Turkey season is fast approaching. Do you know where your gun is shooting? Jay Langston, editor of Turkey Call magazine from the National Wild Turkey Federation, recommends patterning your shotgun before each season. What if your retriever stepped on the barrel or someone knocked it down? Mishaps, unbeknownst to you, can cause you to miss or wound that gobbler. Your next box of shells might be slightly different from last year’s in powder, shotcup or buffering. All these things can affect what happens down-range.
The kill area on a turkey is the head and neck. Put a turkey target on a box and shoot from several distances, such as 10, 20, 30 and 40 yards. You’ll be able to see if the point of impact is off and check the performance. The “rubber meets the road,” so to speak in a 10-inch circle, says Langston. “You’ve got an effective turkey gun, if your gun, choke and ammunition combination puts 100 or more pellets in a 10-inch circle at 40 yards.”
Birchwood Casey’s self-adhesive Shoot*N* C targets show fluorescent yellow where the pellets have penetrated. This makes for easy counting of the holes even without the aid of binoculars or spotting scopes.
Ed Noonan, turkey hunter and outdoor writer, has shot over 60 birds. He swears by EOTech HOLOgraphic sights. There is no magnification, so the HOLOgraphic sight is legal in all states. Parallax makes the target appear to be in a different place depending on the shooter’s head position. The HOLOgraphic sight has no parallax, so it’s easy to target the bird.
Ade Advanced offers several options to help the hunter bring home the bird. One choice is a set of 45 degree iron sights that clamp onto the rib. Let us caution against only using a front sight. It’s tempting for the hunter to raise his/her head slightly just before the shot to see the turkey. This means turkey-1/hunter-0. The rear sight gives the shooter a reference point to stay on target. Here are other popular iron sights.
If you’re looking for a scope, have a look at Millett’s premier turkey hunting product, the REDOT scope. REDOT is a trademarked name that is often used generically, such as Xerox has become a generic name for a paper copy. REDOT has a LED red dot that can be adjusted to accommodate different lighting conditions. For instance, a bright dot in low light will flare. This makes it difficult to distinguish the target. Chuck Miller of Millett recommends a 5-minute sized dot for turkey hunting in combination with a 30 mm tube. “The 30 mm tube gives you a big field of view when you’re hunkered down against the tree calling in the gobbler,” says Miller.
The new Multidot SP offers 4 choices of dots–3, 5, 8 and 10 minute–all in one.
The REDOT scope is mounted using the trigger guard pins for a rock-solid saddle mount that fits most popular guns. There’s no parallax and the scopes are designed to be waterproof and shock proof.
HIVIZ makes high-glow light pipes and magnetic snap on/off bases for wide, medium, narrow and plain barrel guns. The sights are designed to enhance the sight picture and encourage the shooter to shoulder the gun properly and keep her/his head on the stock.
Confidence is a big factor in hunting success. You need to know you and your gun are on target BEFORE the gobbler struts into range.
- What equipment do you need to hunt turkey?
- Which clothes to get when turkey hunting?
- What type of boots do you need for hunting?
- What pack should you get? Is the vest mandatory for turkey hunting?
- What safety gear do you need for turkey hunting?
What equipment do you need to hunt turkey?
One thing you cannot complain about when turkey hunting is not having enough hunting gear to choose from. With all the variety of products and recommendations, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all that information. We want to help you and make the whole shopping process go smoothly. Even so, we recommend you use your common sense—after all, you will do all the hunting. Make sure that you adjust our recommendations to your needs, preferences, budget, and, above all, your hunting skills.
What’s your weapon of choice?
Thanks to turkey chokes and modern turkey loads, many hunters go with both 12and 20 gauge hunting turkey.
Shotguns make for the most effective weapons for many turkey hunters. Some use a choke with the turkey guns to maintain the pattern of the shot tight. It’s common for choke companies to make “turkey” choke tubes for turkey hunting.
Shotguns for turkey hunting
Being hidden is crucial for a successful hunt when you hunt turkey in the woods. Your shotgun doesn’t make an exception. Make sure that yours isn’t shiny nor stands out a lot. Look for a gun with a matte finish or camo finish. If your current shotgun is shiny, you can always cover it with a removable camo wrap for your turkey hunt.
- Single-shot shotgun
If your budget is tight and you want something dependable and simple, the single-shot shotgun is a great pick. Both beginners and experienced hunters use single-shot shotguns when going after their turkeys.
- Hybrid turkey pump action
The turkey pump action is excellent if you want to have more than one shot ready. Such models are affordable and fantastic for hunters who wish to have more than one shot prepared.
- Semi-auto shotgun
Such models are pricier than the other options due to the features.
