As we emerge from winter and look forward to spring, there is only one thing on the mind of most hunters; turkeys! There is a reason why turkey season is known as “spring thunder”, it is an exciting time to be in the woods as the world comes back to life from the winter dreariness.
Turkey hunting can be accomplished with a basic set of tools. If you have decent camouflage, a gun, and the right shells, you are pretty much set to chase these giant birds around the woods. However, there are some non-necessary items that can make turkey hunting much more comfortable and successful. I have compiled a list of a few pieces of equipment that every turkey hunter should think about adding to their bag.
Decoys have become very popular in recent times. I rarely see hunters out in the field without them, but having the right decoy for the situation can be crucial for success and safety. I always take a hen decoy with me when I head out for turkeys. It often gets enough attention to make the gobbler come in close enough for a shot.
Sometimes, however, a hen decoy is not enough, you have to remember that in nature the hen is supposed to go toward the sound of a gobble to find the male and the strut is the male’s way of getting her to come in the rest of the way to breed. As hunters, we try and reverse the situation. We try and make the gobbler seek out the hen, a lot of times this will work, but occasionally you will get a crafty old gobbler that will hang up at 60-70 yards when he can see the hen decoy. He will then go into strut waiting for her to come to him. In this situation, it is very helpful to have a Jake or gobbler decoy that seems to be close to breeding the hen. This is usually a nail in the coffin as other gobblers naturally want to fight for the right to breed.
I would advise caution with using any type of male decoy, especially on public land. I once had a hunter sneak up on one of my decoys that I had placed in a field trying to work a bird and shoot at it three times. This was one of the scariest situations that I have witnessed in the woods, and as a result, all my gobbler decoys have “DECOY” spray-painted on their fans.
I am sure that we all hit the woods with the most essential call required for turkey hunting, which is obviously that of a female turkey. The calls that I am talking about are the ones that don’t necessarily make the birds come in, but however betray their location. The shock gobble is made by a turkey in response to everything from a car door slamming to a crow call. This natural betrayal of the bird’s location can be used against the birds when things aren’t going your way.
I have taken several turkeys by using calls to make them shock gobble, giving away their location which allowed me to get into a position to intercept the bird. Yes, I know that this is not the typical way that most people would like to hunt turkeys, but as most turkey hunters will admit these birds can sometimes drive hunters to insanity with their finicky choices when deciding to come to a call. When it comes to putting one in the freezer, it’s no holds barred.
The key to having the right shock gobble call depends on a variety of things, even if slamming a car door will make them gobble, obviously you don’t want to show up to your hunting location and slam the truck door. I prefer to use a crow call. I find this to be very effective at making the bird gobble without scaring the bird, which I have seen happen with other calls, like a coyote howl.
I conduct most of my hunts on public land, this includes turkey. In most cases, I find myself on pieces of public land that are split or border a piece of private that always seems to be holding the birds for obvious reasons. They don’t feel as much pressure and they are able to go about most of their day unmolested. However, when the breeding season is in full swing you can sometimes coax them off their sanctuary to public land for an opportunity.
I have found that having access to good maps is key in finding the little fingers and borders of the public and private boundaries. We almost all can get a detailed satellite view of our hunting areas with the advent of GPS technology and apps like OnX maps. But sometimes things happen, batteries die, and phones don’t stay charged forever, so having a good paper map can really save the day.
Most of us tend to think about the tools necessary to harvest a bird when we are out hunting. The gun, shells, and calls always come to mind when we are in the truck at 4 A.M. heading to the woods, but comfort can also play a big part in not only a successful turkey hunt but an enjoyable one.
Having a nice place to sit in the outdoors can prove to be difficult, I feel like I am constantly sitting on rocks or sticks, and the occasional cactus. When a bird gobbles, we do not always have time to pick out the best location to sit, this is when a simple butt pad to sit on can become very helpful. Is it essential to killing a turkey, no, of course not, but it can make those seemingly endless sits when your legs start to fall asleep few and far between.
As I mentioned earlier, all of these suggested pieces of equipment are optional. They can only add to the experience of your turkey hunt. The most important thing is to get out and give it a shot. I have always found turkeys challenging to hunt. I often have an unfilled tag when the season is over, but I am always glad that I was in the woods trying for an opportunity. So as you thaw out from winter, consider getting out into the spring woods and see what “spring thunder” is all about.