Aside from the obvious, a spring turkey hunt can bring different weather, challenges, and gear requirements than hunting whitetail deer in the fall.
- Camouflage. For starters, turkeys have excellent vision. What a human can see at 10 feet a wild turkey can see at 100. This means that camouflage is going to play a more important role while hunting them. I always bring a camo face net (Sitka Gear makes a great one). The camo color I wear for turkeys also has more green in it than what I would wear in the Fall because of the changing colors in the woods. Because of their extraordinary vision, I want to blend in as well as possible. I hear some hunters rave about the success they have wearing full Ghillie suits and turkeys would be a great opportunity to put this to use. First Lite makes a pretty nice looking one that I keep meaning to pick up.
- Decoys. There is a lot of debate over how “smart” a turkey is. Whether it is actual intelligence or just very sharp instincts, turkeys can tell when something is off. If you are calling the tom in he knows where that call is coming from. Even if he is hundreds of feet away. The tom has pinpointed the sound of what he thinks is a hen. When he gets close enough to see where he heard the sound coming from he is going to look and try to spot her. Likely, he will be looking in your direction long before you see him due to that 100x vision we mentioned. Having a decoy (or two or three) setup is crucial to gaining his trust. Another benefit is that rival hens in the area may come to investigate the sound of this new “strange” hen and when they see your decoy they may come charging into size it up. If the hen is lured to your decoy setup then you now have your decoys and a live hen. This can be useful in drawing in that cagey old tom. I am currently running an Avian X set with a hen and Jake. I like it because they collapse down for transport and are painted well. They also sit on a metal stake and will move ever so gently in the wind which I think adds some realism.
- Calls. This one is pretty obvious. I recommend a slate pot call if you’re not extremely proficient with the mouth call. Easy to use and can produce a variety of different clucks/purrs.
- Portable Ground Blind. It provides some warmth on cold spring mornings. It also helps to further camouflage me. I generally look for something that is quick and easy to set up in the dark and has a total weight of about 15 pounds or less.
- Layers. When Spring turkey hunting I often go out at 5 am to set up my blind while the turkeys are on the roost. It can be in the low 30s some mornings in Michigan in April. When the sun comes up at 10 am it can then shift to as high as the upper 60s. Being able to stay warm in the morning and shed layers as the sun warms up is crucial in keeping me comfortable enough to stay out longer and catch those toms who may be henned up for the first couple hours after getting down from their roost. A good layering system for me consists of lightweight merino base layers, semi breathable pants, and a shirt, and a wind/waterproof packable outer layer to wear in the morning.
- Patience. Turkeys are very wary animals. Their lack of any real natural defense against predators means that their survival depends on them being cautious. The tom may not come into your decoy set up first thing after leaving the roost, instead of heading over to see the hen he was gobbling with all night. But, if your calls sound good, your decoys are set up, and he can’t see you he will eventually come to investigate. More than one hunter has gone out to bag a turkey expecting it to be an easy feat only to find that hunting these strange-looking and delicious birds can be the most challenging and rewarding game they have chased.
Photo by wikiphotographer