Turkey tactics

by Jeff Weaver
Contributing columnist

Without question, chasing spring turkeys in Minnesota, or any place else, is addicting, exhilarating, challenging and also very humbling.

The author took this Tom opening afternoon of the 2012 season using Federal Premium 3 1/2 inch 5 shot Turkey Loads.
The author took this Tom opening afternoon of the 2012 season using Federal Premium 3 1/2 inch 5 shot Turkey Loads.

Folks who have never participated in the pursuit of this wily bird cannot understand why hunters get so enamored with this bird. It does truly become an addiction which is hard to shake.

It’s completely possible to have this bird either make you feel like the king of the world or a worthless, good for nothing gloat.

Just experiencing a crisp, clear, motionless morning in the woods is the first piece of the puzzle which leads a turkey hunter down the road to addiction. The honking of a pair of geese, the squeal of a pair of wood ducks or the quacking of a pair of mallards are part of the symphony of sounds which greet the early turkey woods. The hoot of an owl and the croaking of the frogs also add another piece of the ensemble to the musical composition.

But it’s that gobble which pierces the early morning air signaling the beginning of a new day that really sets the tone and the rhythm for any hunter’s experience in the woods.

Early morning set-ups are usually best done in an area, or close to an area, in which turkeys like to roost for the evening.

The trick to getting into position without being detected is to make sure you are early to your prescribed location. A simple rule of thumb is to try and be at your set-up, ready to go at least one half hour before legal shooting hours. This means that you will be in the woods when it is still dark.

When entering the woods early, keep your use of flashlights or headlamps to the absolute minimum. Remember these turkeys are roosting high up in the trees and have a distinct advantage of hearing any unusual noise or other distractions such as an unfamiliar light.

I also like to use a blind on my early morning set-ups. Blinds these days are light, mobile and easy to put up. That being said, I try to put up my blind at least a day or two before I am going to hunt it. This allows these super skittish birds to acclimate to an unusual structure well before the hunt.

As for a decoy, personal preference is your choice. A simple hen decoy can get the job done cheaply and effectively. If you want more, there are all sorts of Jake decoys, as well as full strutting Toms. You can even get attachments to put the actual fan of a big old Tom on your decoy.

Personally, I like to use a product that uses real turkey feathers that can be slipped over my hen decoy. This extra edge can, without question, make the difference between being successful or not.

Calling a turkey is probably the most important ingredient to having a productive hunt. Many different types of calls are available to the hunter ranging from box calls which are relatively simple to user, or push rod type calls which can close the deal and can even make a rookie caller sound like a seasoned pro.

Another very popular type of call is the slate call. These types of calls will have either a slate surface or a glass surface.

Mastering one of these calls takes some time and practice, but once you have them mastered, your effectiveness in the woods goes up. In my estimation, probably the hardest type of call to get good on is the diaphragm call. This mouth call is deadly on turkeys when done correctly. The ability to have a hands free system for fooling a big old Tom is priceless in the wood.

My suggestion would be to get one of these calls and practice, practice, practice. You will never regret this tool for a good turkey hunt.

My absolute favorite way to turkey hunt is to “run and gun.” This type of hunting is best done after a morning hunt which has not been successful.

If turkeys are heard early in the morning but do not react to the call and come to your set-up, chances are a real hen turkey or some other distraction took them in another direction. This is when I will employ the “run and gun” method which has worked well for me.

My preference is to leave the majority of your gear, including your decoys, at the truck and go as light and as mobile as possible.

Two hunters together can be productive in tag team calling if you get a turkey to “blow-up,” or react to your calls as you “run and gun.”

Here’s how it works: You try to approach the woods as quietly and unnoticeably as possible. When you get to a clearing or opening were visibility and the ability to shoot are possible, you find a tree or some other sort of cover and set up with your hunting partner opposite your viewing area, or back to back.

You have one hunter as the designated caller who will try to get a reaction from an interested Tom. If a Tom reacts and the direction of the gobble is pin pointed, have the caller who is looking the other direction now be the designated caller. This allows the hunter who is facing the way of the approaching Tom to be steadfast ready and on high alert looking for the approaching turkey.

On the “run and gun” method we employ, we use no decoys, relying totally on the interested Tom looking for the location of the yelping hen. Using the method described with a hunting partner.

The caller ends up being behind the shooter, putting the shooter between the Tom and the caller. Extremely effective!

Turkey hunting is in its infancy in this part of the country. The geographic range of the wild turkey is expanding further and further past the range most professional biologists thought was possible.

As opportunities present themselves, take advantage of this most unique and challenging bird. You will more than likely become hooked for life chasing the wild turkey.

Jeff Weaver is contributing writer to the Outdoors page.

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