Turkey Hunting: Getting Started

Gobbling tom turkey.
Getting Started

Browse this section for information on:

  • When to hunt turkeys
  • Locating and calling turkeys
  • Choosing hunting equipment
  • Cleaning and preparing a turkey when you bring one home 
Silhouette of a turkey
Hunter Education Requirement

Please check all hunter education requirements before you head out to the field!  Visit our Hunter Education Requirement page for details and exemptions.

Hunting Tips

Time of Day

Many hunters are in the woods before dawn, and most turkeys are killed before 8 a.m. However, turkey hunting after 8 a.m. can be rewarding. Most people leave the woods by 10 a.m. If you have the patience to stay late, there are fewer hunters in the woods competing for available birds.


It is important to start your hunt from a good location. Be careful not to hide too well. You want to be able to see in every direction in order to spot approaching hunters. Consider any movement in the woods to be another hunter until you can positively identify the object.

Attracting a Bird

Hooting like a barred owl or cawing like a crow usually encourages a turkey to gobble, and are preferred ways to locate the birds early in the morning. Hooting and cawing may get him to gobble without making him look for you.

Various Calls

Variations of the yelp are the most frequently used calls. Most spring turkey hunters yelp from 3 to 7 times—it’s not critical how many times, but rhythm is important. It really does not matter whether you are raspy or smooth, or using friction or diaphragm calls. Rhythm is the most important feature of effective calling. Pre-recorded tapes of turkey calls can help you learn the various calls and associated rhythms.

  • Tree yelp— a very soft yelp that should be used when the gobbler is still on the roost. Turkeys hear much better than humans. Before the hen comes off the roost, she calls softly. After you get in position, try giving a tree yelp while the gobbler is still on the roost.
  • Cluck —Turkeys frequently cluck while feeding and moving around undisturbed. You can make the clucking sound on any of the calls. This is also one of the easiest calls to learn.
  • Cackle — is a series of excited clucks that hens sometimes make as they fly down from the roost.  The call gets faster and faster as she pulls off the limb and flies to the ground, then tapers off and slows down as she lands.
  • Cutting — is a sound turkeys make that is similar to the cackle. Cutting consists of excited, fast, short, sharp clucks and is frequently made by adult hens.
  • Purr — is the contented, soft call of the hen. Purring and clucking are the calls that will bring turkeys in the last few yards.
  • Putt — is a sound both sexes make, typically consisting of a series of hard, short, loud clucks, which serves as the alarm call.
  • Whine — is a soft, high-pitched, drawn-out call of the hen, usually used in combination with putts and clucks.
  • Gobble — can be imitated with your voice, a box call, a diaphragm call or a shaker-type of call designed specifically for gobbling. Beware of gobbling during legal shooting hours, because you might attract other hunters.
  • Spit and drum (or thrum) — is done while displaying for the hen. The drum sounds like a giant rubber band vibrating in the woods. It is a very soft call. If the drumming gobbler is hidden by brush, it can be difficult to pinpoint his location.
  • Lost call or assembly call —is a series of pleading yelps that tend to get louder and more pleading. 
  • Kee-kee —is the whistle of a young turkey. The kee-kee run is the voice of a young turkey changing from a whistle to a yelp and is usually heard in the fall.

It takes Practice!

Sometimes you can use every call in the book and you still have trouble getting the gobbler to come in those last few critical yards!  Possible reasons and solutions:

  • A physical barrier, such as a woven-wire fence between you and the turkey or another hunter or predator may have caused him to abandon you for the moment
  • You may have called too loudly. Generally, turkeys only call loud enough to be heard by another turkey. When your call is too loud, the gobbler assumes the hen is close and he begins to strut and display.
  • Try turning your head to project the call behind you, and the gobbler may move closer.
  • Be patient, you may be able to wait him out. If the gobbler has hens with him, eventually the hens may leave and your periodic calling will start working on the gobbler’s mating urges.
  • How often and how loud you want to call varies with the situation and will come naturally to you with more experience.
  • Keep the turkey interested. If he loses interest, he may move out of the area or go to another hen. Remember, the gobbler responds to stimuli and to lure him in, you must emit the strongest, most seductive stimulus while interacting with him.



Unlike Spring Turkey Season, there is little or no gobbling activity during the day and gobblers are in small flocks (3 to 10 birds).  Hens and young of the year are together in large flocks (10 to 20 birds). It is not unusual to find two to three hens together with all their young.

Locating a Bird

The basic strategy for fall turkey hunting is to find and break up a flock, scattering them in all directions. Then, locate yourself as near as possible to the spot where you broke up the flock and wait about 10 minutes before you start calling.

It’s about Safety!

Fall turkey hunting can be an extremely enjoyable experience. The sight and sounds of 20 to 30 turkeys approaching from all directions can be as exciting as calling in a spring gobbler. However, the fall firearms turkey season has the potential to be more dangerous than the spring because either sex may be hunted. Therefore, less emphasis is put on positive identification. Remember to follow the basic rules of safe turkey hunting.

In order to be safe, always wrap a bagged turkey or decoy in hunter orange when transporting it or carry them in a turkey hunting vest.

Various Calls

  • Clucks and coarse yelps — If gobblers leave the location, they can be called back by using clucks and coarse yelps.
  • Kee-kee — can attract hens and young birds. Young birds usually will return within an hour while an old gobbler may take 3 or 4 hours. Hens and their young tend to vocalize a lot as they return. Old gobblers tend to return silently.
  • Assembly yelp — is made in the fall when the hen calls in the young poults. This call consists of a long series of yelps.

Please note:

  • Any hunter who kills or injures a turkey must make a reasonable effort to retrieve and include it in their season limit, but this does not authorize trespass.
  • It is a violation to wantonly leave, abandon, or waste commonly edible portions of game.
  • Anyone using a turkey call to assist another hunter must be properly licensed with either a filled or unfilled spring turkey hunting permit.
  • If you hunt during a managed hunt, season limits still apply.



Turkey Box Calling Basics

Learn the basic of calling in a turkey using a simple box call.
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