Turkey Hunting – The Shot!


Set-Up Specifics

When calling to a turkey, most of the time you should sit with your back against a wide tree. This helps to break your outline and hide you from the probing eyes of incoming toms. It also provides the foundation for a rock-solid shooting station.

Try to set up against a tree that sits slightly above a flat, hillside or bottom. Gaining an extra foot or two of elevation increases your visibility as you scan the foliage for approaching turkeys.

If you shoot right-handed, twist into a set-up tree so that your left shoulder points in the direction you think a gobbler will appear (vice versa for southpaws). Pull your knees up into your body and rest your shotgun over them.

From this “turkey hunter’s coil” you’re ready to call in and shoot a gobbler.

Flow With a Turkey

Fine-tune your shooting form before laying eyes on the turkey that you’re calling. Each time a bird gobbles (or yelps or kee-kees in the fall) out in the foliage, shift your coiled body and shotgun in his direction. Continue to flow your body and gun with subtle sounds like drumming and the shuffling of leaves as a turkey draws nearer. Don’t make fast, foolish moves, just ease your body and shotgun around to cover a bird as he comes in. When a tom’s read-white head pops up in the brush, you’ll be on it and ready to shoot.

Making the Shot ·

  • When you spot an incoming turkey take a deep breath to calm your frazzled nerves and racing heart.

  • Identify the target. Look for a gobbler’s red, white or blue head and red neck. Check for a beard (the longer the better!).

  • In the spring if a turkey struts before your eyes, examine his 18 tail feathers. If they are even in length you’re looking at a mature gobbler. The middle rectrices of a jake’s fan are noticeably longer than the sides of his tail.

  • Don’t be scared to move a little bit to fine-tune your aim. When a turkey’s head ducks behind brush or a tree, ease your shotgun around to cover an opening where it should reappear.

  • Look for foliage between you and a turkey. You’ll have to shoot through some small stuff most of the time, but don’t let something like a 2-inch sapling destroy your shot pattern and cause you to miss. Slide your gun barrel left or right to take a pattern-busting obstacle out of play.

  • Wait for a turkey to close within 40 yards before firing. Letting a bird walk inside 35 paces is better yet.

  • Aim for the lower third or middle of a tom’s neck. This way a shot pattern covers the entire head/neck vitals. ·

  • Dig your cheek firmly into your shotgun’s stock. Keep your head down to keep from pulling the shot high.

  • If necessary break a turkey’s strut before firing. Cluck on a diaphragm or even yell “hey!” to make a bird run up his neck.

  • Wait until a shot looks and feels just right. But if a turkey putts and gets jittery you’d better shoot if you can. Sensing trouble or seeing something that he didn’t like, a gobbler is fixing to duck his head and leave.

  • Press the trigger. Don’t yank it or you’ll pull the shot high.

  • You don’t have to sprint like Michael Johnson, but get on a flopping turkey fast after the shot. Don’t let a “dead” bird roll over, run off and fly away.

Turkey Recovery

I once called up a big gobbler for a friend of mine. He fired. The bird catapulted into the air and flew away! While my buddy threw down his hat and stomped around and cussed, I kept my eyes glued on the tom. A hundred yards out it dropped a wing, folded and fell stone dead. We ran over and recovered the bird, which made us both feel a lot better.

Strive for one-shot kills. But if you shoot and mess up, keep your wits and watch the turkey. You might get lucky and see him fall from the sky. Listen close for a 20-pound tom to fold up and thump to the ground.

If a wounded bird runs away, track it. Follow upturned leaves and scattered feathers. You might find a turkey buried in thick brush. He might try to run or fly away, so be poised for a follow up shot


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