How to Locate Turkeys | Tips and Gear for Turkey Hunters
Locating turkeys is half the battle of hunting them. Some days they are plentiful, other days it seems like you can wear out a pair of boots just trying to find a feather. There are many tricks to the trade to find one of these giant birds. Cameras, glassing, calls; it is the ritual of springtime to hunt these birds and the thunder they emit keeps us coming back for more year after year. Taking the time to plan to locate birds will greatly increase your chances of success and overall enjoyment in turkey hunting this spring.
Roosted is not roasted. However, locating turkeys the evening before your morning hunt drastically increases the chances you have of closing the distance on your target gobbler. Knowing where they are on the roost the night before allows you the chance to strategize from multiple angles on how and where to make your plan of attack under the bleeding rays of first light. Locating turkeys is possible in various ways and with a variety of different calls. Provoking a mature tom to give away his position can be the difference between success and tag soup.
Shock gobbling is a common term used in turkey camps across the country. The term is used since it is an act of forcing a turkey to instinctually gobble because of a loud sound. These loud sounds can be anything from the slam of a truck door, a clap of thunder, a crow caw, a coyote howl or fox bark or most famously, an owl hoot. Shocking birds into gobbling is most well known as a pre-dawn and last light tactic when the birds are sitting on their roost. When they are sitting on the roost, gobblers tend to be more vocal since they are safe from predators and because they are trying to find the rest of the flock. Timing is everything. In the evenings wait to shock gobble turkeys until the last half hour of daylight. In the mornings, about half hour before shooting light is a perfect time to fire off a locating call.
Setting up on a good listening vantage point is the first key. Being able to audibly survey lots of ground from a place where you likely won’t spook birds from their roost is where you need to start. High grounds, vistas, ridge lines and field corners within 200 yards of potential roosting trees should give you enough of a vantage point to let sound travel. In mountainous terrain, sound can be blocked by changes in the landscape. Having a circuit of listening points in hilly terrain to be able to call into individual valleys and hollows give you the chance to hear birds shock gobbling to your locating calls.
When we think of locating calls to shock gobble turkeys traditionally hunters have used an owl call. An owl hoot produces the long range sound waves needed to shock a turkey into gobbling. Primos offers an easy–to–use owl hoot called the Shock’N Owl. This custom hardwood owl call gives you the ability to produce different pitch owl sounds through the removable barrel. Whether you are on the hunt or are scouting for birds, the Shock’N Owl is a simple part of your call pouch that should not be left at home.
If you do not have an owl call, fear not. There is a way to produce deep and long range owl sounds by just using your hands. First, hold your left hand up and flat but with no spaces in between your fingers. Second, take your right-hand cup your hand and lay your pinky along the crease where your left fingers meet the palm. Lay your fingers over the top of your right hand and bring your thumbs together to make an echo chamber? Did you ever call mourning doves as a kid? This is the same concept, but instead of using your left hand to make sound waves of a mourning dove, put your lips underneath the knuckles of your thumbs and blow directly downward in a controlled and strong breath of air. With practice, you can mimic the booming vocals of an owl and crush the distant ridge lines with sound to hopeful make a bird give away his position.
In the middle of the morning or afternoon when the gobbling has fallen silent the turkey woods may be one of the loneliest places in the world. No matter how sweet you sound on those calls or how good those decoys look, sometimes the birds just don’t want to give away their position. Shock gobbling turkeys in the middle of the day is one method for locating them when you are hiking ridges. This is usually done with a crow call.
The powerful short blasts of a crow have long been known to draw a response from a wild tom. Next to your diaphragms, slate calls and shotgun, you will want to have a crow call in your vest. The Primos Power Crow is a simple crow call able to withstand the powerful blasts of breath producing the cawing sound of a soaring crow. If you know the area you are hunting well enough to understand the daily route of the birds, get out in front of where you think they might be headed, give three short blasts on your crow call and wait. If a bird does not respond quickly, keep moving as shooting hours are ticking by.
Trail cameras are most often associated with locating deer. Trail cameras are a great tool for locating turkeys to give you their average travel times through an area. The Truth Series of cameras from Primos are simple and easy to set up over a known strutting zone to help you dial in the exact times of day they are passing through. Knowledge is power when locating turkeys in the middle of the day. Cameras can also be set to time lapse mode to take reoccurring photos of large areas like fields to give you an idea if an area is being used at all. Make sure to keep the camera at a slightly lower height on the tree when you set it up in order to not be taking photos of birds over their heads.
If calls are not working to rouse up a gobble, glassing is the next best bet for locating a turkey. A good pair of Nikon Prostaff 8×42 Binoculars are more than sufficient to cover fields and locate turkeys. However, if you are driving roads it wouldn’t hurt to pack a quality spotting scope to be able to identify birds across big fields. The Nikon Prostaff 16-48x60mm Field Scope gives you greater detail and long-range viewing capability. While there may not be anything you can do about a gobbler strutting in the middle of a field, but keeping an eye on where he re-enters the woods is a great way to plan for future hunts.
When locating a turkey’s pattern through using cameras and glassing it can be easy to make a plan for a ground blind and ambush a mature gobbler. The Double Bull family of blinds are perfect for hunting turkeys since the interiors are black and the canvas used to create the blinds have no wind flaps. These blinds are like sitting in the Taj Mahal for a morning of hunting. Just remember to have a trigger stick and the QS3 Magnum seat to stay comfortable and steady for the shot. This seat is specifically designed for the Primos family of blinds since they are the same height as the openings. The perfect seat for both bow hunting and gun hunting for turkeys.
If the woods have fallen silent, head back to the last place you heard a turkey gobble and set up to call. Often times this is a great way to locate a turkey as they are also circling back to the last place they heard hens since they are alone in the late morning and afternoon. Sometimes the wait is short, other times it can last well into the afternoon hours. Especially late in the season when most of the hens have been bred this can be the ticket to success. However, toms are known to head back to the last place they heard a hen late in the morning and through the afternoon. Take a single hen decoy like the Primos Gobbstopper Hen and set up in a location of great visibility. Loud raspy yelps from the Hook Series of diaphragm calls can reach farther than most pot calls letting that gobbler know you are back in the area. If he responds it is likely he will be lonely and looking for love. So get down on your gun and don’t peak since he will come in hot.
Learning how to locate turkeys and locating gobblers can be maddening. You might go days at a time without hearing a bird which can drain your patience for staying in the woods. The challenge of finding a mature gobbler takes time and effort but makes touching that trigger on a sunny spring morning worth the frustration which comes with hunting turkeys.