Shot Placement: Why You Need to Hunt Spring Turkeys

The author’s daughter with her first Osceola turkey.

It’s something I hear on a regular basis: turkey hunting is boring. Naysayers tend to drone on about the dullness of the kill, the small amount of meat and, in some cases, their apparent dislike of shotguns (yes, I’m looking at you). Well, it’s spring turkey season and I’m here to give you a few reasons to plant your ass in the turkey woods.

12-gauge BOOM

Shotguns aren’t only for clays and ducks. Unfortunately, they do seem to be experiencing a sharp decline in use among hunters. There was a time when hunters toted a favorite 12-gauge into the woods for deer and coyotes, but those days are apparently becoming a thing of the past.

Yes, there are still a few guys out there with shotguns – myself included – but fewer than before. Reality is ARs have taken over in a big way. There’s nothing wrong with that – I have more ARs than I dare admit – but why not shoulder a shotgun once in awhile?

Shotguns are sweet. Although I do have a clay thrower, I’ve tasked more than a few friends with tossing apples, potatoes, and anything else sort-of circular and throwable into the air so I can blow it out of the sky.

There’s almost nothing more satisfying than watching an object being utterly obliterated by a well-placed shot from, yes, a shotgun. What does this have to do with turkeys? Well, shotguns provide easy pointability,  they keep your skills varied, and hey, they’re fun.

There are multiple options from 12-gauges to .410s (yeah, I’ve seen a 10-gauge appear here and there…to each their own). Then there’s the choice of pump, semi-auto, and box magazine fed. Don’t like factory bead sights? Mount a red dot and be done with it.

If a 12-year-old can use a pot call to bring in her own turkey, so can you.

For the Sake of the Call

It isn’t just an old Steven Curtis Chapman song about religion; for a lot of us it’s the highlight of turkey hunting – and, okay, kind of a religion in itself. A few years ago I sat in a blind in Florida with Anthony Brown, a guy who has proven to be the most talented caller I’ve ever met. Never before had I heard such natural talent or seen someone with such an innate sense of timing. And I haven’t seen it since. I aspire to be like Anthony.

Just as there are quite a few options for shotguns, there are a number of turkey calls on the market. Pot calls, box calls, diaphragm – mouth – calls, even one-handed push-button calls.

Some take more practice than others and just like any form of calling they do require a sense of timing. Learning to call is rewarding, though. It’s absolutely awesome seeing a tom appear in response to your yelps and gobbles.

The Other White Meat

Does wild turkey taste different than the farmed stuff you get at the grocery store? Yes. The meat of a wild turkey is darker than a domestic bird’s, with a more intense taste (in a good way).

When you dress your bird, take the time for the legs and thighs, not just the breasts. Think turkey’s only use is at Thanksgiving? Nope. The possibilities are endless. Some of my favorite recipes come from fellow outdoor writer Brad Fenson whose cooking abilities outdo mine by a country mile.

To steal a line from the Merc with the Mouth, spring turkey means it’s time to make the chimi-[totally bleeping this for sensitive readers]-changas. Check out Brad’s Wild Turkey Chimichanga recipe here.

Because Strutting!

There’s no sight or sound on earth like a longbeard spitting and drumming your way. Their primary feathers drop to drag through the grass, tails fan, and the show begins. Whether they’re trying to attract a hen or expressing outrage at your male decoys, it’s a sight to see.

Once you witness it, you’re hooked. Your adrenaline spikes, your heartrate soars; it’s the moment hunters live for – well, one of the moments.

The author’s current view of her daughter’s Osceola mount.

You Saw This Coming, Right?

Just like hunting any game – or predator, varmint, or migratory bird – the memories made while hunting are irreplaceable. My favorite turkey hunting memory wasn’t mine, it was my daughter’s first Osceola. She was young, her nerves were on edge, and it was her first big out-of-state hunt.

When a jake came in and took his time beating up our tom decoy, she didn’t pull the trigger. By the time her breathing began to steady, two things happened: we realized the trigger sticks were in the truck (and she really did need them), and the jake started to leave.

We solved the first problem by making me the impromptu trigger stick. I got on my hands and knees, and she rested the shotgun on my back (for the safety Nazis among us, the muzzle was well away from my body…this is a technique taught and used for team shooting).

Then he made a run for it. From five yards to 10, 20, 30…when she finally pulled the trigger, the jake was hauling feathery ass passing 30 yards.

