Use These Top Turkey Hunting Tips To Bag That Gobbler

Upstate Outdoors
March 02, 2017 - 8:25 am
With less than 3 weeks to go before the Opening Bell of the 2017 wild turkey season, the warm spring like conditions that have been experienced across the Upstate are making turkey hunters anxious. Thanks to some recent legislation, Opening Day this year will fall on Monday, March 20 on private lands statewide.
Those who want to get a jump start on the season can take a youth under 17 with them and acting only as a guide, get in the woods a couple days early on March 18 and 19. Public land WMAs are not open until April 1 with a Youth Day available on March 25 (except Keowee WMA).
SCDNR hunter surveys show that most hunters will do well to harvest a legal gobbler during the 47 day season while only a handful of turkey hunters will place their allotted three tags on a bird this season.
This begs the question of what are those hunters doing that the others aren’t. Hunting more is an obvious answer, but look below the surface and you might be surprised.
1. Know the land you’re hunting. There is no replacement for being well prepared before Opening Day. Just like deer hunting, successful turkey hunters will spend ample time scouting their flocks and will have identified the food sources, roosting sites, and travel routes between these areas. The best way to kill a turkey is to be where he’s going to be with a weapon in your hand on Opening Day.
When scouting birds, scout as unobtrusively as possible and don’t even think about taking a call with you when scouting. Many turkey hunters have taken a page from the deer hunters book and begun using trail cameras, set up in hardwood bottoms, old logging roads, and ridge tops, to judge when and how often turkeys are using and moving through an area.
2. On Calling Turkeys. Once you have a firm grasp on the lay of the land and patterned the movements of the turkeys residing there, it’s time to raise your voice, or not. The turkey hunter’s number one excuse for not bagging a turkey is that the birds just weren’t gobbling.
Male turkeys gobble for a number of reasons, mostly to identify his flock and announce his presence. Use your calling sparingly and always remember that less is more. Hail calling to find a bird is about 15th down on the list of successful strategies. Better to softly let a gobbler know you might be a willing hen turkey than run through the woods screaming that every 5 minutes at the top of your lungs. He’s certainly more likely to respond to the first scenario than the second.
3. Understand the breeding cycle. Early in the season, possibly even before that time based on this year’s weather patterns, gobblers will be in the presence of other gobblers and numerous hens. As the competition for breeding grows, the numbers will thin. Hens will spend more time nesting and the reduced sex ratio will make trophy toms less tolerant of the presence of other gobblers and younger birds. Successful hunters will understand the pecking order of their flocks and will be able to pick out habits of the dominant bird and specifically target that bird. Once he is out of the picture, the hunter starts targeting the heir apparent.
4. Using Decoys. The use of decoys is hotly debated by veteran turkey hunters. The gist of the argument is that a decoy can work wonders in getting that bird to commit the last 60 yards that will put him in gun range, but toting all that extra gear, especially if you haven’t a clue what area the turkeys are using, is often wasted effort.
Turkey hunters who pattern the travel routes of gobblers swear by decoys, stating mature birds will walk right into a pre-set drama and to the gun. Hunters who favor more run-and gun tactics rarely have much use for them.
Phillip Gentry is the host of “Upstate Outdoors,” broadcast from noon to 2 p.m. Saturdays on 106.3 WORD FM. This week, the show will be broadcast live from the Cabela’s in Greenville during the NWTF Turkey Calling Competition. Contact Gentry at

The best tips for harvesting a mature gobbler is to know the lay of the land as well as when, how, and why birds are in the area. Photo by Phillip Gentry.
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