Let’s get down to the brass tacks. What do you need to get started turkey hunting and what are the tips that will get you out in the field with at least a fighting chance to bag that gobbler? This article will detail the basic needs you will have for your hunt with a subsequent article on scouting and techniques for the field to follow.
All the advice you will get from the popular hunting magazines will only be of marginal use until you have spent a season out there seeing what it is all about. It is very likely that once you get the opportunity to hunt these magnificent creatures you will be hooked. Turkeys are in the midst of one of conservation’s most dramatic good news stories and your chances today are about as good as they have ever been, no matter where you are located. In fact there are turkeys that have now been located in regions where they were never previously found.
So what do you need for Spring turkey season? The basics for turkey hunting are indeed basic. Your chances will be dramatically raised if you use full body camouflage. Turkeys have two basic senses that are incredible; eyesight and hearing. When I say you will need full body camouflage, I mean from head to toes. You need a camo hat and facemask, or if you don’t want the mask, obtain face-paint designed for turkey hunting. I personally prefer the mask as the paint is very greasy and messy.
Obviously, you will need a firearm to hunt turkeys. There are varying regulations on this so I will defer to local gun shops and your reg-book. I will say that an inexpensive 12 gauge shotgun that chambers 3 inch shells with a full choke is a good starting point in most locales. You will need to pattern your shotgun at 30-40 yards to get an idea how it shoots and perhaps adjust the brand of shells or the style of choke accordingly. Typically you will be shooting number 4 shells. A quick look at one of the big stores and you will see there are shells that are advertised as turkey loads.
Here is as good a time as any to mention safety. Turkey hunting has inherent risks as you are carrying a loaded firearm, wearing camo clothing, and sharing the woods with other hunters. To make matters worse, you will likely be using a turkey call of some type which can also get you in trouble. All I can say is that it is your responsibility to seek out every single avenue you can pursue to make your hunt safer. If you have not taken hunter safety class, even if not required, please do so. When you hike into and out of the woods or are moving, wear some blaze orange. Do not sling a turkey over your shoulder and come out of the woods unless you have the bird draped in blaze orange. If you use decoys, be aware that every year decoys get shot at by dumb hunters and you could potentially be in the line of fire. Sit with a good backstop such as a large tree. These are just a few basic precautions. There are more that you can and should take.
You will likely use one of two types of turkey calls and maybe both. The two most common are box calls and mouth diaphragm calls. Both are great and have their purposes and you should familiarize yourself with each. In the confines of this article all I will say now is don’t overdo it. I am a firm believer that calling is a skill that can mostly be learned only in the field. Practice with your calls at home and perhaps get a video instruction DVD. I like the mouth calls because they leave your hands free and reduce movement but I use both.
These are the basics you will need for your hunt. Next time we will talk about the basics of where to go and what to do once you are there. Remember, safety first! Then, I believe you are getting ready to embark on a journey that whether you bag a bird or not, you will find immensely rewarding.