It was a perfect shot, something I witnessed after the fact thanks to the video camera (remember, I was on the ground). The jake dropped on the spot and began the traditional flop of death. Today, as I write this, her Osceola with his little one-inch brush of a beard hangs on the opposite wall, forever captured in mid-flight. It was an epic moment in her early hunting career and a memory we both hold close to our gun-loving hearts.

However you do it, turkey hunting is awesome. In a few short days I’ll be in Texas, face-masked, gun at the ready, waiting on Rios and Easterns. I’m already anticipating the moment a tom comes strutting in; imagining the moment that tom hits the ground.

And, yes, looking forward to using Brad’s chimichanga recipe (hey, it’s good!). If you’ve never spent a gorgeous spring morning in the turkey woods, I highly recommend it. Camo up and get hunting. Call it the TTAG Spring Turkey Challenge. Let’s see those longbeards!

 

comments

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      according to the article it was an ND into his own abdomen

      1. avatar Flinch says:

        Thank goodness for an original and realistic hunting article and no more Liberte from Austin stories about look at my tits.

        This has shown that a corner has been turned. Bye Robert. It’s a new day!

        1. avatar Kat Ainsworth says:

          Glad you enjoyed it, Flinch. I love writing about hunts (and guns, and gear…).

        2. avatar little horn says:

          ditto

  1. avatar Paul m says:

    Never went spring turkey hunting in my life (shot a few incidental to deer hunting in the fall, legal in Florida) until I was going through a long forgotten firearms class with Dale Greene. Tallahassee P.D. Killed in the line of duty. May God rest his soul. Anyway, he asked me about turkey hunting. I told him about what I previously said and was overheard by Mark Rominger. A retired F.D.L.E. agent and director of the firearms program at the academy. Mark is an avid turkey hunter. He overheard Dale and I. He “volunteered” to teach me to call birds on the 1000 acres I have run of in west Gadsden County, FL. When I shot my first spring cobbler I never looked back. It is the most exciting hunting in the southeast and Midwest. (Never hunted the real west.) I have sixteen bucks hanging on the wall. 130-150 B&C. My best bird was 12″ beard and 1 7/8″ spurs. Trade all those bucks for that one bird. Mark and I going to S.C. in a couple of weeks to try for a couple of long beards.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      “Trade all those bucks for that one bird.”
      I know exactly how you feel.

    2. avatar Kat Ainsworth says:

      Congrats on your biggest bird so far! It really is unlike anything else.

  2. avatar jwtaylor says:

    For me, it’s all about the calling. I bought a set of mouth calls a few years ago and started trying to imitate the sounds I heard. I got a CD of turkey calls to imitate, and played it in my truck as I drove and tried to imitate the calls I heard. It warms my black heart to know that someone out there (Primos) makes a CD of turkey calls for just such a purpose.
    I’m nowhere near as good as the real turkey callers, but more times that not I can locate the Tom’s and get them to check me out, unless they are really hen’d up.
    I hunt turkey with a shotgun, smoothbore flintlock rifle, as well as compound and stick and string bows. It’s not any of those that keeps me interested. It’s the conversation, and it really is a conversation with the animal that keeps me going. I end up talking to the turkeys long after I’ve tagged out for the year. It’s just tons of fun.

    1. avatar Gun Free School Zones are a crime against humanity says:

      Smoothbore flintlock rifle? You mean a shotgun?

      1. avatar jwtaylor says:

        A distinction I fought for a long time myself. But no, a smoothbore rifle. Back in the colonial days (even before you!) rifles were as much defined by their features than their rifling.
        Rear sight, long barrel, full fore-stock and a dropped heel(debatable on that one): you’ve got a rifle regardless of if there is a twist inside that barrel or not. Almost all black powder military muskets are examples of smoothbore rifles.
        The man of limited means that could only afford one gun would have been wise to buy a smoothbore rifle in something like 20 gage. Out to 50 yards, he was just as accurate as a rifled barrel, and with a round ball capable of killing any game on the continent. Plus, he could still load shot and take turkey, ducks, and quail. (these were usually taken in the roost, water, or on the ground, not on the wing.)
        A fine example can be seen here:
        http://www.flintlocks.com/RK-07.htm

        1. avatar Gun Free School Zones are a crime against humanity says:

          Good info to know.

          As for my age. Somewhere around here I have a sheep hide inscribed in charcoal attesting to my honorable service in the 1st Bow and Arrow Battalion.

