As someone who has spent far more time chasing turkeys than killing them, I’m confident that I’m the person to tell you why you suck at turkey hunting.
1.There aren’t any turkey here, idiot.
In some parts of Indiana you will hear a big uproar from hunters that we are one bird state. They could kill three birds easy, every year, if the state would raise the bag limit. Bully for you, great killer man. The truth of the matter is that while the Indiana turkey population is as healthy as it has been since the first Grover Cleveland administration, there are still sizeable chunks of Indiana where you could sit and call for the duration of the season and not here for the first gobble or cluck. It’s a swiss cheese population, in many cases even within the same county.
Yes, the Indiana turkey population is as healthy as it has been since anyone hunting them can remember, but it is still a population in recovery. While you may see a few birds occasionally, that doesn’t mean the population in your area is truly a huntable population. You can’t kill what isn’t there, and while trying doesn’t make you a bad hunter, it doesn’t make you a smart one either, sitting in the rain calling to ghosts.
2. Shut up and let the birds talk!
You’re probably the same guy that can’t wait to get in a tree on October first and start rattling and grunting every ten minutes, too. Calling is fun. Calling turkeys is way fun, because they answer back. It’s as close to elk hunting as a lot of guys will ever get. So they call.
And they call.
And they call some more.
They call until even the turkey say, “what the heck is he doing?”
Made worse by the fact that a lot of time, you’re also the guy that bought your mouth call yesterday, didn’t trim it, and you’re figuring it out in the woods. While hunting. Well, you’re more likely just taking your gun and vest for a walk, because the sounds you just made remind everyone of a plastic wal-mart bag caught in a chain link fence on a windy day. It also just scared the three jakes you were working to Toledo.
Some birds you have to work hard. Some birds never make a sound and just need enough calling so they can locate you. But you know how many successful turkey hunting stories start with, “I got to hammering that box call ten minutes before they flew down and didn’t stop clucking and cutting for three hours.”? Zero. No stories. There are literally no stories that start like that and end with killing a bird. Cluck when they cluck. Let them know they are there, and every third time you think you should call, actually call. I promise you just became a better turkey hunter.
3. You’re impatient.
Hear them on the roost? Better get as close as you can.
Oh darn, you just bumped them out of the trees.
Here he comes, I better get to that other tree.
He was closer than you thought. He saw you. Now he’s gone.
You wiggle. You shimmy. You can’t sit still. But hunting out of a blind isn’t real hunting.
Yes it is.
If you don’t you probably won’t kill a turkey.
Patience has killed more birds than any other trait or skill known to turkey hunters. Talk to some really good turkey hunters and they will tell you that they hunt from blinds to keep themselves from moving too often. The process of setting up a blind anchors their feet to that dirt and their mind to that setup. If you know where the birds want to be, then stop right there. Stop thinking that you can ambush them by the old dump site, or you can kill him an hour earlier if you get closer to the roost.
Truth is, you probably can’t. You can spook them. You can run them out of an area, and you can eat tag soup for dinner. But getting impatient and changing your plans two and three times during a hunt, that probably won’t work. Yes, you have a story of when it did. Or your uncle does. Or that weird guy with a lazy eye at the coffee shop does. They love to tell that story, because it’s the one time they actually killed a bird. The rest of their stories end with, “and then I bought a butterball.”
Want to be a better turkey hunter. Stop being bad at turkey hunting.