Listen for gobblers prior to the season, but not from a distance. Follow turkeys. Where do they roost? Where do they go in the mid-morning? Use a call to get gobblers to respond, then hunt the most responsive toms on opening morning. Don't overdo this close-in scouting (see tip #3), but don't stay too far away, either.
Put a bird to bed, and the chance of putting him in your bag skyrockets. Know the very limb he’s on, the direction he flew up, and exactly where to set up the night before your morning hunt. Photo: antlerridgelodge
Old gobblers will shy away from areas with lots of human activity. Respect them. Scout with optics. Park at the road and walk in. But once you’re in the field, call. That’s the one tool you have to unlock a pressured gobbler.
Hunt the Hens
Hens dictate toms’ movements, so once you find the girls, you’ll be into gobblers. Passive calling won’t cut it. Be aggressive and mimic dominant hens. Challenge them with cutting and yelping and the tom will follow. Gordon E Robertson
Set Up Smart
Don’t be afraid to set up tight to a roost tree. Use the terrain to set up where the gobbler can’t see you until he’s within range. Always set up on a roosted gobbler on the same side of the tree he flew up from the night before.
Keep Calling Simple
Never be afraid to call. Put feeling and inflection into your calling. Become proficient with a variety of calls. Keep it simple; yelping and cutting are all that’s required to call in spring turkeys anywhere in America.
Know Your Gun
There’s a dizzying variety of shotshells marketed to turkey hunters. Before you settle on a specific gobbler load, know where your gun shoots by patterning light loads at 10 yards.
Know Your Gun II
Spend plenty of time on a clays course with your turkey gun, learning to swing and point it instinctively. If you don’t know how to handle your gun under stress, even the best turkey load is largely useless.
Never underestimate the power of your own mental state. Be flexible and rested in order to hunt aggressively. Don’t overthink hunting situations. Turkeys are just turkeys. They react to primitive urges. Use tactics that work for you, but never be afraid to call, or move, or change tactics. Photo: ohio dnr
Learn the Gobbler Yelp
I kill a lot of turkeys with hen calls. But if there is any secret weapon in turkey hunting, it’s the gobbler yelp. A challenged gobbler will forget his legendary wariness and charge your position in order to run you off or whip you. Photo: vallescaldera
Never give up
Hunt as hard the last day as you do on the first day. When others take a break or go in for lunch, move, call and cover your hunting area. Hunt longer and harder and you will take more turkeys.
Check the old haunts
If gobblers are quiet, go directly to areas where you heard birds in the past. If possible, work an old logging road stopping every 100 yards to call for about 30 minutes. Start soft then build in excitement. If you don’t get a response then move and do it again. Once you covere about a mile, turn around and go back down the same trail and call again. Believe it or not, I have killed many gobblers on the return trip through.
Take the late shift
If you’re hunting public land, go in around 10 a.m. There will be less hunters and many times hens have left gobblers by then. Stay away from easy access roads and plan on going deep and staying long.
Use a boat
Change your hunting strategy by hunting lakes and rivers from a boat. Float a river through national forest and you will access gobblers hunters can not hear from roads.
If you’re hunting small tracts of private land, hunt from a blind. Don’t run and gun because you’ll probably just scare birds off your property. Let the area rest between hunts, keep trucks and ATV’s out and keep human pressure to a minimum.
When hunting fields, watch turkeys from a distance the night before, watch where they go to roost, then set up close to where they flew up from the field.
If a gobbler is strutting with hens in a field and is not responsive to calling, slip as close as possible and scatter hens from gobbler. Watch what direction the gobbler goes and close in between him and his hens. Then start calling and get ready as he will try to rejoin his hens quickly.
If you watch a gobbler and hens late in the evening when all they’re all “Henned up.” roost them. Then scatter them from the roost after dark, he will be very vocal the next morning to rejoin the hens.
