In our never ending search for better turkey hunting tips, we’ve reached out to World-renowned turkey hunter Ray Eye who has been lighting up the world of turkey hunting with his Chasing Spring series in auditoriums and meeting places across the country. A lifetime of video footage and the uncanny wit and humor of Eye coupled with his dead serious, no-nonsense hunt’em hard attitude have swept the nation’s turkey hunters by storm forever changing how they are chasing and tagging a monster gobbler every spring.
Having shared many turkey camps with Eye, I would be a miss not to admit that he has had a profound effect on how I hunt wild turkeys. However, my four decades of chasing and tagging wild turkeys in a number of states have spurned some hard-learned lessons that I shall never forget. The following five elements always remain at the top of my “Turkey Hunting Tips” list.
1. Spend Time Scouting
The first and foremost important of our turkey hunting tips! As turkey populations are declining in many parts of the country. Hunters are complaining about turkeys being harder to find and kill. However, consistently successful hunters, Eye included, report that a key element of their continued success is increased scouting. “It’s simple,” said Eye. “You have to know where the birds are. Going out blind with little or no scouting in advance is largely a waste of time anymore.”
Begin your scouting efforts in areas where you have seen birds or where others have told you about seeing birds. Look for the obvious signs: droppings, discarded feathers, scratchings, roost sites and dusting sites. Check damp areas for tracks. The track of a gobbler will be about 3 ½-inches long, the size of a magnum turkey load. Also check sand bars for tracks. These hidden areas along creeks and rivers are great spots for turkeys to loaf and pick up grit, often shortly after fly down.
Make notes about the sign you find in different areas. Then make your decision about where to hunt based on fact rather than on hunting your traditional spot. And remember, the hottest track is the one with a turkey foot still in it.
2. Locate a Roost
Yes, it is a part of scouting, but important enough that it should stand alone as one of five top tips for tagging a gobbler. Competition for gobbling turkeys is tough these days. And that competition may come in the form of human hunters or from hens after the same gobbler you are targeting. Finding a roost site and even going so far as to know which tree your gobbler is in can make all the difference in the world when it comes down to killing that bird.
Listening in the late afternoon around fly-up time is a tried and true way to find a roost site. I like to owl hoot or use a coyote call. Gobblers will often gobble giving away their position. Once I pinpoint that gobbler, I begin moving in on his position and try to locate exactly what limb he is sitting on. Next, I find the tree I want to sit by the next morning and visualize where I expect that bird to land and how he might approach my chosen position.
Sound crazy? It takes stealth to move in on a roosting bird. Yep, you will spook a few until you learn the technique. Hens are your worst enemy. Getting there early and hearing every bird fly up helps. Eye often scares hens away so that they are not there to provide competition to his calling the next morning. As Eye says, “Get close, real close, to within 40 or 50 yards of that roosted gobbler. You want to be the first thing he hears the next morning and…the last.”
3. Calling is Everything
Turkey hunters across the country argue incessantly about the pros and cons of calling. “Every place I visit has its expert turkey hunters,” Eye said. “The most common item I hear local experts talk about is too much calling.”
The vast majority of turkey hunters these days think you can make a turkey call shy. Turkeys are extremely vocal and communicate every day of their lives. Calling is an important element of establishing the pecking order, which turkeys work on continuously. I have become an incessant caller and seldom stop calling. Many times you have to call loud and with lots of feeling just to compete with other birds. You need to know what turkeys sound like and imitate every call they make, gobblers and hens alike. The effort applied to learn turkeys’ every sound is what I refer to as TOW – time in the woods.
“Make their ears bleed” is one of Eye’s favorite statements when it comes to his seminar advice about calling technique. Thousands of anxious turkey hunters, me included, are following his advice. He gives new meaning to the word “aggressive” and the woods across the country are going to rattle with spectacular calling series this spring.
4. Move On
“I like to run and gun,” Eye admits. I’m living proof that his techniques work. If I am not working a roosted bird, I like to run the ridges, stop and call almost non-stop for ten minutes and listen for a gobble. I like to have a partner or two with me so they can stand 20 feet to either side of me and listen while I call. Very often a gobbler will bellow back while I am in the middle of a calling sequence. My extra ears pick up those gobbles. Then I go to work trying to bring that gobbler in with aggressive hen calling or gobbler yelps.
If I don’t get a response in a few minutes I move on down the ridge about 200 yards and repeat the process. It usually doesn’t take too long to strike a gobbler. Then the real fun begins.
5. Know Your Equipment
You can do everything right to put a dancing gobbler 20 yards in front of your gun sights, but when that moment of truth comes you must have the experience to close the deal. That means spending time on the range with your shotgun trying various chokes and shot shells. Every gun, every load and every choke is different. And you had better have all the technical stuff down pat when you pull the trigger. There is no excuse for being ill prepared. It is the quickest ticket to failure available to turkey hunters.
You can take these tips to the bank. If they don’t improve your turkey killing percentages, go back to step one and start over. Follow these tips to the letter and the odds of you wrapping your tag around a gobbler’s leg this spring will skyrocket!