During the regular season, hunters can use shotguns with shot sizes 2-9 or long, recurve or compound bows and crossbows.
The spring turkey season is the last go for hunters to get out into the woods before summer hits, and it offers some of the most picturesque hunting opportunities as plants come into bloom and the woods become alive with activity after a long winter.
The first step for shotgun hunters is patterning in your gun. Turkey hunters will want to use a full or extra-full choke tube on their shotgun to get their shot spread as tight as possible. Your objective when turkey hunting is to get as many of the shot pellets from your shotgun shell in the gobbler’s head and neck area, so a more spread-out choke tube like you would use for waterfowl hunting, small game and, on the other end of the spectrum, skeet shooting is impractical and even inhumane. Also, pay close attention to whether your ammo is lead or steel shot, as full choke tubes are lead-only by design and can be damaged by steel shot.
There are several techniques for hunting turkeys, which have keen eyesight and hearing that make them among the most challenging animals to hunt. Many hunters will sit against trees or in blinds near a food source that is frequented by turkeys or near their roosting area, often using a decoy and game calls to bring them in. Scouting is key, and hunters should look for tell-tale signs of turkey activity such as droppings, tracks and feathers to get a good read on the turkey activity in the area and what paths the birds take on a daily routine. Hunters also can stalk turkeys from afar using locator calls to pinpoint the birds’ location, such as an owl, crow or peacock call. Of course, car doors, dog barks and loud cellphone ringtones also have been known to shock a big tom into giving up its location, as well, but I wouldn’t hang up the owl call just yet.
For drawing a bird in, diaphragm mouth calls, box calls and slate calls are all good options, with the mouth call being the king of close-range calling because the other two calls require hand movement that can give away the hunter’s location. Not to mention they’re a big difficult to use while beading down a fat gobbler with your shotgun or bow.
Each type of call has its own strengths to consider. For instance, a box call has a great raspy tone that makes for perfect hen calls and cuts. A mouth call is excellent for yelps, purrs and cluck-and-purrs, while a slate call is ideal for clucks and putts, though you should ideally be able to make just about any call with all three options. This means getting in plenty of practice and getting comfortable with whatever calls you use before getting into the turkey woods.
Finally, shot placement is of utmost importance.
For shotguns, this step is pretty easy, and means aiming just below the head where the feathers meet the neck. This will keep you from missing high and will get the highest concentration of shot pellets in the turkey’s vital areas.
For bow hunters, shot placement is a bit trickier. Mathews Archery says the best shot to take archery-wise is when a strutting bird is facing directly away from you. You actually want to aim for its anus, as this is the most direct path to its vitals and is an easy area for the arrow to enter without being encumbered by a turkey’s thick plumage. It also makes for an easy target. On a broadside, non-strutting bird, you’ll want to aim for the wing joint, as that is the best shot at the heart and lungs, while in a strutting bird the shot is much trickier as the body position is different. You’ll be looking to aim at a spot just in front of the legs where the crease of the wing is.
A straight-on shot is probably your second-best archery shot, as you’ll aim about midway between the base of the neck and the base of the beard. There is usually a thin line caused by the breast feathers that gives you a proper point at which to aim. Head shots are a challenge, especially with the way turkeys bob their heads, but they are also your most effective shot if they hit cleanly.
I look forward to seeing photos of the birds you guys take down this spring.
Speaking of photos, congratulations to Council Grove’s Cade Honer, who caught a 42-inch flathead catfish on the Neosho River near downtown Council Grove. Cade’s big flathead qualifies him for a Kansas Master Angler Award, not to mention In-Fisherman’s nationwide Master Angler Award. I hope to see some more monster fish this spring, as well.