Unsung Secrets of Successful Turkey Hunting

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Published on: Apr. 2, 2003

Last revision: Nov. 15, 2010

can summarize them in three simple principles.

Hunt where the turkeys are

This seems too obvious to merit mentioning, but it is the most important key to successful turkey hunting. Many hunters forget this simple strategy and, instead, over-emphasize equipment. The error is understandable. Today's turkey hunters can choose from many kinds of decoys, blinds, callers, camouflage, shotshells, chokes and shotguns; all of which are marketed as essential. Though quality gear is important, the best equipment will have little value if used where there are few turkeys.

What's the best way to find a spot that supports lots of turkeys? For starters, understand that turkeys are not distributed evenly throughout their habitat. Some areas support large populations, while other places that look just as good have few birds. You have to scout to find productive locations.

A prime time to look for turkeys is in late winter, when turkeys gather in large numbers to feed in cut grain fields. They are easy to see at these times. Driving country roads and glassing grain fields can reveal the whereabouts of big flocks. After you find birds, determine land ownership by studying plat books and then seek hunting permission. You can purchase plat books from most county courthouses.

My first success at finding a topnotch place to hunt turkeys came after I moved away from the Ozarks. I had earned a graduate degree and accepted a teaching job in southeast Missouri. Through scouting, I located a flock of about 60 turkeys using a cut corn field 20 minutes from my home. I asked and gained permission to hunt.

That spring, on my first preseason trip to listen for turkeys, I heard 11 different gobblers as I stood in one place. Hearing that many toms from one spot is always a good sign, especially for a rookie turkey hunter. I needed a lot of chances.

I made many mistakes that season. I would set up on a turkey and then spook it. Gathering my gear, I would move to another ridge, call and get an answer from another gobbler. I would botch that setup, too, and then move to a bird gobbling in the bottoms. The season was, in every sense of the phrase, a comedy of errors. Nevertheless, I filled my tags, not because I was highly skilled, but because I hunted where there were a lot of turkeys.

Persistence and Hard Work

This principle is almost as important as having

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