        2. avatar Paul Mcmichael says:

          There was no “reply” at the end of your last comment to what I said. So go to the end of comments to read my response.

    2. avatar Kat Ainsworth says:

      Yeah I have a ways to go with calling myself. I can bring them in but I am in no way extra talented at it. It’s true fun to try though!

    3. avatar Paul Mcmichael says:

      I often don’t carry a shotgun to the woods. Just call for others. Like to see others fold up a gobbler.

  3. avatar Texheim says:

    I use a Browning BLR in 222 for turkeys. It was good enough for grandpa, it’s good enough for me.

    1. avatar Paul m says:

      Use a shotgun, or bow. When you feel the ground vibrate under your ass when he gobbles. That when it’s exciting. I’ll never forget when my son got his first bird. He was 12. He said, “When he gobbled it scared me.” What he meant was the adrenalin flowed. He could care less about deer hunting. Even though I gave him a custom built Remington 700 30-06 with a Leupold VX-III scope. Invite him to a dove shoot, quail, or turkey hunt and he’ll run over you on the way to the truck.

      1. avatar Gun Free School Zones are a crime against humanity says:

        Quail. Quail is where it’s at. Nothing sets my senses on overload like a covey of drumming rockets blasting off.

        I miss. A lot. But I’m loving every second of it.

        Dove is fun. But like Turkey its too stationary for me. Quail lets me roam like a dog let off the lead.

        1. avatar Paul m says:

          A true gentleman’s sport. As much about the ceremony as anything else. Let me recommend Southwind Plantation. Just south of Bainbridge, GA and north of the FL line. First class accommodations, food, guides and shooting. Four of us usually shoot between40-50 birds per 1/2 day hunt. Affordable also. For quail hunting.

        2. avatar Gun Free School Zones are a crime against humanity says:

          I get to Georgia on occasion. Thanks for the tip.

  4. avatar Paul m says:

    I also have a friend who hosts quail/deer hunts inside his licensed hunting preserve. Very affordable, but no frills. My son and I have an annual Christmas Eve quail hunt there.

    1. avatar Kat Ainsworth says:

      Sounds like an excellent tradition, Paul!

      1. avatar Paul Mcmichael says:

        If you’ve never shot quail, you should. At least once. It is a great southern tradition. Best done with family and friends. That’s how we do it down here.

  5. avatar Craig in IA says:

    .17 Remington works wonders on turkeys…

    I’ve always thought turkey hunting was the ultimate chick sport. Sit out there, enticing and luring in a guy with a boner and just about the time he thinks he’s getting lucky- LIGHTS OUT! Surprised the feminists haven’t completely hijacked the activity.

    1. avatar Paul m says:

      Any rifle works wonders on turkeys. Done it lots of times, but the first time you get him in close; you’ll never want to do it any other way.

    2. avatar little horn says:

      holy shit thats funny!

  6. avatar little horn says:

    “It’s something I hear on a regular basis: turkey hunting is boring.”
    at least you get to make calls. deer hunting has got to be the most boring to me. sprinkle piss and wait. no thanks.

    1. avatar Paul Mcmichael says:

      Called up lots of deer. Ever heard of grunt calls and rattling? Besides, by my point in the game it’s not about killing a buck. I’ve got 16 rack bucks mounted on the wall. Mostly, now, I just sit in a stand, read a book and watch them walk by. Re-reading the Man Eaters of Tsavo now. Highly recommend it. Boring? Never found the wild to be boring. That was surveillance on a suspect while he was sleeping in his own bed.

    2. avatar RidgeRunner says:

      Sounds like somebody who just doesn’t like or understand hunting so he takes shots at it.

  7. avatar COstew says:

    Colorado opens Saturday and I can’t wait! Spring turkey hunting, IMO, is one of the absolute most fun seasons. And since I don’t archery hunt, I can actually put all my good camo to use!

  8. avatar ironicatbest says:

    Turkey hunting boring??? Oh that’s just hoggwash. . I had two dogs that could catch turkeys, I’ve watched them get three. Pretty danged neat the way the dogs worked, one pushed just enuff to keep them from flying and the other ambushed. Day before Thanksgiving five, six, years ago, ‘Stump Dog’ goes nuts, wife let’s him explode out the door and he comes back out of the timber with a hen turkey. Once in a great while they’d catch a smaller deer, not often.Them was some hellashish dogs, came home after work once and they had a Red Tailed hawk sretched by the wings, how’d they catch a hawk? I know I’m rambling, them dogs r gone and with it those times, I can’t run with them big dogs no more, lol can’t even keep up with the little ones

  9. avatar OmnivorousBeorn says:

    Not a shotgun guy, but I’ll shoot most things to go hunting.

