Successful turkey hunters have several common attributes: They’re excellent woodsmen, they can call, they’re patient or impatient depending on the situation, and they’re skilled with the tools needed to get the job done.
Being a woodsman, of course, is predicated on spending lots of time in the woods and having experience with and knowledge of turkeys. Good woodsmen find and identify turkey sign, such as tracks, feathers, droppings, scratching and dust bowls. They constantly listen to and watch turkeys. Using those observations and the clues provided by the sign they’ve found, they can put together pieces of the puzzle and formulate solid game plans.
Good woodsmen are quiet and stealthy. They can slip through the timber, making light footfalls on the crunchy forest floor and avoiding other noise, all the while watching and listening for turkeys or other critters. They can walk along a ridge without being skylighted or slip along a field edge without sticking out like a sore thumb. Depending on a turkey’s location, they know when to move and when to stay absolutely still. If necessary, they can slip and crawl on the ground to relocate or gain precious yards on a bird. They’re constantly filtering through the din of sounds in the spring woods, listening for distant gobbles or yelping. When they hear it, they can course it correctly and locate the turkey.
When you combine good woodsmanship with solid calling, you become a turkey killing machine. Notice I said “solid” calling. I don’t mean that you must be a contest-caliber yelper, though it doesn’t hurt. However, you must sound as realistic as possible, be well-versed with all types of calls, be able to produce a variety of turkey vocalizations and, above all, be confident and smart with your calling.
Don’t fall in love with your calling. Remember, it’s one leg in a solid foundation of turkey hunting success. If you just want to marvel at your prowess, invite your buddies over to your house, and hammer away on a favorite box, slate or diaphragm. If you’re interested in turkey hunting and killing, remember that the wonderful noises you produce are just intended to make a gobbler believe there’s a hen there. Learn when to call and when to shut up, and know which calls to use in specific situations.
Be patient or impatient, and know when each is appropriate. Some turkeys will take forever to approach within range or make a mistake that gives you the edge. Know when to wait. Other birds might demand that you make a swift, decisive move to gain position or get in range. Know when to move. How do you know when to wait and when to go? Experience afield and knowledge of turkeys. Nothing else will help.
Also, make sure your equipment is ready for any turkey task. Be familiar with your shotgun and choke-and-load combination, and know their effective range. Make sure your camo (hat, facemask, gloves, shirt, pants and boots) isn’t too faded, and that your clothing will keep you warm during chilly mornings yet comfortable when the midday heat sets in. Keep your calls in good working order. If you’re hunting big country, a compass or GPS unit will help. Good binoculars are mandatory anywhere except the thickest timber. And whether you use them or not, it’s always wise to have two or three decoys in your vest. More than anything, know how to use your equipment, and make sure you can access it when you need it.