Category Archives: Turkey

Wild Turkey – How to Smoke and Brine

It’s that time of the year, when you need to be thinking about what you will do with the wild turkey you hopefully kill this year.

If you’re like many, you hope many meals will involve a turkey.

Do you know how to brine your turkey, and get it ready for the smoker?

Stacy Harris of Game and did a wonderful job explaining the process of brining a turkey.
Try this technique this season for a mouth-watering wild turkey breast.

It’s a new take on dinner using a turkey you harvested. Of course, you could use a domestic turkey, but using a breast from a bird you harvested would be so much more cooler.

Is a Mouth Call Necessary to be a Successful Turkey Hunter?

Years ago, when I first started turkey hunting, I was going to master every type of call there was.  Now, when I think about it, there aren’t a lot of different types of call for a turkey hunter to choose from, so it should have been a pretty simple thing to do.  I really wanted to be good at using a mouth call.  After all, that is all you see on TV, and in the majority of magazine articles.

A few decades later, I am still trying to master the mouth call, aka the diaphragm call.  At this point in my turkey hunting crusade, I have pretty much given up on the idea of learning to use the mouth call.  Some people get it, and others don’t.  I’m one of the hunters that doesn’t get it.  But, that is OK.  I have learned techniques that allow me to kill birds using different types of calls, which has made me an all-around better turkey hunter.  You can do the same.

Reducing hand movement when operating a call out in the open is critical to prevent a gobbler from spotting you.  Some calls make this easier than others.  Push-button style calls can be worked with just one finger.  Some can even be attached to your gun.

This allows you to have your gun in position for a quick shot while you are calling, reducing the extra movement associated with having to shoulder your gun.  The drawback to push-button calls is that they don’t offer a large variety of sounds or volume.

Being able to make the shot when you have the opportunity is critical.  Too many hunters do not take the time to pattern their shotgun to find the perfect load, choke, and sight combination.  What works for me might not work for you.  A 12-gauge with a 3 1/2-inch shell with an extra-full choke topped off with a red dot scope might work for you.  But, your wife might prefer a 20-gauge with a 3-inch shell with a reticle scope.  Find what works best for you.

The best advice I know to give any turkey hunter is not to be seen.  Camouflage from head to toe that matches your surroundings is a must.  Don’t hesitate to wrap your bow or shotgun in camouflage wrap if the sun could reflect off the weapon’s surface.

A ground blind is the best way conceal yourself, and the movements associated with using a call.  But, for hunters that prefer the fast-paced action of the run-and-gun approach of turkey hunting, a blind isn’t a practical choice.

Decoys put the odds in your favor.  When a gobbler hears your calls, and is able to see a fake bird, it is often too much for him to resist.  If your decoy has a little motion to it, all the better.  Some decoys come with a string attached that can be ran back to the hunter so he can provide movement to the decoy.  But, it would be easy to tie a piece of fishing line to any decoy.  Another trick on windy days is to place sticks on either side of the decoy’s tail feathers.  This will add realistic movement a couple of inches in either direction, rather than spinning around violently that would spook birds.

Being a bowhunter, I know that I can’t rely on my sights to still be on target from deer season to spring turkey season.  Get out and practice shooting, and remember a turkey has a very small kill zone. 

If you plan on using the big broadheads intended for neck/head shots, put on practice blades and practice.  These broadheads will fly different than any other broadhead you have shot before. 

Whether you are shooting archery gear or a shotgun, know your maximum effective shooting range, and do not shoot at a bird further than that.  Use a quality rangefinder in both your practice sessions, and when hunting.  As it tempting as it might be to take a shot just a little longer than what you are comfortable with, listen to what your rangefinder shows you, and stick with shots you know you can make.

For those of you reading this that still believes that you must be proficient with every style of turkey call there is, you don’t.

Learn to use other calls the best you can, keep your body and hand movements concealed, and use decoys.  Choose a shotgun setup with a shell, choke, and scope combination you are comfortable with.  Use a rangefinder, and don’t shoot further than you are comfortable making.

Above all else, learn as much as you can about the property you will be hunting on, and the birds you are after.  This builds confidence, and a confident hunter is often a successful hunter.

Bowhunting turkeys in the spring is a challenge, but it can be done.  Learn more about successfully bowhunting turkeys.


Which Turkey Call is Best for You?

Turkey hunting would be even more of a challenge than what it already is without the aid of a turkey call.  Knowing what call best suits your needs, and how to use it, will give you more opportunities when turkey hunting.

One of the easiest calls to learn to use is the box call.  Even though a box call is easy to use, it has probably resulted in more dead turkeys than any other call.  The problem with the box call is that there is more movement involved with using it than I care for.