  10. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    This Sunday is opening day for spring turkey here and runs till may 31st.
    I’m comping at the bit!

    1. avatar Kat Ainsworth says:

      Chasing Rios and Easterns starting Saturday. It is on!

      1. avatar Paul Mcmichael says:

        You go and good luck!

        1. avatar Paul Mcmichael says:

          Oh, one other thing. As a law enforcement firearms instructor, I really can’t say I like the way you’re holding that 1911 up next to your head. Finger off the trigger is good, but muzzle is always down range. Other than that, love the pistol. Carried one on duty every day for nearly 25 years until I retired. Still do, weather permitting. Sometimes a little too warm in Florida to hide a full size 1911.

        2. avatar jwtaylor says:

          As another law enforcement firearms instructor, high port, ear indexed or temple indexed, is a great way to keep track of the muzzle when moving or in groups. The position Kat seems to be in during the photo is also pretty good muscle memory for reloading. Plus, it’s a great way to show both your face and the gun in a photo!
          Good job, Kat.

  11. avatar Paul Mcmichael says:

    There was no offense intended Kat. Firearms training/handling is just hardwired into me.

  12. avatar Rimfire says:

    Using a shotgun adds an element to turkey hunting; it requires you to call the birds close, as well as get in a good spot initially. In many Midwestern states, rifles are not permitted for obvious safety reasons.

    With the better turkey chokes for shotguns, a very high-density shot pattern is quite effective.Today’s loads are quite good, not just the old box of 25 high brass #5s we used to grab in the beginning. The better loads can actually reach out for one shot clean kills to 70 yards! I don’t believe in taking them that far away though. The joy of bringing them in close is a major part of the game harvest.

    Sitting in the woods on a spring day sure beats freezing my tailfeathers off 20′ up in a treestand too, wind swaying that old tree all day, snow pellets clobbering your eyes on the lookout. I really like deer hunting, but I love turkey hunting. Great article Kat, looking forward to more of your contri’s

  13. avatar RidgeRunner says:

    Love me some turkey hunting, it’s a great challenge, great food, and can be some of the most intense hunting for me. I’ve had some I had to call for over an hour before finally clinching the deal. More often they decide to not commit. or they come to the call and pop up five yards away. Where I am the gobblers are very cagey, but this time of year they come CHARGING in to the DSD, they’re ready to fight—if they get a visual. Later, it’s all about the hens, one alone does the job.
    I have MANY turkey hunting stories, each encounter seems memorable to me. I can turkey hunt in pairs, trying to teach my son-in-law, but more often, like deer hunting, I prefer to go it alone. Just me and him. Unless I’m with a superb caller, that, too is a thing of beauty. I’m going in the morning and afternoon tomorrow, can’t wait, it means spring to me. Turkey hunting actually stole me from spring bass fishing a decade ago, which I also love.
    Excellent article, you are a BIG upgrade from the last hunting “editor,” you have real knowledge and apparently experience. You’re a good writer, your tone is really likable and readable, and you’re a solid hunter.

  14. avatar Paul Mcmichael says:

    Jw, that gun next to face carry came from Hollywood. They’re great at realistic firearms handling. I’ve had a lot of firearms training. Sponsored by the Florida S.W.A.T. Association, High Liability Training Conference, Active Shooter by Leon County S.W.A.T. Team, etc. I was duel sworn as a deputy U.S. Marshall on the N. Florida Violent Fugitive Task Force. Nowhere have I ever seen the “muzzle by my temple” carry taught, or advocated. It’s stupid.

    1. avatar Hannibal says:

      I think it was invented by Hollywood so that they can have the gun in the same shot as a face for more drama and tension.

      Kind of funny given their anti-gun stances but whatever…

  15. avatar Paul Mcmichael says:

    And “muscle memory for reloading?” Who in the hell reloads a weapon while holding it next to their head? Hold it in close to the chest, muzzle indexed on threat, eyes on target while reloading. Preferably while behind cover, or at least concealment.

  16. avatar Paul Mcmichael says:

    And “muscle memory for reloading?” Who in the he’ll reloads a weapon while holding it next to their head? Hold it in close to the chest, muzzle indexed on threat, eyes on target while reloading. Preferably while behind cover, or at least concealment.

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