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River Valley Outdoors
Tips for sealing the deal on a turkey
Once a turkey hunter has learned the basic skills for calling in a mature gobbler, what happens during the last final minutes before pulling the trigger can make the difference between success and failure.
The following tips put a finishing touch on the to-do list for success in the turkey woods. It seems like turkeys never stop teaching me new tricks, but these suggestions really can make the difference. I know from experience that sealing the deal on mature gobblers takes a little finesse.
Rushing the shot happens to be one of the easiest mistakes to make when hunting gobblers. You can do everything else right, but if you’re not patient when it comes down to the last seconds of the hunt, it can end without a bird in hand.
If the set-up happens to be laid out right and the hunter doesn’t make any quick movements, most turkeys seem so focused on the decoys that a well-camouflaged hunter can make slight aiming adjustments without spooking the birds.
After scaring off two birds with lightning-like quick shots during my first few turkey hunting attempts, I found that I needed to relax a little and take more time aiming during the final few seconds.
It sounds simple, but it is so very important to take plenty of time when the gobbler has finally committed to focusing on the decoys. If a slight adjustment needs to be made, just move very slow and don’t worry too much about the breeding-frenzied gobbler.
I’ve been caught off-guard many times by silent toms quietly sneaking up on my set-up. Twice now, I’ve had my shotgun position on the ground next to me when I spotted the turkey only a few feet from the decoys. As the fired-up gobbler circled the decoy, I slowly raised my shotgun, took aim, and rolled them over with a blast.
As long as the movement is very slow, there won’t be any problem, but only if you take these other few precautions.
A hunter can move as slow as they want, but if the decoy set-up isn’t positioned properly all bets are off.
Poor decoy placement ranks right up there with faulty, last-minute calling techniques for ruining a good hunt.
Keep hen decoy heads down in the feeding position at all times. Gobblers coming in to hen decoys with their heads up in the alert position will remain on alert, too.
Better yet, have the hen in the sitting position, right on the ground in front of a jake decoy. Dominant gobblers will assume this is a breeding posture and charge in with confidence.
Make sure to keep the sun at your back, and position yourself in the shadows. This one sounds elemental, but not many hunters can remain unseen if they happen to be bathed in sunlight. Think ahead to where the sunlight will eventually fall and avoid these areas when setting up your shooting position.
And of course, pre-position a shotgun across the knees, aimed in the general direction of the decoys, so there will be less gun movement once the gobbler comes in to the decoys.
Having a big tree trunk between your position and the decoys sounds odd, but it often can block the tom from seeing a hunter’s movements because his vision will be blocked by the tree.
Too much calling, or making the wrong calls, can spoil it for a turkey hunter – especially during that last special moment when a gobbler has finally come in close to assess the situation. Remember, the bird will be trying to decide if he should charge or not. In human psychology this is called the “fight or flight” response. A turkey’s response to a breeding fight is similar, so don’t give him a chance to run by over doing it on the calling.
Often a soft purring with a few muted clucks will keep any male turkey from running from a fight. Avoid loud calling, especially squirrely-sounding putt-putt calls that sound like a nervous hen.
Use an electronic call with a remote speaker if legal, or a call that requires the least hand movement to produce effective sounds. I can’t handle the way a mouth call tickles my throat, but I believe a hunter that knows how to use one properly has the best chance to bag a gobbler by minimizing movements.
I place a box call directly in my lap, and when the gobbler gets close I only have to make a short movement to activate the call.
These few tips will become second nature after using them several times in the turkey woods. Take your time, move slowly if you must, and squeeze the trigger to seal the deal.