As for the loads, you can pick from many shotgun shells specially made for turkey hunting. An entry-level hunter will need a lot more than our recommendations for the shotgun loads/ We only remind you that you should buy a shotgun turkey load that patterns efficiently in the shotgun and feels comfortable when shooting.
Bows for turkey hunting
If you decide to use a bow (crossbow, compound, or traditional), you must consider all aspects impacting your shoot. Most hunts happen from the ground with turkey hunting, so you need a comfortable seated position. There are logistical challenges when hunting the turkey from the ground blind. You will need plenty of room to draw back the bow. You need to sit in the blind and practice drawing back the bow before going hunting.
You need not draw too much weight on the bow. When it’s impossible to sit comfortably and draw back the bow, you will have to decrease the draw weight. When you pull too much weight, you risk injury and put a damper on your hunt.
You don’t particularly need to change your bow if you have and know how to use one. However, you will need to change the arrow set up and do some sighting in and fine-tuning. As for arrows, you will be able to use your deer hunting arrows for turkey hunting. We recommend you buy some extra and a specific arrow set up because you will change to a new type of broadhead. The broadhead should be legal; make sure that you’re allowed to use a bow in the area of your hunt.
Some hunters decide to use the deer hunting broadhead, whereas others buy models made for turkey hunting. Such broadheads present a large cutting diameter and generate more damage in the wound channel. They have to stop the bird from flying away and ensure a quick recovery.
Many hunters use calls to bring the big birds within shot range. Entry-level hunters prefer the box call as it helps them obtain a consistent sound. There are many models to choose from mouth calls (diaphragm), pot and striker calls (made with slate or glass), wing bone calls, box calls, etc.
Some calls will require a lot of practice for good results. We recommend you begin with just one call. It doesn’t have to be the price; a good quality call will be enough. Go over the basic sounds (purr, cluck, putt, and yelp) and add as you get more experienced. When you’re beginning with turkey hunting, we recommend sticking to a call that you can use reasonably well. Find one that you can operate efficiently and stick to it. You will have time to find the calls that work for you.
Here are some of the most common calls for turkey hunting:
Many turkey hunters like the box calls because they’re easy to use yet versatile for experienced hunters.
Gobbler calls are made to replicate the turkey gobble and are easy to use. You shake or push on them to work.
The locator calls don’t imitate the turkey but sound like a raven or owl. You can use them to make a turkey gobble so that you discover where it’s at.
Slate calls are not as easy to use as box calls. However, even entry-level hunters can learn to use them. The slate calls are incredibly versatile and provide incredible variety once you practice them enough.
These make the most challenging to learn. If you’re determined and willing to try out various calls, you will be able to learn them. On the other hand, mouth calls ensure a fantastic chance to create multiple turkey sounds.
Not all hunters will use turkey decoys, even though they can help with turkeys that need to see another one before coming into your calling setup. Truth be told, it’s not mandatory to have a turkey decoy, so don’t spend all your budget on one if you’re a beginner. As a matter of fact, you should add it to your turkey hunting equipment after gaining some experience.
Should you decide to buy decoys, we recommend getting a combination of models: feeding, upright, and breeding hens. Get some gobblers and Jake after some time.
If you plan to go after your turkey in open areas and fields, pop-up hunting blinds will be of great help. They’re not mandatory for a turkey hunt and you can also build or find a natural blind.
You can go turkey hunting without binoculars. However, you will find them incredibly helpful when you need to find the turkey in some thick bush. Additionally, you will need binoculars when hunting in open areas to spot your game in the distance.
Turkey hunting is a close-range pursuit, so it doesn’t make sense why you should get a range finder. However, using close-range weapons and 10 yards can make the difference when hunting. If your best pattern is at 35 yards with the shotgun, your 45 or 50 yards shots will be something else when using a range finder.
Seat cushion is about comfort, and only experienced hunters know that feeling uncomfortable can make you miss your shot. You can find turkey vests that also come with a padded seat, solving both the problem of vest and seating.
Which clothes to get when turkey hunting?
Clothing is essential when hunting and it also counts when you go after turkey. The weather can be cold and wet in the early s[ring, especially later in the season. Also, high elevation means lower temperatures than those in the valley floors.
Turkey hunting in the falls also brings a wide range of weather conditions. The weather in October can differ a lot from days in late December. Regardless of the season, you go hunting, and your clothing can make the difference when hunting.
Layer your clothing
Layering the clothing is a crucial principle when you go turkey hunting. Throughout a day of hunting, the conditions can change a lot. The morning could be frosting, whereas the afternoon could be warm and sunny. It’s important to add/remove layers as the conditions change throughout the day.
