Mistakes to Avoid as a First-TIme Turkey Hunter

Nikki Boxler |

Turkey season has officially arrived in several states and will be here before we know it in most others. When you scroll through social media feeds you may think turkey hunting is easy. 

Not the case in the least. On the contrary, turkey hunting is tough and is even tougher if you make common mistakes. I’ve made most of them so hopefully you can learn a bit from my “confessions of a turkey hunter” below.

If you do not put in the time – you will not do the turkey crime:

Turkey season is now open in some states and is quickly approaching in others. Which means it is the perfect time to strap on boots and start scouting. When scouting, you want to look for feeding areas, strut zones and where birds roost. However, be sure not to set up too close to the roost as you don’t want to spook birds. Slip in to make sure you are close enough to hear them gobble. Scouting birds and knowing where they hang out will greatly increase your odds at taking down that big old gobbler. 

Gun, ammo, chokes, targets and time at the range is essential:

You may have used your shotgun successfully during waterfowl season. Turkey chokes and turkey ammo is far-different from that you use on fowl. So, grab your gun, chokes, ammo and targets and head to the range. Every gun will shoot differently causing patterns to vary. Be sure to shoot at various distances so you know your shotgun’s range. For example: My Winchester SX4 shotgun shoots Long Beard #5’s right on target. However, when I patterned it with #6’s, my pattern is high. When patterning my gun, I like to shoot from 10 yards to 60 yards because turkeys don’t always follow the textbook – more times than not, they come in closer or farther than planned. 

If you fidget, you will be busted:

I think we have all made this mistake! You have a turkey coming in so you try to adjust yourself to get a better shot. Bam! Just like that, you have been spotted and tom takes off. Turkey have excellent eyesight. They’ll be certain to spot you should you make quick movements. Instead, make slow smooth movements when raising your gun or turning your head. If you can see a turkey, chances are they can see you. 

Another scenario is spotting a turkey in a field and trying to make a move on him through the woods. In order to pull this off, you must think about your approach. Are you able to get ahead of him without being seen? Could you call him into the timber without having to try to sneak to the field edge? Think through your plan before making a move on ‘ol tom!

Sometimes calling too much will blow a hunt:

I learned this tip early on…actually with the first turkey I ever called in. I was using a mouth call and he responded to my every yelp, put and purr. I was getting caught up in the moment. I was so excited that I continued to call – even when he was in plain view. This allowed him to pinpoint my location and get spooked. After that morning, I learned that it is better to go silent when a gobbler is already coming in. 

Be wary of setting up in the sun:

Where you choose to setup is important. Find a nice shady spot where you can see the turkey approaching. Shadows help to camouflage you with your surroundings. If you set up in the sun, it will be easier for a turkey to spot you.

You snooze, you lose:

I’ve seen people get on turkey through all hours of the day. However, the majority are shot within the first hour or so of hunting. Birds are usually the most vocal just before they fly down from the roost. Therefore, I like to be in the woods about an hour before sunrise – if not earlier. If you are in the woods at fly down time you can often hear in what direction birds are headed. Even if you don’t get a shot on that particular morning, you will have a better understanding of the direction the birds are likely to be heading for the following morning, or perhaps for an afternoon hunt that day if your state permits it. 

It happens to us all:

If you haven’t missed a turkey yet, you haven’t been hunting them long enough! We have all done it from beginners to the most experienced turkey hunter. Along with always patterning your shotgun, be sure to take time to pick a specific spot on the bird to aim at. After missing a few long beards in my day, I like to aim for where the neck meets the breast. 

By sharing some of my mistakes, I hope it gives you the chance to learn and avoid making these errors for yourself. Good luck this turkey season and stay safe!

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