Right handed hunters have to hold the bottom of the box horizontally in their left hand.  Do not hold the sides of the call as this can ruin the sound.  Hold the bottom of the call not the sides.  To make a yelp, slide the paddle part of the call toward your hands over the top edge of the box.

There are some turkeys hunters that prefer to hold a box call vertically, and work the paddle against the surface.  They believe that this method gives them more control with their hands, while producing a better sound.

There are many designs of box calls available to the hunter that make wonderful yelps, cutts, purrs, clucks, cackles and gobbles.  Whichever box call design you go with, always keep it chalked and dry so it sounds natural. Calling softly with a box call combined with a few clucks for 45 seconds, and waiting 20 to 25 minutes before calling again is all the calling you have to do

Friction calls, or what many hunters call the slate call is a round call with a slate, glass, aluminum or other metal surface.  Some slate calls have a combination of these materials like glass over slate.

For the right handed hunter hold the friction call in your left hand with your fingers and thumb cupped around the outside edge.  Hold the call waist high with a semi firm hold.  Hold the striker between your first two fingers and thumb at a slight angle with your right hand.  Hold the striker to the calls surface about one-third of the way from the outside edge.  To produce a yelp, apply pressure and put the striker in a counterclockwise motion, about the size of a nickel.

Added finger pressure is required on the striker for making cutts.  Hold the striker firmly at an angle so the top is angled towards you when on the surface of the call.  Quickly pull the striker towards your body with a good amount of pressure.  Without raising the striker off the calls surface slide the striker to the starting point and repeat the process several times.  This will make a loud cutting sound that will make a mature gobbler love sick.

Holding the striker so tight that is causes a squeaky, high-pitched sound is where most hunters have trouble when using a friction call.  Hold the striker loose enough that it will allow a natural sounding yelp.  With a little practice you will begin to get the feel of how tight to hold the striker.

Do not over call!  Especially if you are using a box or slate call that requires a lot of hand movement.  Start off with soft yelps.  If a tom is able to sneak up on you without being spotted, the yelps will often get the gobbler to sound off.  This will give you the chance to know his location.  After a few soft yelps, increase the volume for the remainder of your calling for that sequence.

Diaphragms or mouth calls are the toughest to master, but because no hand movement is involved they are on of the favorites among turkey hunters.

Beginners should start out with a one or two reed model.  They are easier to learn to use than three or four reed calls.  Talk to other hunters that are proficient with mouth calls.  They can tell you which is best for a beginner.

Find a diaphragm that fits snugly in your mouth.  If it is too tight in your mouth, lightly trim the edges.  Keep in mind that a little trimming can go along way.

Once a hunter becomes proficient in using a mouth call and producing the entire hen vocabulary, they can give the hunter an edge in the spring woods. Their hands free use is crucial when turkeys are close and a soft yelp or cluck is needed to get the bird just a little closer for a shot.

Do not get stuck on just one type of call.  Carry an assortment with you to the woods.  If a gobbler will not respond to a friction call try using a mouth call.  The change of calls might be all it takes to work a gobbler in.

Calling a mature tom to your set up with yelps, purrs, cutts and clucks is a feeling of success all turkey hunters strive for.  Not knowing the proper techniques on how to use the different type of calls (box, friction and diaphragm mouth calls) might send a longbeard to the next county.  With practice a hunter can learn how to be the best caller that makes other turkey hunters jealous.  Hopefully this advice will help you fill your turkey tag this spring, but above all else enjoy your time in the woods. 

Now that you have decided which turkey call is best for you, what about the shotgun you are using?

Good luck.

Photo: Howard Communications

DIY Turkey Fan and Beard Mount

I love a good looking turkey fan and beard mount. You can either pay to have a taxidermist to the job for you, or you can do it yourself.

This is a project just about anybody can complete for very little money. The crew at Bone Collector has some good advice on creating your own tail and beard mount, one that you will be proud to display.

Hopefully the arrival of turkey season also means the arrival of a big ol’ tom in the back of your truck. After putting in the hard work to harvest a big gobbler, the best way to honor the bird and preserve memories for years to come is to mount it. To mount a turkey fan and beard, it’s easier than you might think, so give it a try yourself using these directions… [continued]

How to Successfully Bowhunt Turkeys

Turkey hunting is admittedly not easy with a shotgun. But turkey hunting with archery gear can be downright difficult.  It can be a challenge to successfully bowhunt turkeys season after season.

Outdoor Life‘s Steve Hickoff has put together ten bowhunting turkey tips that will make it easier for you to take a turkey with your bow and arrow.

Taking a turkey with a bow isn’t easy, but it can be done. Here are my 10 best tips for archers looking to take a longbeard this spring…

1.) Get the turkey close — real close. Incorporate good calling and solid woodsmanship.

