After years of turkey hunting trial and error, these are my 23 best turkey hunting tips for beginners. I wish I had these tips when I started turkey hunting. If you follow these tips I have no doubt you’ll increase your spring turkey hunting success.
If you’re a bowhunter you might like: Best Broadheads For Turkey Hunting | Turkey Broadheads Explained
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Tip 1. Gear Up – Turkey Hunting Gear for Beginners
First things first. If you’re going to turkey hunt you’re going to need some essential gear. But don’t be discouraged, you don’t need much to get started.
- Hunting License
- Shotgun & Ammo
- Camouflage Clothing
- Turkey Decoys
- Turkey Call
- Pop-Up Hunting Blind (not necessary, but very highly recommended)
I’ve written a more in-depth article for Best Turkey Hunting Gear For Beginners which you may find helpful. This article goes into more detail about turkey hunting gear. I broke this article up into must-have gear and unnecessary but useful gear so that you know exactly what you need before heading out turkey hunting as a turkey hunting beginner.
Tip 2. Pattern Your Shotgun
The first step in patterning your shotgun is to determine if you have interchangeable choke-tubes. Having a shotgun with interchangeable choke tubes is a big benefit for turkey hunters because you can use a full-choke to keep your shot-pattern dense. This allows you to make longer shots. If you don’t have a full choke don’t worry, you can still use your shotgun to hunt turkeys, you just need to make sure the turkeys are closer when you take a shot.
Carlson’s Choke Tubes
To improve shot-pattern density these choke-tubes are screwed into the shotgun barrel. This results in longer and more lethal shots on turkeys. These choke tubes use Triple-Shot Technology (TST) which makes the shotgun pellet spread-rate release more gradually than other choke tubes on the market.
You don’t need these choke tubes, if you have a full-choke that will work fine. But these Carlson choke tubes will help you reduce the chances of wounding a bird. You’d be surprised how easy it is to misjudge distances or not take careful aim under all the exciting hunting circumstances.
I would buy a few different boxes of turkey ammo to test out during the patterning process. Not all ammo will shoot the same out of your gun, you’ll want to use the ammo that shoots more accurately by having most of the pellets hit where you’re aiming. I would use the largest ammo you can for your shotgun.
How Far Can You Shoot A Turkey?
The bigger the ammo, the further you can shoot. Below are the max distances I recommend shooting a turkey with different sized turkey ammo using Hevi-Shot (tungsten ammo).
- 12 GA 3.5″ Shells – 50 Yards
- 12-GA 3″ Shells – 45 Yards
- 12-GA 2.75″ Shells – 35 Yards
- 20-GA 3″ Shells – 35 Yards
- 20-GA 2.75″ Shells – 30 Yards
If you’re going to be shooting turkeys at these maximum ranges it is suggested to use good ammo. I recommend Hevi-Shot because it is even heavier than lead, and will put a turkey down at these distances more effectively. I would specifically recommend Hevi-Shot Magnum Blend for shots at these maximum range applications. They are expensive, but you should only need one to get get the job done so they should last many seasons. If you can’t afford it, regular lead ammo will work but make sure turkeys are 5 yards closer than the recommendations above.
Buy a few targets and set them out at the maximum range you plan to shoot based on the yardages above. Shoot at these targets to see which ammo patterns best for your shotgun. You’ll want to choose the ammo that has the most pellets in a small area. You may notice that the majority of your shot is hitting slightly off-center. This is important information letting you know you may need to compensate for this by aiming slightly off-target. You can also purchase a red-dot sight or scope for your shotgun. This will allow you to move your point of aim to where your pellets are hitting.
Tip 3. Let Them Get Closer Than You’d Think
If a turkey is coming in, don’t jump the gun (no pun intended) and shoot right when the turkey enters what you think is the edge of gun range. This greatly increases the odds of wounding or missing a turkey.
Let the turkey come in close for a quick ethical kill. A good rule of thumb is if they’re still coming in, let them keep coming until it is unquestionable. It is an even better idea to have a rangefinder on you to confirm distances. If you don’t have one, you can read my article on the Best Rangefinders For Hunting.
Although rangefinders aren’t absolutely necessary, I highly suggest them for beginner turkey hunters. It can be very hard to judge the distance of a turkey, especially in a big field with no depth perception.
Additionally, with the excitement, it’s easy to pull the trigger too soon. A rangefinder is a staple in my turkey hunting arsenal.
