decoys, and actually *run* off at a 90 degree angle away from the decoys, just a soon as they rounded the corner, putting the decoys in their sight. Although I may just be paranoid, I'm definitely going to have 2 sets of 2 different brands of decoys, that look a little different, next year. I'm going to have 2 different sets of: [2 hens, 1 jake], in the future.

I'll probably think of some more...

May 14, 2005, 10:07 AM
First pic is my first turkey, small jake.

Second and third are the bigger one I got: