"I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post."
Looking for a guide about turkey hunting for beginners? We’ve included everything you should know before heading into the fields for wild turkey, from choosing the right hunting gear to making proper calls.
As these birds are intelligent and sensitive to even the slightest movements, it makes sense to know all about our turkey hunting 101 guides for successful hunting.
Identifying Sex and Age of Turkeys Knowledge
You’ll need to know all the basics about turkey age and genders to avoid taking down the wrong targets.
Why should turkey hunters know?
As turkeys are smart animals and highly wary of humans, learning how to call correctly is of utmost importance. Before that, you’ll need to pick up the basic knowledge on how to reliably distinguish a gobbler and a hen to apply the right calls for successful hunting.
Identifying the Sex of Turkeys
Male turkeys (called “toms” or “gobblers”) start to court females (“hens”) in the spring, making it favorable for hunters to go on a spring turkey hunting season. They are larger and have more vibrant feathers than their female counterparts.
Gobblers are most easily recognized by the long beard growing from their chest, and their pronounced spurs, sometimes as long as two inches, found on the back of their legs. A gobbler appears larger, darker, shinier, and is more colorful than a hen, especially on its head, which can appear alternately red, white, and blue. The Gobblers often “puff up” and struts during spring to attract hens for breeding.
Female turkeys (called “hens”) will generally be browner in appearance. The hen’s overall look is for concealment and protection. She is smaller and drabber than the colorful gobbler, so she can sit on her nest well camouflaged. Likewise, her head has more feathers to add to her camouflaged appearance.
While the presence of a beard can be a characteristic to set the two sexes apart, beware that up to 10 percent of female turkeys might have beards.
Identifying Age of Turkeys
By taking a look at tail and wing feathers, you can distinguish an adult and a juvenile turkey while you’re out on the hunt in the fields.
The outermost primary wing feathers on mature turkeys (both sexes) feature round tips, and the white bars reach the end of the feathers. In contrast, the outermost primary wing feathers of juvenile turkeys have more pointed tips, and the white horizontal bars don’t make it to the feathers’ end.
Adult male and female turkeys have equally long tail feathers, forming an even appearance. However, juvenile turkeys’ tail feathers unevenly develop, with longer central feathers and shorter feathers on either side. Juvenile turkeys can be distinguished from adults by the longer middle tails feathers.
Spurs longer indicate adults while small, round bumps are found on juvenile males.
In general, a short, 3 to 4 inches beard indicates a juvenile turkey while a long, hanging beard indicates an adult turkey but beard length can also be affected by the disease, weather conditions, and other factors.
While a juvenile almost has no crown at all, an adult gobbler will have one that seems to get larger and droop more and more as the gobbler ages.
Caruncles of a juvenile turkey are usually small while the adult turkey’s caruncles are much bigger. The snood of a matured turkey is capable of hanging a few inches below the beak when relaxed.
How do you start hunting turkey?
Equip yourself with must-have information about hunting seasons before setting off for the hunt!
Hunting seasons knowledge (and other regulations)
The ideal spots for hunting turkeys will remain the same in the spring and fall. Hence, you can apply many similar approaches to the two seasons.
|As spring is the breeding time, Gobblers are incredibly responsive to hens’ vocalization in this time of year. Any cluck or yelp can instantly attract Gobblers and cause them to call back in no time. It is the reason behind spring being chosen to be the hunting season.||In contrast, the fall season is more silent without gobbling activity in the daytime. 3 to 10 male turkeys usually form small flocks, while larger blocks of 10 to 20 hens are commonly found. It’s a common scene in fall to come across a few hens with their young being together in one place.|
Locating a bird
|Mimicking barred owl hooting or crow calls typically motivate the birds to respond with their gobbles. It is one of the widely-used methods to know where the turkeys are in the early morning.||The principal tactic to turkey hunting in the fall is to locate and scatter a flock of turkeys. The next move is to approach the area you just spread the flock and patiently wait for 10 minutes and start calling.|
|It is a common practice to yelp between three to seven times. However, how many times you call is not as important as the call rhythm itself. Thus, you should master variations of the yelp to increase the chance of gobblers responding to your call.||In fall, after the flock spreads in different directions, set up your place in that spot and then start calling to attract them back. Hen calls and kee-kee runs are effective sounds to draw the attention of hens and their young.|
Although you might excel in making calls, chances are you still fail to get the gobbler to come into shotgun range. Here are some possible causes and solutions:
- The presence of a fence, for example, might deter the target from approaching those last few important yards. A predator or another hunter can spook him and scare him away.
- The call is so loud that it appears unnatural. Turkey’s call is generally loud enough to be recognized by another turkey. An overly loud call will make a gobbler think that the hen is nearby and strut right on the spot.
- Projecting the call behind you might entice a bird to get closer to the range.
- It takes patience for a gobbler to appear in your eyesight. Chances are he is hanging out with some hens. Wait until the hens abandon him, and your calls will start taking effect on his urges of courting.
- The sound level and the frequency of the calls will greatly depend on circumstances. You’ll know how to adjust the call after spending considerable time on the hunting.
- Always try to pique the gobbler’s interest, or he’ll abandon you. You should produce the most tempting sound while dealing with him. Doing so would trick him into the range sooner.
Licenses and Local Regulations
The season dates and bag limits for each game might differ from state to state.
- Make sure to consult local rules and regulations to know clearly about all the essential season information.
- A hunter might need to familiarize themselves with safety education before acquiring hunting licenses depending on the age.
- With safety education, novices can own their apprentice license. That said, they will also need a licensed hunter to accompany them before leaving out for the hunting.
- Either a hunter kills or causes any damage to a turkey, they have to bring the bird back. That bird will be counted in their hunting limit for that season.
- Deliberately leaving, wasting, or abandoning edible parts or the entire killed game violates the hunting laws.
- Each state has its season dates and bag limitation for every wild game.
Wild Turkey Species
Wild turkeys are categorized into two main species: North American wild turkeys and Ocellated turkeys of Central America. These are subcategories of the American turkey:
Eastern turkeys have the largest range of all subspecies, covering the complete eastern part of America.
The estimated population can reach up to 5.3 million birds and is widely spread over 38 states and a large part of Canada.
Their upper tail is tipped with chestnut brown, and their wings feature white and black bars.
A mature male turkey or tom averages from 18-30 pounds, while that of a female typically falls somewhere between 8 and 12 pounds. The longest beards compared to all subspecies is another distinction of Easterns.
Osceola Or Florida Turkey
Osceolas are also known as Floria turkeys since you can only spot them in the Florida peninsula. The tail feathers sport dark-brown tips, and their wing feathers are dark with a small quantity of white barring.
They are the smallest subspecies, with toms weighing about 20 pounds and hens weighing between 8 and 12 pounds. Osceolas noticeably have long legs and produce strong goggles.
You might need the extra effort and patience as these birds are regarded as the toughest targets to hunting.
Rio Grande Turkey
Texas, Kansa, Western California, Oklahoma, and other parts of Western America are the main habitats of these turkeys.
The tail tips have tan colors, while the wings have black and white barrings evenly distributed. The Rio Grande has modest beards and gobbles.
Mature males and females have approximately the same weights as Osceolas.
This subspecies dominates the rocky mountainous area of the West. Their tails are tipped with light colors, whereas the wing feathers are predominantly white and less black.
Toms typically weigh from 18 to 30 pounds, and hens weigh between 8 and 12 pounds. They produce the weakest gobbles among all subspecies and have short to medium beards.
Goulds’ primary habitats are the northern mountains of Mexico and southern regions of New Mexico and Arizona. They have white tips on their tail and copper and gold body feathers.
Gould’s is the largest subspecies with long legs and feathers. The average weight of toms is between 18 and 30 pounds, and that of hens can reach up to 14 pounds.
These birds are abundant in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, some regions of Belize, and Guatemala.
Ocellated turkeys are one of the most beautiful subspecies whose feathers are a blend of green and bronze iridescent hues.
Their tail feathers sport gold and blue tips. They are fairly small birds with a weight of 6-7 pounds in adult females and 11-12 pounds in males.
