By Steve Hall
Tuk-tuk-tuk-tuk. Yobble-yobble-yobble. Prrt!
Sounds like these, echoing from the turkey woods each spring, are magically alluring. The mating ritual of the old tom turkey gathering his harem signals a time for hunters to gather their gear and head to the pastures and valleys of Texas to pursue this uniquely American tradition. Hunting the wily gobbler is considered the ultimate challenge by many hunters — an experience that lures turkey hunters back each year, as evidenced by a growing number of “beards” hanging in their dens. These delicious birds make for fine table fare, too.
- Be sure of your target and what is in front of and beyond the bird as it approaches.
- Properly and immediately tag your bird upon kill and retain proof of sex (e.g. leg/spur or patch of skin/beard) when and where required.
- Pattern your shotgun or practice with your bow well before the season begins. Center your shot at the bottom of the neck if shotgun hunting, or aim for the body at the confluence of the wing/breast feathers, just above the legs, if bow hunting.
- Calls such as barred owl, crow or peacock work great for locating birds on their roost.
- For safety, use hunter-orange flagging above your hunting post, an orange vest/hat while moving locations on public lands or an orange bag when taking your kill from the field.
- Shotgun/ammo or bow/arrows. Standard gear is a 12- or 20-gauge camo shotgun with fixed open sights/scope or bead, along with a chamber that accepts 2 ¾-inch or 3-inch shells with No. 4, 5 and 6 field/turkey loads. For bow hunters, a minimum 7/8-inch, two-edged broadhead point is legal.
- Turkey calls and vest. A turkey hunter uses a variety of calls (e.g. box, diaphragm, slate, wing bone and plunger) to mimic the sounds of hen turkeys or fighting gobblers. A camo vest (with detachable seat cushion for moving and posting at different positions) is a must for storing accessories.
- Camouflage clothing and boots. Turkeys easily see movement and colors, so hunting in clothing that matches the environment or breaks up a solid pattern is best. Good field “snake” boots are sought by hunters who know that rattlesnakes are most active in the springtime.
- Portable blinds. A pop-up portable camo blind and folding chair are becoming favorites of turkey hunters to quickly move locations and conceal movements when positioning for a shot.
- Hen/gobbler decoys. Decoys are an effective way to fix a gobbler's attention elsewhere so the bird does not detect your movement.
- Accessories. Coolers, knives, range finders, binoculars, shooting sticks, survival kits, chigger/bug sprays and sunscreen are among the many accessories of a turkey hunter.
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