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This article is a guide for first-time hunters focusing on turkey hunting basics. I'm going to share some turkey hunting laws and regulations, hunter education and safety courses, permits, and tagging requirements.
Additionally, I'm going to walk you through the necessary gear and equipment for a successful turkey hunt, including camouflage outfits, face masks, gloves, hats, and appropriate turkey hunting boots.
Lastly, I'll provide some insights on selecting a turkey hunting shotgun, considering factors such as cocking method, chokes, and ammunition selection.
Many people are under the misguided assumption that all you need to hunt turkeys is a gun and a trip to the woods. Once there, the hunter simply blasts away until they have harvested enough birds to fill their truck. Anyone with hunting experience understands that this is not the process for hunting, and turkeys are one of the most difficult game animals to harvest.
Starting out with a good understanding of the basics of turkey hunting will get the new hunter off to a promising start while ensuring they follow the laws and have a good experience.
Each state and many counties specify rules for how and when turkeys can be hunted. In some states, hunters will find that bag limits have been established. Bag limits are in place to prevent overhunting and ensure a robust population of wild turkeys. For the same reason, regulations establish hunting seasons, typically spring and fall for wild turkeys. People who do not follow these rules and regulations are not hunting, they are poaching. Depending on state regulations, individuals convicted of poaching can face steep fines and the suspension of hunting privileges. Animals that are harvested illegally are often confiscated.
The best way to find the current regulations in your area is to visit the Department of Natural Resources website. There, you will find links to information typically prepared by the Department of Wildlife or Fish and Game services which work with biologists to establish minimum and maximum bag limits and days for hunting to ensure the wild population continues to grow.
Rules typically vary depending on whether hunting is being done in public hunting areas or on private land. It is important that hunters know where they are hunting so they do not accidentally enter private land or other restricted areas. Be sure to pay attention to no trespassing and no hunting signs that are posted before you begin hunting.
Each state establishes regulations that hunters must follow before they may begin hunting. Often, this includes hunter education courses, safety courses, and permits. Additionally, states issue rules regarding when and how a harvested animal must be tagged. The purpose of tagging harvested animals is to provide the state with a way to monitor the number of animals taken in a given year. Tagging harvested animals also prevents hunters from harvesting more animals in a year than they are legally allowed to do.
One of the most common mistakes that hunters make, even experienced ones, is failing to affix the tag when harvesting an animal. Game wardens will confiscate harvested animals that are not properly tagged. Hunters who fail to tag harvested animals properly may face restitution fines in addition to suspension of hunting privileges. Repeat offenders are likely to lose hunting privileges.
Wild turkeys are masters of their environment and for a hunter to have a successful trip ,they will first need the proper gear for turkey hunting. Wild turkeys have keen senses of sight and hearing, so the hunter must prepare properly. The first piece of equipment a hunter should invest in is a high-quality camouflage outfit appropriate for their hunting environment. A turkey hunter should have a camouflage shirt, vest, and pants.
A face mask is also a good piece of equipment to have since turkey can spot the difference in your skin against the background. some states require that hunters wear bright orange; however, this is not common during turkey season because the birds can see orange. Be sure to check your local hunting regulations to make sure you have the proper hunting attire.
Turkey hunting is typically done early in the morning or late in the evening, times when the weather is often cold. You should bring an extra pair of warm boot socks and appropriate boots for cold, wet environments. Your shoes should be comfortable enough to walk several miles without causing blisters. Camouflage gloves and a camouflage hat are also good ideas for equipment to carry.
Turkey hunting is typically done with a shotgun or archery equipment. Before you go hunting, make sure you are proficient with your chosen weapon. this means spending time at the range to know you can accurately hit a target at a specific distance. Most successful turkey hunting happens at distances less than 30 yards.
Choosing the right shotgun for turkey hunting involves more than simply purchasing the newest or coolest-looking firearm. Several variables will determine whether a shotgun is a good choice for turkey hunting. The first thing to consider is the cocking method. Shotguns are typically pump-action or semi-automatic. A semi-automatic shotgun is more expensive but allows the hunter to fire multiple times without cocking. Most states limit the number of rounds a shotgun can physically hold when hunting. typically, three rounds are the maximum, two in the magazine and one in the breach.
Shotguns include a device known as a choke that fits into the barrel and controls the amount of spread the pellets have after firing. Four types of chokes are commonly available, each with a particular purpose. Turkey hunters typically use full or modified chokes. These designs are intended to provide maximum distance while keeping the shot pattern fairly narrow. A full choke is appropriate for shots up to 40 yards. A modified choke is best for shots less than 30 yards. Cylinder and improved cylinder chokes are typically not used for turkey hunting because they allow the spread of pellets to happen too quickly to be effective. Many first-time hunters are surprised at a turkey's feathers' ability to shed off pellets. It's almost like they have bulletproof armor.