The gobbles typically start with a hollow drumming sound, followed by a high-pitched tone. Ocellated turkeys don’t have beards.
Gear for Beginner Turkey Hunters
You’ll need to properly gear up to avoid the wary eyes of these birds. The section below is all about choosing the right clothing, firearms, and call types for new hunters.
Since turkey has excellent peripheral vision, helping them to be able to detect motion several yards away. You will need to equip yourself with camouflage clothing in sync with the terrain to disguise all the movements.
Your hands, neck, and face should blend in well with the surrounding, which necessitates the need for a camouflage jacket, pants, hat, and gloves. For the face, you can use either a camouflage face mask or face paint.
If you’re new to the sport of turkey hunting and don’t know what to choose, we recommend the official camouflage clothing of the NWTF, Mossy Oak.
The brand has been in the camouflage clothing business since the 1980s and offered a wide range of camo options to fit different pursuits. Browse for what the Mossy Oak has to offer here.
For ground blind hunters, check out the Mossy Oak Eclipse pattern to keep concealed while on the hunting.
Wondering where to shoot a turkey with a bow? There’s nothing better than setting up a ground blind.
To properly use a ground blind, hunters and the blind should blend well into the surroundings. While it’s dark on the inside, there’s no need to wear camouflage clothing.
Instead, you will only need a jacket, gloves, hat, and face covering. We recommend going for fleece clothing as the material produces the least noise.
You can reach full draw without spooking the bird.
While hunting without the advantage of a blind (or you only use partial mirror blind), choose a spot with a tree nearby for support while aiming at the gobbler.
The most common choices for bringing a turkey down are muzzleloader, shotgun, and bow. Choosing the best gear will depend on the type of terrain and personal preferences.
Gun or Bow?
Among all guns for turkey hunting, a 12 gauge does a great job of taking the bird down. If you can approach the target closer, a 20 gauge gun will also do the trick.
You can incorporate a choke into your gun to generate a tight shot. The good news is many choke tube producers carry choke tubes specially made for turkey hunting to increase your turkey hunting success.
When it comes to ammunition to hunt, Remington® Nitro Turkey™’s shells do a wonderful job in the fields.
These loads are capable of generating 80% pattern densities. The shell length is 3-1/2 inches, and the shot size is 4. We highly recommend these shotgun shells for first-time turkey hunters.
You can consider picking a traditional compound or crossbow as a weapon to take down a turkey. Make sure your bow of choice is the one that you easily come to a full draw from a seating position.
There are a few key things to take into consideration while you’re turkey hunting with a bow from a ground blind:
- Space is scarce while you’re sitting in the blind, thus reducing your movements when you’re drawing back your bow.
- Make yourself familiar with the tight space first, then practice bow drawing before the actual turkey hunting begins.
- If your bow feels cumbersome or awkward to draw while you’re sitting, it pays to cut down on the draw weight. There are some repercussions to trying to draw too much weight.
- As you cannot feel comfortable reaching a full draw, your chance of bagging a gobbler can reduce substantially.
- Too much poundage can pose safety risks, notable injury in the archer’s back and shoulders.
For a beginner, handheld box calls and pot calls are simple to use and thus great options. However, the diaphragm mouth call works perfectly for us, and we highly recommend this call type.
While there might be more learning curves than others, you don’t need to use your hands with it. Limiting actions is important while turkey hunting for such a wary and sensitive species.
Once you master the diaphragm call, you’ll be amazed at how effective it is. Check out how to use the tool in this video below.
Where to hunt Turkeys?
Knowing where to sit when turkey hunting greatly improves your chance of bringing a trophy home.
Where to hunt?
Roosting trees are of utmost importance to wild turkeys to stay safe from ground predators. Mature trees that have large branches are the best roosting spots for turkeys as they can land easily.
Also, look for small woodland openings, field edges as they’re a favorite food source for turkeys to forage.
How to find it?
Scouting is often an overlooked aspect for some hunters. However, a day of walking around and examining things can put you ahead of the game. Areas with mature trees are the ideal roosting spot for the bird.
