With the holiday season fast approaching, grocers everywhere are stocking their freezers with good ‘ol whole turkey. But have you ever thought about bagging your own out in the wild rather than out of a freezer? Let’s take a look at what you’ll need to keep your adventuresome spirits high and harvest a tasty, wild turkey.
Whether it’s by gun or by bow, turkeys generally are tough birds to bring down. So let’s look at what you’ll need before taking that shot. Let’s start with what you might want to use to take that shot with:
If you are hunting with a shotgun, your best odds would be using a 12-gauge, however a 20-gauge can do the trick. For your shotgun, you’ll want to use nothing looser than a full choke or even a tighter, specifically designed turkey choke. If you are using something smaller, your pattern is likely to be too thin and spread out and it won’t be able to bring the bird down. For a headshot, 15 pellets at 40 yards is about the minimum required, and using 3-inch to 3-and-a half-inch magnum shells are most commonly used.
If a bow is your weapon, the type of broad head you use is more of a personal preference. What you’ll want to concentrate on is shot placement and how close you can call the bird in. With either hunting weapon, you’ll want to call the bird in to roughly 20-30 yards. Sounds easy right? Turkeys have excellent eyesight, so the proper camouflage, decoys and ground blinds provide a few helpful advantages to improve your chance of a successful hunt.
Accuracy and practice are essential elements in your hunt. All the time and money invested in scouting, acquiring gear and travel can be all for not if you aren’t accurate with your weapon. That missed shot or — even worse — a wounded animal is a hunter’s worst nightmare. So prepare yourself by shooting clay pigeons or archery bags.
Turkeys are fairly well spread-out throughout the country, with the most heavily populated areas in the Southeast and Midwest. Ideal hunting locations will have food, water and shelter for the game. Turkeys roost in trees and need enough cover to avoid predators. The most likely places to call a turkey are areas with an abundance of its food source. Turkeys will eat pretty much any seed, fruit, nut or insect, so look for Hawthorne, dogwood, crabapple and oak trees, which drop seeds and shelter insects. Make sure to do a scouting run before setting up your hunt. Turkeys will range out over a large area to hunt for food, so be prepared to cover a lot of ground to find where they will be.
In terms of what you’ll need to acquire to legally hunt your own turkey, it’s pretty straightforward. Turkeys fall under upland birds, so what you’ll need to purchase a hunting license and a turkey tag. Now the main season for turkey is spring, but there also is a fall hunt. In the fall, you are able to typically shoot either gender of turkey.
There are a few regulations and precautions to stay safe and to remain within the boundaries of your tag. It is a violation to shoot a hen on her nest, therefore cannot disturb her. If you hear another hunter’s call, it’s best to leave the area, so that neither of you disturb each other’s hunts.
Now that you’re armed with the basic knowledge of how to bring home your own, feathered fowl, you can go from the freezer section to the fresh-and-rewarding section. Just bear in mind a wild turkey will typically be leaner and generally a more expensive venture than running to the local market. It basically comes down to having a hunger for the challenge and natural flavor. Whichever path you choose, may it bring you a great, holiday feast.