There are some characteristics that shotgun shells carry which makes them appropriate for certain uses. Typically, when turkey hunting, a hunter will want a 12 gauge or 20 gauge shotgun. Shotgun shells in 12 gauge and 20 gauge caliber range from two and three-quarter inches to three and one-half inches in length. Most shotguns can shoot two and three quarter or 3-in shells. Only properly equipped shotguns can handle larger shells which are typically reserved for deer hunting with slugs.
Shotgun shells carry a different number of pellets. This is typically referred to as the aught and refers to the size and number of pellets in the shotgun shell. Like a wire gauge, shotgun pellets are larger when the number is smaller, meaning fewer pellets per shotgun shell. Larger pellets penetrate better than small pellets but have less spread.
Some areas have begun to restrict the type of metal used for the pellets. traditionally, lead is the go-to; however, many areas now require hunters to use steel shot due to the risk of lead contamination in the environment. Be sure to know the regulations in your local area before purchasing ammunition. Hunters can break the law simply by having the wrong type of ammunition with them, even when they are not hunting with that ammunition.
Now that you understand the basics of hunting turkeys, it's time to start talking about the process. Turkeys roost in trees at night, fly down in the morning, and walk to their feeding areas. In the evening, turkeys will return to their roost tree. It is illegal and bad sportsmanship to shoot turkeys roosting in trees. That means the hunter must find a location where turkeys will pass by. Learning to spot signs of turkey is not difficult. Turkeys scratch at the ground in search of food, drop feathers, and leave droppings where they walk and gather. Identifying fresh signs of turkey is one of the key skills a turkey hunter must gain. The best way to identify an area where turkeys can be hunted is to scout the area before turkey season begins.
The most common method of hunting turkeys is for the hunter to set up at the base of a large tree that is wider than the hunter's shoulders. This provides camouflage so the hunter can observe turkeys moving along a trail. In order to be successful in hunting from the base of a tree, a hunter must remain perfectly still and absolutely quiet. Turkeys will see and hear the slightest movement and will avoid the area. Most hunters will use turkey calls or a variety of other animal sounds to encourage the turkey to come to the area where the hunter is waiting.
Some turkey hunters prefer to use a blind similar to those used for deer or waterfowl. A blind is most effective along the edge of a field near trees where turkeys will come to eat and gather. Hunting from a blind is also a good way to teach young hunters the skills necessary because the blind conceals most movement and sound. A blind can have limited effectiveness when used in densely wooded areas because it limits the ability of a hunter to see the surrounding environment.
One of the most exhilarating ways to hunt turkeys is referred to as “running and gunning.” This hunting method relies on animal and turkey calls to encourage wild turkeys to make noise. The hunter then stalks the animal until a suitable location is found to set up for a shot. Running and gunning can be a more challenging way to hunt turkey since the noise and motion of a hunter can easily alert the birds and scare them away.
Probably the most challenging skill to learn when turkey hunting is patience. Many experienced hunters have learned that a turkey call can be used to get a gobbler to make noise and attract attention. Long periods of silence from the hunter can actually encourage a gobbler to investigate. Learning to use a turkey call properly can be a challenging skill at first. Some of the best advice is to listen to the turkeys' sounds and replicate the volume and cadence of their calls.
Before you start hunting, it's important to scout the area and familiarize yourself with the terrain. Look for signs of turkey activity, such as tracks, droppings, and feathers, as well as roosting trees and feeding areas.
Decoys and calls can be effective tools for attracting turkeys. Place decoys in visible areas and use a variety of calls, such as yelps, clucks, and purrs, to mimic the sounds of turkeys and lure them in.
Turkeys have excellent eyesight and hearing, so it's important to remain still and quiet while hunting. Find a comfortable spot to wait and be patient – sometimes it can take a while for turkeys to respond to your calls.
Turkeys have sharp eyesight and can detect even the slightest movement, so it's important to camouflage yourself from head to toe. Wear clothing that matches the surrounding vegetation and use face paint or a mask to cover your face.
Always practice safe hunting techniques, such as keeping your firearm pointed in a safe direction and being aware of your surroundings. Never shoot at movement or sounds – always positively identify your target before pulling the trigger.
Hunting wild turkey is a classic American pastime that has been passed down through the generations. In recent years, turkey hunting has become more popular as turkey populations have expanded.
New hunters interested in turkey hunting should take opportunities to watch videos on YouTube and read articles about turkey hunting before talking to experienced hunters to learn the basics.
Taking the time to learn as much as possible about how to hunt turkey will make the experience more fun and something that you will look forward to every spring and fall.