If you spot feathers or scat around these areas, then include it as one of the spots for hunting.
Don’t forget to check out any clover patches. They attract an assortment of insects, providing a great source of protein for turkeys. These animals are also keen on feeding on corn or soybean fields.
- You can spend the night before the hunting on an owl call. The best time to do it is right before sunset.
- If you’re lucky enough, the gobblers will respond to the call so that you can figure out where they are on the next day.
- Online public maps can also be a useful source for you to search for potential spots for hunting.
- Making a phone call to a local wildlife agency will help you better understand what to pay attention to about the turkey habitats.
States where you can hunting
Turkey can be found and hunted in all of the following states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
Tips For Beginners Turkey Hunter
Below are guides on how to get yourself ready for the upcoming hunts.
1. Take your hunter’s ed course seriously
It pays to learn and practice useful methods to properly carry a gun, so your arms won’t get exhausted in the long run.
It’s also important to properly handle the gun to avoid causing harm to yourself and other people. To do this, you will need good knowledge about how a gun operates.
2. Choose a firearm that you would carry and shoot with comfort
Picking up a gun that you’re comfortable working with is crucial, especially for a first-time hunter.
If holding your gun feels more like an excruciating task, it would reduce the chance of bringing home a gobbler as you won’t pay attention to the hunting.
3. Improve your stamina
Turkey hunting calls for plenty of movements, which significantly exceeds the amount of labor in your average day.
There’ll be a lot of walking on various terrains, climbing steep slopes, passing through streams, shrubs, and brushes.
Before hitting the woods, make sure you do enough workouts to familiarize your muscles with a great amount of hard work.
You can do cardio exercises regularly or keep your back flat against the wall to improve your stamina and make sure you won’t run out of energy soon while on the fields.
4. Nothing is better than real-life experience
While online sources can be of great help, you should know that they sufficiently prepare you for successful hunting.
Try to get to the field once you know all the basics so you can witness real gobbles, turkey appearances, and the surroundings to be a better hunter.
5. Scouting is more important than most people might think
You should never ignore the need for scouting before your real hunting commences. Each subspecies have different patterns and behaviors in addition to their look and gobble.
The surroundings are also in play here. You spend your time wisely by doing as much scouting as you can better prepare yourself before the season kicks off.
6. Use Decoys? Pay attention to the distance
You’ll only have the best shot if you know pretty well the distance from your setup to the decoys.
Poor space judgment is one of the main reasons you miss your shot, so make sure to get the right measurements in the first place.
Consider these questions if you use decoys
- How should I place the decoys?
- How many decoys are enough?
- What is the distance between my decoys and set up?
7. Practice the calls as much as possible
You might assume that you have the perfect calls that can lure almost every turkey into the range.
However, that’s not always the case, especially for new hunters. The wrong volume of the call might lead the turkeys to stay away from the sport.
8. If you cannot bring anything home, Let’s call it a day
There is a wide range of factors contributing to a hunt’s failure, in addition to your lack of experience. Bad weather or a minor change of turkeys’ minds and behaviors can also lead to hopeless hunting.
Don’t put a lot of weight on the result, and whether you can bag a trophy or not, you’re sure to have a whale of time being on the fields with your hobby.
9. Decoy Strategies
- Position the tom decoy’s head toward the direction of the target
- Place the decoy ten yards away from the setup
- Turkeys will be more cautious with your decoy over time, arrange your decoy setups as convincing as possible
10. Advice to new Hunters
Check out some pieces of advice from experienced hunters before hitting the woods:
- Build rapport with successful hunters and learn their lessons
- Hunting is a hobby, and you should enjoy all the fun along the way. It might be frustrating sometimes, but you’re more likely to reap greater rewards with greater challenges.
- Don’t overcall, or you’ll risk messing up your hunting.
- It’s best to have a mentor for guidance. Try new things and feel free to make mistakes as you’ll learn a whole lot from them.
To become an experienced hunter is simply to gather as much experience as you can. Failures, mistakes, frustrations are crucial lessons to be a better hunter.
Getting a successful hunter to walk you through is valuable.