Tip 4. Scouting for Turkeys
I can’t express how important scouting is for turkey hunting success, and frankly, it’s not that hard to do since turkey gobbles are easily heard and turkeys are quite visible. Especially in fields just before hunting season before hunting pressure starts. Scouting for turkeys is often an overlooked aspect of turkey hunting, you will be ahead of the game if you do some scouting.
Pre-Season Turkey Scouting
Pre-season scouting is essential for early success. You’ll want to put a tag on a turkey as soon as possible because as the season progresses turkeys become warier and will be harder to see, call, hear, and find.
Scouting for Turkey Roosting Areas
In order to find roosts, it is best to drive around areas where turkeys are known to hang out and listen 30-min before daylight while they gobble before getting out of the trees. This can also be done in the evening right at sunset but in my experience, it is not as effective because turkeys don’t gobble for as long so it can be hard to check multiple places in the same scouting session.
Another tip is to drive around early morning and about an hour/hour-half before sunset and find the turkeys that are making their way back to their roosts. If you see turkeys in fields at these times you can be their roosts will not be far away. Mark these locations on your GPS and come back to find where exactly they are roosting.
Tip 5. Hunt Multiple Spots for Turkeys
My favorite tactic is to find a handful of roosts before the season starts so that you can hunt multiple areas during the first week of turkey hunting. Having multiple areas in your back pocket is very helpful. Many times you’ll find out that one spot you were planning to hunt gets too much hunting pressure. These areas can be frustrating to hunt and makes hunting harder. By having different places to hunt you are able to stay in better hunting situations, increasing turkey hunting success.
Tip 6. Hunt Turkeys Close To The Roost – But Not Too Close
After you’ve located a few roosting areas, watch where these birds naturally want to travel in the mornings when they get down out of the roost. When you hunt, position yourself between the roosting turkeys and where they naturally want to go to intercept them.
Take advantage of their natural patterns. Turkeys will often use the same travel corridors when getting down out of their trees because they will likely be heading to the same morning food source each day. Just make sure you don’t get too close to their roost because they may fly out of range when getting out of the trees in the morning. I like to be about 75 yards from the roost in the direction of travel.
Tip 7. Hunt All Day
Hunting all day is an excellent way to put the odds in your favor. You May think there are no turkeys are around or that they have moved on after the morning excitement, but if you’re in an area that turkeys frequent chances are you will see some action.
Keep your eyes peeled, they can come into the decoys silent. Oftentimes though, once a gobbler gets within a 20-yard ‘bubble’ they can’t help themselves and will gobble, often startling you. These situations really get the heart pumping as they are least expected but if you stick it out will happen more often than you think.
Tip 8. Don’t Lose Hope If They’re Not Gobbling
Morning in the turkey woods is often exciting, but sometimes they just won’t gobble. Or they will stop gobbling altogether once they leave their roost. These birds may be over-hunted and are weary, or the weather may not be right for them to be gobbling. You may think there isn’t a turkey for miles, but don’t lose hope. Just because you don’t hear them gobbling doesn’t mean they haven’t seen your decoys and are coming in. Give them time and your patience may be rewarded.
Tip 9. Be Patient
I’ve eluded to this in many of the other tips but patience is key to turkey hunting success. Morning in the turkey woods is often exciting, the turkeys are often gobbling and the anticipation of success is high. But if the gobblers don’t do what you were hoping then hope can die quickly. But don’t give up, be patient birds are usually still nearby you just have to wait for them to make their rounds. A good time to be hunting is when they’re done with their breakfast and are looking to get a little frisky. The toms will be out looking for hens at this time.
Tip 10. Bring Comfortable Gear
I started seeing more success turkey hunting success when I brought a camo pop-up blind and comfortable lawn chair. This enabled me to move around a lot and not be seen because the blind was enclosed. It also gave me the comfort to stay in the bling for hours longer than just sitting against a tree with a cushion. It also helps keep you warmer and dryer on windy or rainy days, not to mention keep the mosquitos away which is worth every penny in my opinion. Bring a good book, or binge-listen to podcasts or audiobooks, whatever it takes to stay longer. If you’re patient in an area where turkeys frequent, you will eventually have success.
All turkey hunters will appreciate a fully adjustable and swiveling blind chair. The legs of this chair adjust which allows for a perfectly leveled sit. This is key in order for maximum comfort. Additionally, the chair swivels 360º so that you can shoot out of any window of a blind easily at the approaching turkeys. A comfortable chair is key for success because when you’re comfortable you can last longer in the blind.