BEST TURKEY GUNS (under $500)
By: Chris Christian Turkey guns range from the expensively exotic to the extremely basic. But when you distill an effective turkey gun to its essence, you come up with five key features. The gun needs to be reliable, maneuverable and easy to use, have a non-glare finish and be capable of delivering a tight shot pattern to pint of aim out to 40 yards. Here’s our top picks that won’t bust your wallet. Winchester Super X Black Shadow Field
Billed as a general-purpose field gun, this 12-gauge (3-inch) 26-inch-barreled pump has all that is needed for the turkey woods. The barrel is back-bored and threaded to accept the full Invector-Plus line of choke tubes to provide proper patterns. The synthetic stock and metalwork are finished in a non-glare matte black. A vent rib and bead front sight will get its patterns on target. ($399; winchester guns.com)
Remington Model 870 Express Turkey Camo
This 12-gauge (3-inch chamber) pump shotgun features a 21-inch barrel with Hi-Viz fiber-optic sights, and is shipped with a Rem. Choke Turkey X-tra full tube. The stock and forend are finished in Mossy Oak Break-Up camo and feature a Super Cell recoil pad. ($452;
Mossberg 500 Turkey Thug
Built on Mossberg’s proven Model 500 pump-action, the 12-gauge Thug features a 24-inch ported barrel with an XX-Full Choke tube, ventilated rib, adjustable fiber-optic rifle sights, black synthetic stock and user-adjustable trigger. ($409; mossberg.com)
Weatherby PA-459 Digital
This 12-gauge, 3-inch chambered pump-action features an injection-molded pistol-grip butt stock and forearm finished in universal digital camo. The gun also has a Picatinny rail for optics mounting, adjustable Ghost Ring sights and a 19-inch barrel threaded for the Briley interchangeable choke tube system. Designed as a quick-handling, home-defense shotgun, it needs only an extra-full interchangeable choke tube to excel in the turkey woods. ($499; weatherby.com)
Remington Model 887 Pump Camo Combo
Chambered for 12-gauge, 3.5-inch shells (also handling 2 3⁄4 and 3-inch loads), this pump-action combo package includes a 28-inch vent-rib barrel for waterfowl use, but the included 22-inch barrel equipped with Hi-Viz fiber-optic adjustable rifle sights and a Rem. Choke Turkey Super Full tube make it turkey-ready out of the box. ($479; remington.com)
By J. Guthrie My first turkey gun and shotshell combo, a Winchester Model 59 with a factory full and some high brass No. 4s, was good to about 25 yards on its best day. Twenty years later, my finely tuned setup will kill birds all day long at 55 yards. And my gun, with the exception of the choke, is not some fancy custom job. I paid just under $300 for my Mossberg 835, complete with a homemade spray paint finish. It shoots such tight patterns that a red-dot scope was a must. But could it do better? With four loads–two copper-plated-lead and two heavier-than-lead–and four chokes in hand, I hit the range. I fired three shots of each load at 40 yards and averaged the number of hits in a 12-inch circle from each shot. Three of the loads carried No. 5 pellets and one from HEVI-Shot had a combination of sizes. The barrel was cleaned every 12 rounds and the choke every three.
HEVI-Shot is best known for its shotshells, which are loaded with heavier-than-lead pellets. This year it has introduced a new duplex turkey load, HEVI-Shot Magnum Blend, and a choke through which to shoot it. The idea of duplex loads–in this case 2 ounces of No. 5, 6 and 7 pellets–is certainly not new, but high-tech pellets give HEVI-Shot an edge over lead offerings. The theory is to provide plenty of strikes and deliver more total energy by increasing the density of the pattern with the smaller pellets, while giving the shot string some penetrating and bone-breaking ability via the larger-size shot. The new choke is obviously designed to maximize patterns from HEVI-Shot shotshells. ($49; hevishot.com)
Indian Creek Shooting Systems
Black Diamond Strike
With its distinctive horizontal slotting, the Black Diamond Strike raises the bar in terms of extreme, long-range pattern performance. Those parallel slots vent propellant gases and grab the wad, slowing it down and allowing for a clean separation of wad and shot. The wad protects the barrel and the shot, but can wreck patterns once out of the barrel; separating the two greatly improves patterns. The system works with just about any shotshell you can buy. ($80-$85; indiancreekss.com)
Rhino Grand Slam
I didn’t need to procure a Rhino choke for the test, since my Mossberg already has one. The company makes all kinds of chokes, and even gun cases, but its turkey chokes really shine. Rhino advertises 100 percent patterns that are 10 inches in diameter at 20 yards. Fifty-yard patterns–28 inches in diameter–run 90 percent with a little tuning. Like most other chokes in the test, the Rhino strips the wad and protects pellets on their way to the muzzle for ultra-dense patterns. ($98-$108; rhinochokes.com)
Trulock Precision Hunter
George Trulock precisely machines his chokes from 17-4 stainless steel, and he backs them up with a lifetime guarantee and a 60-day absolute satisfaction guarantee. If you cannot make it shoot, you get your money back. ($54; trulockchokes.com)
1 HEVI-Shot Magnum Blend: 190 hits (40%)
2 Winchester Supreme Double-X Lead: 84 hits (25%)
3 Winchester Xtended Range Supreme Elite High Density: 81 hits (40%)
4 Remington Premier Magnum Copper-Plated Lead: 79 hits (23%) Indian Creek Shooting Systems
Black Diamond Strike
1 HEVI-Shot Mag. Blend: 190/40%
2 Winchester Xtended Range Supreme Elite High Density: 111/40%
3 Remington Premier Magnum Copper-Plated Lead: 105/31%
4 Winchester Supreme Double-X Lead: 81/24% Rhino Grand Slam
1 HEVI-Shot Mag. Blend: 159/34%
2 Remington Premier Magnum Copper-Plated Lead: 82/24%
3 Winchester Xtended Range Supreme Elite High Density: 77/27%
4 Winchester Supreme Double-X Lead: 59/17%
Trulock Precision Hunter**
1 HEVI-Shot Mag. Blend: 168/36%
2 Remington Premier Magnum Copper-Plated Lead: 85/25%
3 Winchester Xtended Range Supreme Elite High Density: 78/28%
4 Winchester Supreme Double-X Lead: 66/19%
We’ve put together the best tips, guns and chokes to help you get your gobbler this spring.