Double check your hunting gear with this Midwest turkey hunting guide to see what you'll need for your next hunting trip.
The best cure for winter blues is looking ahead to the spring hunting season. Turkey hunting is an exciting pastime and a great excuse to get back into the woods. We’ll tell you all about the gear you’ll need for a good hunt as well as how to use turkey calls and strategize to go home with a big tom.
Whether you want to hunt in a blind or on foot, these are the items you’ll need this spring.
Shotgun: A shotgun is the best choice for turkey hunting, and we recommend using specific turkey hunting loads for best results.
Turkey Shells: Turkey shells are specifically made for hunting gobblers. Copper-plated, lead shots, Bismuth, or Tungsten Super Shot loads deliver dense patterning at longer ranges while prioritizing known-down power and deep penetration, making them ideal ammo.
Shooting Sticks: Make sure your shot is steady with the help of these shooting sticks.
Camo: Blending in with your surroundings helps your chances at getting close to a bird.
Hunting Mask: The more camo, the better, especially if you are hunting on foot. More coverage will help your odds out there.
Insect Repellant: Those April showers come with a side of bugs, ticks, and mosquitos. Pick up some insect repellant to enjoy a more comfortable hunt. You might also be interested in ElimiTick. This series of hunting apparel uses Insect Shield technology which lasts the life of the garment! This versatile clothing option is lightweight, comfortable and made with Hush Hide for a quiet hunt, available with a face mask and short or long sleeves.
Hearing Protection: We don’t need to tell you gunfire is pretty loud. Save your ears some ringing with some hearing protection.
Trail Cameras: Track those turkeys from the comfort of your home. Set them up where they might pass through, and you can find the best spot for your hunt. Many times, turkeys will hit a certain green field mid-day, or go through an area coming off the roost in the morning so this not only helps you determine where the birds are coming, but also at what time.
Types of Turkey Hunting
There are different ways to hunt for wild turkey. Most folks know about blind hunting, but you can stalk turkeys if you don’t like to wait for a group of them to come your way. Let’s start with hunting in a blind.
Turkey Hunting in a Blind
All set up and at the ready waiting on the turkey to come.
Out of elements such as rain and wind
Easier to hunt from a blind if archery hunting, this allows you to place the decoys close and still be able to draw without the birds noticing the movement
Easier for kids or multiple people to stay concealed
Able to get away with a lot more movement
Can be boring waiting on birds to come if not a lot of action, they may never come but hopefully you picked a good spot based on your scouting
If you mess up the birds or spook them off it may be hard for a second chance, whereas when you’re on the move you can regroup and try again
Hunting in a ground blind is a great choice if you are new to turkey hunting, have young hunters, or want to stay out of the rain. Put trail cameras out ahead of time where turkeys frequent, such as green fields, so you can get an idea of where they are going and when. The SpyPoint FLEX camera works wonders as it takes photos and sends them right to your phone for quick intel. It’s also super easy to set up and an effective scouting tool in the field for turkey hunting.
Setup in well known turkey areas where birds frequent. Turkeys often like green fields so this is a common place to set up your blinds. You don’t need to hide your blind among the trees and bushes. You will probably be able to pop a blind up, put out your decoys and shoot a bird that same day right in an open field.
If taking kids, pick nice weather days and bring lots of snacks. Spray your clothes down with an insect repellent with permethrin to keep ticks away. Apply this repellent to your clothes on a clothesline outside and only wear them once they are dry. When in doubt, follow the instructions on the can. After they’re done drying, it’ll keep you protected from nasty pests for several weeks so you can keep your mind on the hunt.
When it comes to using decoys, we recommend you place them about 15-yards from your blind so you can have nice, close shots. Let the birds stroll in and put on a show for a bit as they check out your decoys. They will often beat up a jake decoy or jump on a hen decoy so enjoy the show but be ready. Aim where the neck and feathers meet on the bird and take your best shot.
Can get the bird by moving close to him, calling and then backing out so he’s looking for you
Able to cover more area so you increase your odds
Potentially more opportunities to hunt more areas such as a creek, field, flat land, etc.
Can’t get away with much movement
Can be a rushed situation when a bird comes in fast looking for a spot to set up
Not as comfortable, many times on the ground
Turkey calls could be coming from another hunter or another hunter may come to the sound of your calls, so be cautious and aware of your surroundings.
If you’re doing a mobile turkey hunt keep camo netting in your backpack. This allows you to set up quickly and provide a little extra cover to stay concealed. Wrap it around bushes and connect it to trees just to give yourself a little more concealment.
Start out by either roosting birds (seeing where they fly up into the trees) the night before or calling from a high point where your sound can travel. Once you get a bird responding, start backing up or heading to an area where you can have a good setup.
Find a big tree to lean up against if possible and ensure the grass is short enough for the turkeys to see your decoys. If you have two people and the bird won’t commit, have the caller go back further to bring the turkeys past you as you wait.
Also, be careful of other hunters around you. When you see another hunter, make your presence known, especially when using decoys.
Practice patterning your shotgun before you get in the field. We recommend you use a turkey target so you can practice aiming right where the feathers meet the head. You want the majority of your pattern to hit this area, adjust as needed. Also practice out at various distances so you know how high up you need to aim as the distance gets further out. We always shoot off a solid rest on the bench that way I ensure my gun is patterned and ready to go removing any human error.
How to Use a Turkey Call
Take an evening off to go roost birds, which simply means watching where they fly up. This helps make an educated decision in the morning as to where you should hunt. Don’t get too close to the roost or you’ll scare them off.
Bring a mixture of diaphragm mouth calls, slate calls, box calls, a crow call or owl hooter. Keep a diaphragm call in your mouth so if you need to get the gobbler to perk his head up for the shot you can do it yourself with a call without much movement.
Use box calls in high wind situations. They should also be used from an elevated spot to call over a large area to let that sound really travel. Slate calls work great mixed with the other calls to sound like several different hens in an area. Box calls are the easiest for kids to learn, so start there. It might be a good idea to practice a few times before you head out to familiarize yourself with how they work.
Owl hooters and crow calls are locating calls. Turkeys will often shock gobble to this sound so it allows you to figure out where they are. This will not bring the turkeys in, just help you locate them so you can make a game plan.
Before you Go
Purchase your Turkey hunting license(s)
If blind hunting, refer to your DNR website for necessary size and color (camo or blaze orange)
Always know the boundaries on public land and obtain permission on private lands
We recommend you use onX to always know where you are while hunting, or use other options on your DNR website for public land hunting opportunities
Safety first, always be sure of your target and what is behind it
Take time to take a picture and cherish and share your hunt, even if not successful with a turkey the experience is always one to remember
Trash in trash out, leave the land as you found it
This checklist should give you a leg up on your next hunting trip. If you need to pick up some extra supplies before you head out to the woods, visit us at FleetFarm.com or stop by your local Fleet Farm.