The pop-up blind I use is the Ameristep Care Taker Ground Blind which offers enough room for two hunters. It has adjustable shooting windows with removable mesh screening. It’s very easy to put up and to take down. It’s completely blacked-out on the inside, so hunters stay out of sight. My favorite aspect of this blind is how easy it is to travel with because it comes in a carrying case similar to that of a lawn chair. Also, it’s very easy to set up because it pops-up in sections similar to an umbrella. I’ve linked it below if you’re interested.
Tip 11. Dealing with Insects
I use Rynoskin to deal with ticks and mosquitos during turkey season. It is a chemical-free baselayer that keeps ticks from getting to your skin and helps reduce the number of bites from mosquitos. If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, you can check out my review. There is a certain way to use it to its full potential which I go over in that post.
Tip 12. Turkey Hunting Weather
Sunny Days are Best
Sunny days are the best days to be turkey hunting. Especially, if the few days prior were not good. This will often have birds out running around and gobbling their heads off.
Turkey Hunting in the Rain
Turkeys are on the move in the rain and you can have great luck on rainy days. However, you will likely not hear any gobbling and you should not call much yourself. Your best bet is to set a decoy out in a highly visible spot and just wait. Also, there is nothing more beautiful than a dry turkey, but a wet turkey is ugly as hell, just FYI.
Tip 13. Take The First Week Off From Work
If you’re serious about bagging a turkey as a beginner there is no better way than to spend most of your time hunting during the first week. Hunting pressure will be in full effect before long and you’ll want to take advantage of non-pressured birds for as long as possible.
I’ve found that after the first-week birds become smart to hunters and are harder to kill. If you spend most of your time hunting when turkeys are less call-shy and timid, you’ll have better luck. Plus it will be more fun because turkeys will be more apt to be gobbling their heads off.
Tip 14. Travel To Less Pressured Areas
If the season progresses and you still don’t have your turkey, start scouting new areas. Specifically, areas that might be overlooked or that don’t have much hunting pressure. These can be great late-season honey holes. Sometimes you just have to give up on the turkeys you’ve been hunting in order to find easier turkeys to hunt.
Tip 15. Don’t Call Too Much
Beginners often call way too much because they love getting gobblers to call back to them, who doesn’t! I highly suggest resisting this urge, there is a fine line here, don’t overdo it. When you call too much, it will start to seem unnatural and the gobbler may lose interest. Pay attention to how often and how loud real hen turkeys call and try to mimic that. You’ll notice they’re not all that loud and that they don’t call very much.
Tip 16. Play Hard To Get
Once I have a gobbler fired up and talking back to me after every call I make. He will often stay out of range because he is trying to get the hen (my decoy) to come to him. In order to counter this, I will stop calling as often and pretend to lose interest.
I do this by making the gobbler call 2-3 times before I respond with some light yelps. Often, he will get frustrated that you’re losing interest and will often make their way to your decoys. Playing hard to get pays off big-time. This process can take hours so don’t overdo the calling.
Tip 17. Let The Gobbler Go
There are a couple of tips you can implement if you find yourself struggling to pull a gobbler in that sounds fired up and interested. First, you should implement “Don’t Overcall” then “Play Hard To Get”. The next step is to just let them go. If a gobbler just won’t come in don’t try to force it by calling more. This will just make things worse and he will figure out that your decoys aren’t the real deal.
Very often, especially for mature birds, just let them go. Toms get mad when they can’t convince you to come to them. They will keep you in the back of their minds while they go about their business. Often, after they’ve had some breakfast they will come back to see if you’re still around. They often come in silent, but they will be more apt to come right in because they are impatient and tired of waiting. Be ready!
Tip 18. Blind Call Sparingly
Blind calling is when you call even when you don’t think there are any turkeys around. This can be an effective tactic because it can bring birds in that are in earshot. If you’ve been calling at a fairly normal volume, it is not a bad idea to throw in an unnaturally loud call to see if you get a shock-gobble once in a rare while.
However, I’ve had the best luck calling at a natural volume even if I feel like turkeys are not around. I will give a short calling sequence every 20 minutes just in case something has moved into earshot. You’d be surprised how many turkeys are actually around, but just aren’t calling.
Tip 19. Turkey Hunting Pressure
Knowing the hunting pressure is a big part of having a successful turkey hunt for beginners. You can often get an idea of how heavily turkeys will be hunted by how easily visible they are from a road, and how busy the road is. Other hunters are taking notes too. Don’t discount these areas, but do your best to find turkeys away from high human traffic areas. It’s always best to find them in areas with very minimal traffic.
