Why do we hunt turkeys? I sometimes ask myself that very question. Every spring I go after them, and every spring I seem to find myself using language that would make a sailor blush and vowing to give it up. It’s not as though I’ve never been successful at it, but they are one of the most frustrating critters to hunt. Maybe it’s me.
But it’s the challenge that makes them worth it, isn’t it? If it was easy, it wouldn’t be as much fun.
The wild turkey is a great symbol of our hunting heritage. If Ben Franklin had had his way, it would be our national bird, supplanting the bald eagle. Each spring hunters from all over this great land head to the woods in search of a longbeard. Some of us are motivated by a strong desire to spend time outside after a long winter. Others are after the thrill of the hunt. Me? I’m out for blood.
It always seems that something weird happens during turkey hunting. My favorite was when I pelted one at less than 20 yards. I shot him right in the face. Woo-hoo! Turkey down! I stood up and so did the turkey. Wait, I hit him hard. He was flopping around, feathers flying…dead bird, right? Wrong. You’ve got to be kidding me! I hate turkeys. I hate them every year. Will I hunt them every year? You betcha! It’s Not Easy!
One tactic you hear often is finding birds on the roost. Here’s what Realtree.com turkey blogger Steve Hickoff had to say about finding the roost.
“Start by slipping into an area in mid-afternoon where you’ve heard birds before–or maybe just by targeting decent habitat. Scout open areas positioned not far from stands of big-branched trees,” Hickoff said. “Sit calmly and quietly, listening as turkeys move into a likely roosting spot.
“You’ll hear wing beats as they fly up; maybe even soft calling or gobbling as turkeys approach roost trees,” Hickoff said. “With any luck you’ll see them do this. Once in the trees, birds will often move from branch to branch, wings noisily flapping as they reposition.
“Okay, you know where turkeys sleep. Let night fall then sneak out of there, he said.”
Calling all birds and other gear
There are a lot of similarities between hunting waterfowl and hunting turkeys. Calling can make the difference. You can easily over-call to a turkey, just the same as you can to a flock of ducks or geese. The only way to know is to go and gain valuable experience, both by hunting and scouting.
There are about as many call makers out there for turkeys as there are waterfowl and just about every hunter has his/her favorites. The goal is the same, however. You want to try to sound like a real bird.
Turkey hunting vests have sure come a long way. It seems every year, someone’s got a new turkey vest that promises to be the latest and greatest. I have to admit, I finally found one I like. The Thunder Chicken vest from ScentBlocker/Robinson Outdoors Products fits well, has more than enough storage and is convenient to use in the field. Hard Core blood brother Michael Waddell put his name behind it and that says something. He’s a certified nutcase for turkey hunting and a vest he uses has to work. The Thunder Chicken flat-out works. That’s an honest assessment too.
Decoy or not to decoy
There are several schools of thought when it comes to decoying turkeys. One prominent turkey killer I know said that using a decoy can ruin a hunt because once the live birds see the fake ones, they often don’t come in close enough.
However, we’ve all seen footage of toms thumping jake decoys and there is the notion that once the bird fixates on the decoy, it isn’t looking at you, giving you the chance to level it with your shotgun or bow.
Where I hunt, a tactic I use quite often is to place the decoys behind me and slightly uphill of my position. I like to hunt a field with a wooded hill next to it. The turkeys are often in the field, or come out across it. They see the decoy and hear the calls and start into the woods or up the hill, only to be intercepted by a load of #6 shot right in the kisser. Well, in theory anyway. It works though. I’ve had success with the decoys in front of me too, but not quite as much as I do with the dekes behind me, especially when I’m hunting alone.
One thing that has me excited and confident in the future is the knowledge that Hard Core is applying all that they know about decoys to turkey decoys. The Widow Maker hen decoy is flat-out awesome. It’s a tough, realistic decoy that will fool the toughest old tom. The future looks very bright for Hard Core turkey hunters.
Additionally, Hard Core has pruners, machetes, folding saws, and shovels that will fit in so very well with hunting gobblers. Need to brush yourself in? No sweat. Clear a shooting lane? Not a problem. And all of it is made with the Hard Core commitment to quality. Go to the Hard Core website for more information.
Turkey hunting can be frustrating, but it is a great pastime and is highly addictive. For many, it is the only option for breaking out of the winter blues and getting back out into the woods after a long winter. For Hard Core hunters, it is another season and another bird to chase. It’s Not Easy, and that’s just the way we like it!
Featured image copyright iStockPhoto/Frank Leung, image of vest by Derrek Sigler, image of Widow Maker and gobbler courtesy Hard Core Decoys