Depending on how you look at it, locating a gobbling turkey is the most critical part of the hunt itself, outweighing setting up, calling and shooting combined. Unless you can locate a turkey to hunt, none of the other factors will ever come into play.
Sometimes, finding one gobbling on a limb isn't a problem. The spring season has its annual share of red-hot two-year-olds who'll shock gobble at any owl hoot, crow call, thunder clap or truck door slam that comes along, but you can't bet your season on finding turkeys so obliging. After other hunters have been tromping through the woods for a few days or weeks, and when it seems that every gobbler in the woods has shut up, you better have a few more tricks up your sleeve.
Some of the best turkey hunters in the outdoor world shared their best locating secrets with us. Terry Drury, of M.A.D. Calls, likes to make a wide variety of pitches to silent birds. "I'd recommend that no one limit themselves by not trying a wide variety of calls," Drury says. "Everyone knows the old standby owl hoot, but we've found that -pileated woodpecker, bluejay and coyote calls are very effective locators as well. These calls aren't necessarily very easy to do, not a lot of callers can do them, but learning to do them can pay off. We use a lot of different calls, because not every turkey is going to gobble at any given locator call."
Will Primos, president of Primos Hunting Calls, follows the adage that wary turkeys, especially those who've been hunted hard already, are more likely to respond to a turkey call than anything else.
"When turkey hunting is tough and they gobble very little on the roost or not at all, one way I know to get one to gobble is to cut as loudly as possible on either a crystal call or a tube call." Primos says. "This works best when you have two people and you get your buddy to back up about 10 yards from you, since many times you cut so loudly that the turkey may answer and your ears may still be affected from the loud cutting."
Scouting - The Hunt Before the Hunt
The most dedicated turkey hunters scout year 'round. For others, scouting begins a few days before turkey season is set to start and ends abruptly on opening morning. Obviously, the dedicated hunters take most of the birds. Begin scouting in January and you'll have a jump on most of the area's casual hunters.
You don't have to trek miles of woods to gather all of your information. Deer hunters can be a great source of knowledge. Individually, they may spend dozens of days in the field each fall and may have made many sightings during their long waits on stand. Turkeys often change routines between fall and spring, however, so view information gathered from deer hunters as just a piece of the puzzle. Deer season sightings are great, but they aren't enough. Even better sources of information can be land managers and mail carriers, folks who travel through the area more than you do.
Of course, turkey scouting does require real legwork. Walk the woods as much as possible for weeks prior to the season. Look for leaves that have been disturbed on the forest floor by feeding turkeys, feathers, droppings and, best of all, fresh tracks. Try to determine where the turkeys feed and roost.
As the season draws near, gobbling activity will increase. When this magical time of year begins, your scouting becomes much easier. On calm mornings, listen from high points to pinpoint the locations of gobblers. Take notes and develop a journal if you must, but try to know the whereabouts of several gobblers before opening day.
Immediately before the season starts, begin establishing their post fly-down travel patterns in anticipation of your opening-day setup, and those great spring mornings to follow.
Mastering The Art of Camouflage
No other animal is more naturally wary, or has better vision, than the wild turkey. The gobbler's ability to pick out a motionless, moderately concealed hunter is legend based on harsh reality. Extreme camouflaging measures are the solution. Try mixing and matching your gear: A Mossy OakŪ Forest FloorTM pant and a Break UpTM or Shadow LeafTM shirt, hat, gloves and face net, for example, represents the sort of next-step scheme that turkeys just can't see.
It's crucial that you and your gear are totally concealed, including your face, hands, gun and boots. Also, carry extra gloves and a spare head net in your vest. Eventually, you'll need a replacement during the heat of battle. Hug the shade because the reflections of direct sunlight make your movements easier to see.
Motion is out. Use a portable camouflaged cushion to keep from wiggling, and adjust yourself initially for long, comfortable waits. Once you can see a gobbler, it is too late to move anything except your trigger finger.
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