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.
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.
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.
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.
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!