11. Checklist for Safety
- Never point your firearm toward people.
- Treat every weapon as if it were already loaded.
- Load your firearm only when you’re ready to shoot.
- Carefully aim at your target and evaluate its surroundings before pulling the trigger.
- Shooters and nearby people should put on protective glasses and earmuffs.
- Climb up or jump from a high position without the gun. You might fall and lose control over the gun’s direction.
- Instead, unload the firearm and give it to a fellow hunter to ensure ultimate safety. Do the same if you need to pass any hurdles like fences or large trees.
- Avoid shooting towards a flat, rough surface under any circumstances.
- Avoid pointing your firearm to the ground and clear off anything that covers up the muzzle.
- After shooting, switch the trigger safety to on mode. Next, unload your firearm. Find a safe place to store your gun to make sure that it’s safe from the prying hands of untrained people.
Frequently Asked Questions
We give answers to some of the questions that new hunters commonly ask for your consideration.
Question 1. What time should I start hunting?
While the most favorable habitats of wild turkeys are large forests and woodlands, substantial deforestation makes this species change their nesting environment.
Now, turkeys can live in less wooded regions. New York, Missouri, and Pennsylvania are some of the ideal spots for hunting.
Alden Knight’s popular theory pointed out that the moon’s movements and positions greatly impact a wide range of animals. This theory can be beneficial to your hunting.
The solunar chart below gives predictions for the calendar month based on relative positions of the Sun and moon to the earth.
Time of Year
Wild turkeys’ behaviors and activities vary greatly across the year. Depending on the location (state) you’re going to hunt, the ideal time to increase your winning likelihood also differs.
In general, the perfect time to set off your journey is anywhere between early mating season and late fall.
Time of Day
It is advisable to leave your ground blind in the morning to spot the sound of turkeys while they’re around seeking food.
Question 2. What is the best way to hunt turkey?
The fastest way to learn useful hunting tips is by observing and taking advice from experienced hunters or trainers.
They have years of experience under their belt so take notes of their words and actions while on the hunting. Otherwise, you can listen to some advice from a new hunter to gain more confidence for your first time hunting.
Question 3. What is the best bait for wild turkey?
Winter wheat, clover, chufa, sorghum are favorite plants that turkeys enjoy feeding on.
Additionally, these birds also love field corn, and they typically forage on it in early fall all the way to winter. Corn is also deer’s favorite food, so be generous and plant enough corn for both species.
Question 4. What kind of trees does turkey roost in?
Spotting a roost site can put you one step ahead of the hunting. Wild turkeys prefer large, mature trees which provide a wide cover all year round.
These big trees are also easier for these birds to land on. Clusters of a pine tree are ideal for providing a hiding place for turkeys.
Cedar trees don’t appeal to these birds much as the dense cover can be challenging to enter and exit.
Other factors such as the ease of accessing the food and water source also come into play. Trees situated on cliff edges are also favorite roost places of turkeys, especially if they are next to a strutting field.
Question 5. What is the best gun for turkey hunting?
If you are a first-time gun buyer, you might get confused by the wide range of choices you have. No worries, as we’re going to give you some suggestions.
Our first pick is the Remington 870, which is lightweight and easy to control. You can go with either 3 or 3 1/2 inch 12-gauge designs to suit your needs.
Winchester Model 12 is also a great choice for beginners. This short gun comes with a smooth stroke, enabling fast and easy follow-up shots.
The last nominee is the 12-gauge Mossberg 835, which fits virtually every turkey hunter. It’s also lightweight and a useful companion for long hunting.
Question 6. How early should you be in the woods for turkey hunting?
The best time of the day to get into the woods is in the early morning as turkeys are wandering for breakfast.
We’re sure you’re eager to hit the woods with all the essential turkey hunting tips and tricks at hand.
It’s crucial to know how to distinguish different subspecies, make the right calls, do some scouting and choose the right weapon.
Yet, you’ll need to apply these tactics to real-life situations to gain more experience and success.
Feel free to let us know if you have any questions by commenting in the section below. Prepare yourself, and thanks for reading our article about turkey hunting for beginner turkey hunters.