Competing for Turkeys
You don’t want to be competing with other people for the same turkeys if you can help it. In my opinion, it takes away from the fun of having a 1 on 1 battle with a group of turkeys. Other hunters can be discouraging because turkeys may go to them instead of you. Especially if they have more knowledge than you and are better at calling.
That said, don’t give up if a hunter shoots a turkey near you. Although turkeys may not be talking much after the shot, there could easily be other turkeys roaming around and may come into your decoys within an hour, you just never know. This is especially true during the first week of the season when they’re not wise to the hunting pressure yet.
Additionally, knowing the hunting pressure will allow you to adjust how much calling you should do. If the turkeys you are hunting are not pressured at all, you can get away with a little more calling even if it is a little bit unnatural compared to real hens.
The effects of hunting pressure get worse as the season continues, this means turkeys will often stop gobbling altogether except for when they’re in their roosts. This means you should mimic this behavior when you’re calling. This will be more realistic to the turkeys. Often that means the best tactic is to never call. Sounds counter-intuitive but pressured birds will often go to the hunter that does not call over with a hunter that is calling.
Tip 20. Turkey Decoy Placement for Beginners
Different decoy combinations are used in different situations in order to get the gobblers to do what you want. Turkeys are territorial and lustful, you can use decoys to play on these weaknesses. Try to visualize and anticipate how and what direction gobblers will approach decoys.
Toms will often hang back from hen decoys 15-20 yards as they get a read on the situation. But they will have no problem approaching another tom or jake decoy. I often place my hens off to the side of my blind and the male decoys close to where I want to shoot but only about 10 yards away. This makes the gobblers cross in front of me so I often create shots 20 yards and under.
Tip 21. Turkey Decoy Combinations for Beginners
Here is a more in-depth article about turkey decoy setups:
Unless you plan to be highly mobile (running and gunning), you’ll almost always want at least one decoy with you. This should always be a hen decoy because when you call you’re mimicking a hen. So to not have a hen decoy in your decoy setup will look unrealistic to turkeys. Also, gobblers are looking for hens at this time of year, so there is almost no reason for not having a hen decoy.
I like this setup when hunting pressure is high, I feel like a single decoy seems more legit to real turkeys because other hunters are often using more than one decoy.
1 Tom + 1 Hen
A hen is used as an attractor for toms and jakes. They can be used alone or with other male decoys. When placed with male decoys, a jealously and territorial trigger button will be pushed within male birds making them want to come into the decoys.
A tom turkey in strut when placed next to a hen decoy is used to get another dominant tom fired up and aggressive so that he will want to attack the decoy, thus bringing the bird into shooting range. Jakes will often be scared of a tom decoy so keep that in mind. Less aggressive toms may also shy away. For this reason, I rarely use this setup.
1 Jake + 1 Hen
A jake turkey that is semi-puffed up with hen decoys will make a tom want to put the jake in its place by letting him know who’s boss. This will make the tom angry want to come in and take the jake out of the picture so he can have the hen (your decoy) to himself. Additionally, other jakes will feel comfortable coming to join. This jake decoy can bring in any age male turkey. I use this setup a lot.
Two hen decoys are good for larger groups of gobblers because a bigger group of male turkeys will feel more comfortable coming to a party of two. Two hen decoys are very non-threatening so you can attract any male turkey. However, although not threatening, a single male turkey may be intimidated and feel outnumbered, especially jake.
Tip 22. Practice Your Calling
Calling is an important part of turkey hunting. Especially when it is more effective at the beginning of the hunting season when turkeys are not as badly pressured by hunters. I suggest listening to real hens calling on YouTube, taking mental notes, and practicing your turkey calling my mimic these turkeys. I like slate calls myself.
Just remember that knowing when not to call is just, if not more important, than knowing how to call well.
Tip 23. Be Mobile
Although there is a lot to be said for being patient. Sometimes you’ve just gotta take the game to the turkeys. A good strategy is by walking around and calling periodically until you hear a gobble, then try to get close to the gobbler and set up a single decoy and try to call him in. A gobbler will often want you to go to him which is a tricky situation, Sometimes it pays off by walking in the opposite direction and calling or calling quieter. This will make you sound further away and will make the tom angry and will start coming to you.
After years of hunting turkeys, I’ve learned a lot through trial and error. I hope you’ve found these turkey hunting tips for beginners to be useful. I wish I had these tips when I started hunting. If you follow these tips I have no doubt you’ll increase your springtime turkey hunting success significantly.
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