When you were a kid, you probably experienced something called Spring Fever. As the days grew longer and the weather warmed up, you were probably excited about the end of school and Summer vacation.
Hunters also experience Spring Fever. Warm weather and extra hours of sunshine make us long for the beginning of Spring Turkey Season. Before opening day, avid turkey hunters will hit the woods and fields to scout and plan their first hunt.
In addition to searching for big toms, you need to organize your hunting gear. With a little planning and some advanced preparation, you’ll be ready to hit the ground running on opening morning.
To help you out, we’ve put together a list of our top gear picks for big gobblers. Although you may need to tweak the list to suit your specific hunting style, this basic line-up should help get you started.
Dust off Your Shotgun
It’s a bad idea to head out the door on opening morning with a gun you haven’t used all year. Before opening day, make sure to spend some time shooting your weapon. Accuracy is particularly important when you’re hunting turkeys (a turkey head is a seriously small target), and shooting is a perishable skill.
If you don’t have a dedicated turkey gun, here are our top picks.
This is Mossberg’s idea of the perfect turkey gun, and we totally agree. The Mossberg SA-20 Turkey is a lightweight, semi-auto 20 gauge with a smooth cycling gas operated system. It has a fiber optic 3-dot sight well-suited for precision shooting, and the extended turkey tube choke helps you get more pellets on target. Plus, it comes in Mossy Oak Obsession, which we are admittedly obsessed with.
This ultra reliable semi-auto 12 gauge from Browning is recoil operated for smooth-as-silk cycling. It has a fiber optic end sight with a mid bead that makes it easy to switch between reflexive shooting and careful aim. It also comes with interchangeable chokes (full, modified, and improved cylinder), just in case you want to use this one for doves or other upland birds in the off-season.
Picking Your Turkey Ammunition
Not everyone hunts spring gobblers the same way, so there is no one-size-fits-all perfect turkey load. Here are some of what we consider the best options on the market.
If you don’t care about recoil, these high velocity loads extend the effective range of your 12 gauge. The 3 ½-inch magnums deliver some pretty brutal recoil, but you’ll get more pellets on target, which is a good thing. You can always ice your shoulder later.
If you have a young, recoil sensitive shooter, these 20-gauge loads from Federal are lighter on the shoulder. They also make tagging a big tom with a sub-gauge easier with hard-hitting heavy tungsten-based shot. The weight means your young hunter can shoot #7 or #9 instead of big #5s to put more pellets on target.
In the Spring, when love is in the air, the best way to get a shot on a big gobbler is to use a call to lure him into shooting range. If you can convince a lovesick longbeard that you are a lonesome hen in search of a good man, you’re half-way to filling your turkey tag.
There are several types of calls you can use in the Spring. Which call doesn’t matter all that much. It just matters that you use one.
A diaphragm call may be the best way to call in a wary gobbler. They are completely hands-free, which means you don’t have to shift between your call and your shotgun when the turkeys get close. They can be a bit tricky to master, so you might want to start practicing now.
The Traditional Box Call
If the thought of using a diaphragm call is intimidating, a traditional box call (like the Lynch Fool Proof Turkey Box Call) is a whole lot easier to use. Most traditional box calls consist of a hollow wooden box with a paddle bottom. When you scrape the paddle bottom against the lip of the box, it creates a sound similar to the sounds created by hen turkeys.
Although they are relatively foolproof, they aren’t hands-free. Since turkeys have keen eyesight, especially when it comes to picking up movement, this can be a major drawback.
Another option is a slate call. These handheld, two-piece turkey calls consist of a slate striking surface attached to a hollow inner chamber and a peg (or striker). Calls are made by raking the striker across the striking surface.
These can also take some practice, but an experienced caller can produce some pretty diverse calls. You can get higher yelps, cuts, and clucks on the outer edges, while striking near the center produces deeper purrs. Our favorite slate call is the Primos Hunting Rare Breed Slate Turkey Pot Call.
Don’t Forget the Decoys
Calling turkeys into shooting range is the best way to tag a big gobbler. However, a trophy tom responding to a call will come in searching for the turkey making that call. When he doesn’t see the woman of his dreams, he can become agitated and easily spooked.
You can help prevent this response by pairing your turkey calls with a lifelike decoy. You’ll want to include a hen decoy for sure. That’s what that big gobbler will be looking for. However, you can really work him up by placing your hen decoy with a jake decoy. A big gobbler will often charge in to challenge the smaller male trying to make the moves on his woman.
The Primos 69064 Gobstopper Jake & Hen Decoy Combo is perfect for the job, pairing a lifelike hen bird and a short-bearded jake to really make the dominant gobbler jealous.
Turkeys have incredible eyesight. Wild turkeys have 270-degree peripheral vision, see in vivid color, and detect even the slightest movement in the woods. To put it into perspective, turkey eyesight is three times better than the eyesight of the average human.
To get a shot on a turkey this spring, you’ll need to totally disappear in the woods. One good way to make that happen is to use a ground blind. A two-person pop-up like the Barronett Radar Ground Hunting Blind is lightweight and sets-up in seconds, allowing you to go wherever the birds are.
If you’re running and gunning a hot tom and need something even faster, give the Ameristep Throwdown Blind a shot. Just throw down the durable die-cut 3-D panels and you’ll disappear into the background.
If you choose not to hunt in a blind, you want to make sure you choose a good camo pattern that blends with the bright greens of early spring. You also need to keep your hands, face, and neck covered. Nothing says, “Human!” like a flash of flesh in the dark greens and browns of the woods.
A lightweight mesh face mask will help keep you hidden, and will also help keep those pesky flies and mosquitoes at bay. Our absolute favorite is the DecoyPro Camo Face Mask. It is breathable, quick-drying, and has a one-size-fits-all drawstring system.
If you don’t like the idea of a face mask, use some earth tone face paint to help break up your outline and keep you hidden. We love Camo Up! Face Paint because it is not only easy to put on, it’s also easy to wash off.
While your knowledge of turkey behavior along with your calling and shooting skills will ultimately determine your success this spring, having the right gear will definitely help. Just like you need to scout for turkeys and plan your hunts before the season opens, you also need to gather your equipment ahead of time.
Luck favors the prepared, so you should carry everything you think you might need. Over time, you may choose to trim some of the excess gear to gain some mobility. Some experienced hunters carry nothing more than a mouth call and a shotgun. If that sort of hunting suits you, don’t bother yourself with a ton of extra gear. However, if you plan on spending all day in the woods, having some extra ammo, calls, and a blind could mean the difference between filling a tag and going home empty-handed.