Begin with a base layer to wick moisture away from your body. Cotton is never a good choice for the base layer. Even if it’s comfortable, it feels clammy and cold once wet from sweat. Opt for a top and bottom made of synthetic fabric or wool. Such fabrics wick moisture away from the body and allow you to feel warm.
The next layer should be breathable and lightweight because you want it to keep the moisture moving away from the body. Synthetic activity is an excellent choice, but it shouldn’t be too snug. It has to allow efficient airflow between the base and the second layers.
Look for a layer made of waterproof, windproof, and warm fabric for the outer layer. An insulated rain jacket won’t let the wind go through cold weather. A waterproof shell will work excellently as an outer layer on a warm rainy day.
Don’t forget to pack two pairs of camouflaged gloves for your turkey hunts. Pack a thin pair and one that is both waterproof and insulated. If one pair gets wet, you can use the other pair. Add some disposable hand warmers in your backpack—they’re not heavy and beneficial for the chilly morning hunts.
Check out the fit and comfort
Try on all your clothes before going hunting. All layers should fit comfortably and allow effortless movement. Hunting clothes shouldn’t be too big as they will sag or flap around in the wind. Apart from the discomfort, they will be loud and cause unnecessary movement. Large clothes will get hung up and snag on when walking through the bush.
Luckily for hunters, the market is generous in affordable hunting clothing of excellent quality. Have patience and take some time before buying your clothing for hunting. Look for a dress that matches the condition you will hunt and according to your hunting style. If you plan to spend a lot of time in your ground blind, opt for heavy and warm clothes. The proper clothing can be your best friend when hunting.
What type of boots do you need for hunting?
One thing you don’t want to worry about when hunting is a sore blister. Wet and cold feet are no fun either. Many experienced hunters have at least two pairs of boots as they encounter various conditions when going after a turkey.
Get rubber knee boots if you anticipate cold and wet hunting conditions. Rubber boots are the best choice when you plan to sit for many hours in the ground blind. Nowadays, rubber boots are insulated and will keep your feet warm.
If non-insulated boots sound more practical for your hunts, we suggest you get a pair of ½ to one size larger than you typically wear. This way, you will be able to put on thick and warm socks whenever necessary. Check out some electric socks and disposable toe warmers—they will keep your feet warm when sitting in the ground blind all day long.
Buy good hiking boots for warm and dry weather. Hiking boots are a reliable option also when you need to cover many miles to find your turkey. Look for waterproof hiking boots, so your feet stay dry while crossing puddles and streams.
Keep in mind to break in your footwear before you go outfield. When you go after your game, turkey, or anything else, the last thing you want is to be annoyed by a sore blister. Remember to get some gators, so grass seeds and snow don’t get into your boots.
What pack should you get? Is the vest mandatory for turkey hunting?
You need something to carry your turkey calls, shells, extra gloves, lunch, water, etc. The daypack and the specialized turkey hunting vest represent the most common choices.
The daypack is an essential and affordable option for many hunters. You can pack numerous things and a good daypack will have several pockets for efficient organization of your gear. Look for a hydration bladder model compatible with remaining hydrated during the hot, dry hunts.
When you go hunting, you need to stay as dry as possible. Therefore, pack your things so they don’t rattle, shift, or get loud. Place the items you use most frequently (shells, calls) in easy-to-access places (pockets and top of the main compartment). Don’t forget to pack a cushion—strap it to the pack’s outside for effortless carry.
Once you realize that turkey hunting is your thing, you should invest in a long-lasting specialized turkey hunting vest. Every pocket of the turkey vest has a role; some will hold pot calls, others will hold box calls. Some vests come with mesh pouches to carry diaphragm calls; they allow efficient airflow and don’t stay wet after use.
Specialized turkey hunting vests also feature pouches and pockets for shears, knives, shotguns, and shells. They’re made to keep your gear in place and as quiet as possible. You will also see large pockets—you can use these for extra equipment. You will even be able to carry your lunch and water in a game pouch of the vest. If interested, you can buy yourself a hydration bladder compatible vest.
With an excellent tactical vest, you will be able to carry an impressive amount of gear, and you should never go cheap with your tactical vest. Look for one that comes with a built-in padded cushion to sit on. You will spend many hours sitting on the ground and want a soft cushion for a comfortable seat.
If possible, try on several vests to discover which one you like most. See that you can effortlessly use the seat pad and the pockets. Spend some time and try as many models as possible. You don’t want to buy another tactical vest any time soon.
What will you carry with your hunting vest?
