5 Reasons to Love
Turkey Hunting for Beginners
Let it be known – I am a relatively new turkey hunter. Although I grew up hunting deer and grouse, we just never had turkeys around in northern Minnesota. So a few years ago, I started devouring articles about turkey hunting for beginners and set out on my first turkey hunt.
I was hooked immediately. Not just that season – on my first hunt.
There are several reasons I loved it so much, and why I think many new hunters would like it as well. So if it’s your first time turkey hunting this spring, here are some of the things you have to look forward to! For other tips for first time turkey hunters, check out my other article.
1. Thrill of the Call
To be honest, I am by no means great (or even good) at turkey calling. I probably make all kinds of mistakes with them. But I learned how to call turkeys by watching lots of turkey calling videos and practicing a ton. In fact, I’ve called several turkeys into shooting range in my short time as a turkey hunter.
Let me tell you…the first time a tom gobbles back at your spring turkey calling, you will be addicted. The hair on the back of your neck stands up straight, your heart starts pounding, and all your senses go into overdrive. It’s just a surreal, crazy experience and why I think turkey hunting for beginners is a great idea.
Last spring, I got to my hunting area late and heard turkeys gobbling near where I had intended to hunt. I sprinted up the road with my decoys (muttering some choice words at myself for sleeping in), quickly set the decoys up in a small opening, and tucked into my blind. I gently made a few hen clucks with a mouth call. Instantly, two toms gobbled back from up the hill. I waited a little and let out a few more hen clucks, and they rapidly fired back again.
After about 5 minutes, I clucked once more, and their answering gobbles sent a shockwave down my spine – they were only 50 yards away behind some trees and brush! Unfortunately, luck was not on my side that day because a very angry red squirrel saw me move my camera and started chirping and hissing with a vengeance above my head – after that, the turkeys went completely silent and I never heard from them again. But it was thrilling!
2. Turkey Behavior
Another fascinating part of turkey hunting for beginners is watching a gobbler react to decoys for the first time. For many new turkey hunters, you might not have a lot of experience watching animals in this setting. Male turkeys (i.e., gobblers, toms, longbeards, etc.) will put on quite a show for hen decoys by strutting and gobbling. Conversely, they will usually respond aggressively to jake or strutting tom decoys.
On one hunt, I had put out a hen turkey decoy along with a jake decoy. After a short turkey calling series, a lone gobbler came into view. He hesitantly worked his way through a tall meadow until he saw my turkey decoys. Once he saw them, he immediately came running towards me. About 30 yards out, he started strutting with his wings dragging through the clover field, frequently turning side to side to show his profile. As he got closer, he actually pecked the jake decoy several times on the back of the head. I’ve seen turkey hunting videos of toms jumping up and using their spurs to attack the decoy, or actually trying to mount hen decoys. With a good set of decoys (I love the Avian-X® line), you can often fool a turkey very effectively and get a glimpse of some cool natural behaviors.
3. Hunting Skills
Any time you can get close to a wild animal and watch it behave naturally, it’s an amazing thing to watch. While turkeys have become increasingly common in backyards, it’s still special to see them from a ground blind or tree stand at close range. Having an animal that close to you in a hunting scenario is great practice for future hunts, even if you don’t end up shooting one.
When you’re hunting turkeys, you quickly learn the importance of patience and holding still – not moving is turkey hunting 101 since they have excellent vision. Since you can only shoot turkeys out to about 30 or 40 yards at most, that means they have to get close and you will get excited. You probably haven’t experienced before the adrenaline rush, rapid heartbeat, and heightened senses that turkey hunting can produce. And learning how to deal with those physical responses and emotions is an important hunting skill. Turkey hunting can also be tough sometimes – you probably won’t succeed even half as much as you fail. But that’s part of hunting. It’s a great lesson to learn and what makes turkey hunting for beginners so appealing and helpful.
4. They Taste Good
You often hear people say that wild turkeys don’t taste as good as domestic turkeys. This is flat out wrong in my opinion. There’s really no comparison between the two. If you try to cook a wild turkey like you would a domestic one…sure, you’ll probably be disappointed. But if you prepare it the right way, wild turkey is great.
The meat is darker than a domestic turkey and it is much leaner. For this reason, people often cook them incorrectly and dry them out. Try marinating turkey breast strips in your favorite poultry marinade and grilling them. Many people only remove the breasts from wild turkeys, which is a shame because the legs have a lot of tasty meat on them too. I love smoking the legs and adding them to soups or eating them caveman-style. You can also use the carcass (i.e., remaining rib cage, leg bones, etc.) to make wild turkey stock for soup. If I’m going to hunt an animal and be part of the natural food chain, I want to use as much of it as I can.
5. Fun Spring Activity
Last but not least, turkey hunting for beginners is a nice way to get out and enjoy the spring weather. After a long winter (especially this winter), it feels so good to get out in the woods and see how everything is coming to life again. Fresh grasses and forbs sprout with vivid green colors, tree buds burst into young leaves, and flowers pop up everywhere. Not to mention, the sun feels so good and the sounds of spring birds chirping away is so relaxing. In ruffed grouse country, I also get the bonus of seeing and hearing them drumming from their drumming logs. It’s truly just a fun time to be in the woods. When you can combine all of those perks with some spring turkey hunting action, I think you’ll be hooked too.