I think a lot of times rather than give folks tips on how to harvest a turkey it is better to give them tips on what not to do. I guarantee one thing I have been wrong more times than I have been right, but it has only made me a better turkey hunter over the years.
Stay Put, Be Patient
If there is one mistake I have made over the last two seasons more times than I would like to admit it would be moving from my spot to quickly. I did it the beginning of last season and the season prior. Thankfully, I learned my lesson and took a nice Georgia bird towards the end of the season last year.
If you call to a bird and he gobbles back he knows where you are. I think the misconception for novice hunters is that turkeys will not know exactly where you are, and so the temptation is to move to get a better position. I promise you that bird knows where you are. If you need to re-position then do so, but be ready for that tom to come to that exact spot looking for a hen .
Know Your Gun, How Far You Can Shoot
This goes without saying, but should be reiterated. Know the distance you can shoot a turkey before you go into the woods. Pattern your gun to see how it hits a target at 20, 30 and 40 yards. If you need to purchase a choke that accommodates a farther shot there are plenty out there to get the job done.
Likewise, shoot ammo you are comfortable with and in which you have confidence. I personally like Remington Nitro Turkey 4 shot and a 3-inch shell for my Mossberg 500 12-gauge shotgun. There are other good brands out there like Hornady and TSS too. Find an ammunition that gives you confidence in the woods.
Don’t Shoot Across Your Body
I vividly remember a scenario last season where I called a bird in, and he came in from my right side. My decoys were about 20-yards straight out and slightly to my left. I am right handed. This bird seemed to be a subordinate bird, but still at least a two-year-old. Needless, to say he acted skittish. As he got about five yards from my decoy he turned around and started trotting from where he came. I panicked, turned and took a shot. I missed.
I literally had to swing across my body, take a shot on a moving bird at about 30-yards to my right. It did not go well. Two things I learned. First I should have placed my decoys straight away from me or slightly right, or I should have positioned myself on the other side of the tree. Secondly, I should have been more patient and waited for the bird to calm down and call him back. That probably would have proved more successful than taking a rushed shot. Thankfully, I am pretty sure this is the same bird I harvested several weeks later, the same bird in the photo above.
Don’t Try to Call A Bird Down Topography
If a bird is gobbling above you it is very difficult to call him down to you. This is simply because the rule of nature in a male turkey’s mind is that he calls hens up to him or to him. Thus, when hunters try to call gobblers to their decoys they are actually going against their typical mating behavior. Sure there are exceptions to every rule, but this is what happens most often. Always try to be above a bird, or call just enough to let him know your around and then be silent and practice patience as I mentioned above. Patience is the name of the game for this type of hunting.
Turkeys, specifically, eastern wild turkeys are some of the most fun hunts I have ever experienced. I have been burned more times than not, but it makes me a better hunter, and I can share my mistakes with readers. Most importantly have fun. Learn on the go, and work hard at being a better woodsman each time you are out in the woods.