Some things are essential on a turkey hunt, so here’s what you should pack in your tactical vest:
- Various calls
It won’t take long until you learn that gobblers may respond quicker to some calls than others. It’s not a bad idea to carry several diaphragm calls, a pot and peg call with 2-3 strikers for variety, and a box call. You might also pack several locator calls, such as a coyote howler, a crow crawl, and an owl hooter. When the hen call fails or when you want to challenge a proud tom, a gobble call to use as a locator will come in handy.
- Caller helpers
A call conditioning kit includes a scouring pad, sandpaper, chalk, and rubber bands. You can use them to restrain a box called a paddle, so it doesn’t become loud in the worst time ever.
- Extra shells
- After the kill essentials
Some hunters weigh their birds on the spot and measure spurts and beards. If that’s the case for you, you should pack a small scale, a short measuring tape, and a small folding knife.
- A snack
- A bottle of water
- O-dark-thirty aids
Pack a small LED squeeze light and a LED headlamp to see your way in the dark.
- Insect repellant
- Some band-aids
- Extra coverage
Pack an extra layer of camo clothing in the back pouch. If there’s rain in the forecast, a lightweight camo rain gear will come in handy. Good tactical vests will also provide you with space to pack foldable or inflatable decoys in the back pouch. You can also fill a light sit behind rollout blind as well.
- Toilet tissue
On a piece of paper, write down all the items you plan to carry in your vest and check them off as you put them in the vest. For best organization, place the items in the same place every time to effortlessly access them when you’re afield.
If you go on a short hunt, a large fanny pack will be enough. Add essential gear you need for a quick hunt. Pack a cushion if you anticipate you will sit on the ground. Opt for a sling if you want to hunt with a shotgun or a bow. It will fit your turkey decoy and your cushion, and you can have your hands free.
Take a hike
Don’t go hunting just yet once you have all your gear ready. Practice at home by trying on the vest/pack, grabbing your bow/gun, and taking a hike. See that everything fits you comfortably and that your gear and calls stay in place and quiet. Use your equipment and set it all up while carrying your gear. Shoulder your shotgun and practice your drawing as well. When it’s time for the real, you want to feel confident in your equipment.
What safety gear do you need for turkey hunting?
Even if turkey hunting is one of the safest forms of hunting, there are safety tips any responsible hunter should follow:
Stay visible when necessary
The most significant risk in turkey hunting is being afield and other turkey hunters. Let’s not forget that everyone wears camouflage and sounds like a turkey, as they call in the birds. As a result, you need to make sure that other turkey hunters see you and your location while you’re setting up or walking to your blind. You want them to see you while you’re setting up behind a tree or while you’re carrying your game at the end of the hunt.
Use a roll of blaze orange flagging tape and/or blaze orange hat to be visible whenever necessary. When you walk into or out of a hunt, wear a blaze orange hat or something to make yourself visible to other hunters. Or something to make yourself visible to other hunters. You can find turkey vests with blaze orange panels to show when moving through the woods.
Make sure your turkey isn’t alive by trying a flagging tape to its head. Also, mark your hunting spots and trail with some tape. If you set up in front of a tree, you can hang something orange or bright red on the opposite side of the tree. This way, the other hunters will be aware of your presence. A flagging tape, a bandana, or a hat are the most popular options.
Even if you go for a short hunt, the risk for an injury is never null. You should always be prepared to handle a minor injury, inclement weather, or getting lost. The first thing to do is inform a friend or family member where you go and how long you plan to stay. They will call for help if you don’t come back on time.
We recommend you always pack the following when hunting:
- A GPS unit/map, compass to not get lost
- Plenty of food and water
- Insect repellent
- A first aid kit with antihistamine for bug bites and blister treatment
- Rain gear
- Poison oak ointment
- Lip balm
Is turkey hunting difficult?
Turkeys have incredible eyesight and can spot the slightest movement. As a result, turkey hunting is difficult for many beginners. Before you go afield and hit the wood, you should do due diligence to start your turkey hunts.
Do turkeys smell like hunters?
If you do deer or big game hunting, controlling the scent is crucial for a successful hunt. It’s not a problem to deal with when turkey hunting. Turkeys cannot smell, which increases the chances for successful hunts.
How far can a turkey hear?
In a big field, the turkey can hear you from 400 yards. It means that you need to be as quiet as a mouse because they will listen to you where you are going.
What colors does turkey see?
Turkeys have exceptional eyesight and can see from a greater distance than you can spot them. They can see blue, green, red, and UV—they have better eyesight than us humans. When the night comes, turkeys’ vision will significantly reduce.
What colors not to wear when turkey hunting?
The male wild turkey has red, white, blue, or black, so you should never wear these colors when going after turkey. Dress to make yourself visible to other hunters—hunter orange is ideal. Always call the bird to you and don’t sneak up on wild turkeys. Also, make sure not to stalk turkey sounds.