2.) Use a man-made blind constructed from natural materials on patterned turkeys to conceal your movements (though it limits mobility), or hunt with a model that’s easy to transport, and assemble.

3.) Practice arrowing a 3-D turkey target on a regular basis to visualize your intended quarry.

4.) Stake turkey decoys at your effective bow range to fix an individual gobbler or flock’s position.

5.) Choose turkey-specific mechanical broadheads for solid flight and serious cutting diameter… [continued]

Lotte Finally Killed Her Turkey [Video]

Photo: Jason Houser

My wife, Lotte, has always been a lover of the outdoors.  Whether it is fishing for bass on one of the farm ponds littering the countryside, fishing for catfish late into the night at the local lake, sitting in a treestand throughout the fall waiting for a shot opportunity at a deer, or any other excuse she can find to be outside.

But her true passion is chasing big tom turkeys in the spring.  She would rather do this than anything else.  She actually enjoys it more than I do.  

Before Lotte met me, she had only been hunting for smallgame a few times with her father, uncle and brother.  She quickly learned that if she wanted to spend much time with me, that she had better learn to become an outdoorswoman.

Not only did she learn, but she quickly fell in love with it.  Often times, Lotte was reminding me to apply for our deer and turkey permits.  And, she spent many hours on the computer searching out destinations to hunt.  Mostly for spring turkeys.

While we do have some turkeys in our area of Illinois, they are not abundant like they are in other parts of the Midwest, or even other parts of Illinois for that matter.

Our first year of turkey hunting together proved eventful.  On the opening morning of the 2nd season of the southern turkey zone in Illinois, Lotte got a taste of what it was like to be a turkey hunter.

Early on opening day, Lotte was able to call a big tom from 300 yards across a harvested corn field.  At 20 yards, Lotte shouldered her shotgun and squeezed the trigger.  The mature gobbler flew away unharmed.  I guess it was a bad case of turkey fever.

Over the next few years my wife continued to apply for her Illinois turkey permit, but the opportunity like she had on her very first hunt never presented itself again.  Sure, she saw turkeys, but she never got a shot off.

Knowing how bad she wanted a turkey, I called Bluestem Outfitters in Missouri and arranged a turkey hunt the last three days of their turkey season.  With her Missouri turkey permit, she would be able to shoot two turkeys on separate days.  Let me remind you though that she only had 3 days left in the season.

After driving 8 hours we finally arrived at the lodge with 5 hours to spare before we had to be in a ground blind.  With little sleep behind us, our alarms rang loud, and we were up preparing for what we hoped would be a successful hunt.

Lotte went one way, and I the other.  Our guide had already done the scouting, and he felt confident that we would see birds.

Lotte could hear turkeys in the distance, and used her Lynch Mob Slate Call to try to entice the birds to her.  She would only need one bird to cooperate, and that is exactly what happened.

I was covered in birds, some as close as 35-yards, but I was using a bow.  They need to be within 25-yards for me to feel comfortable to shoot.  I could only hope Lotte was having the same luck.  About 2 hours into the hunt, I got a text reading, “Big Turkey Down”.

I could not have been happier for my wife.  She made a perfect 35-yard shot on the gobbler as he danced around the decoy spread, laying the big gobbler down in his tracks.  The bird weighed 23 pounds and had a 11 ½-inch beard.

This is the second bird my wife was able to kill. Photo: Jason Houser

On the second day, we hunted together, but only saw a couple birds in the distance.  That only left us one day to hunt before the season came to a close.

On the second day, we again went our separate ways.  This time though we were only about 500 yards apart, but in separate fields.  As daylight was beginning to show over the horizon a shot rang out very close, and about 3 seconds later, another shot.

The night before we had gone to separate fields to roost birds.  I was not able to roost any birds, but Lotte was confident she knew where two big toms were.  Knowing this information, we hurriedly set up a ground blind hoping that the birds would show themselves the following morning.

On the last mornings hunt, Lotte never had time Lynch Mob call out of her pocket.  At first light one of the gobblers flew from the roost, and was headed straight to the decoys she had in front of her.  The gobbler was not liking the decoys in his territory, and put on amazing show for Lotte as he aggressively attacked the fake birds.

When the big tom was at a distance of 25-yards, my wife pulled the trigger.  She missed.  Surprisingly, the bird only ran a distance of about 15-yards and stopped.  This allowed Lotte time to pump in another shell, and to fire a fatal round to the big bird.  Her second bird weighed in at 25 ½-pounds with a beard measuring just shy of 11-inches.

Again, I received a text notifying me that a big turkey was on the ground.

In just 3 days of hunting, Lotte was not only able to wrap a turkey tag around one bird, but two birds.  Sure, we will be hunting in Illinois this spring.  But, we will also be back at Bluestem Outfitters in Missouri hoping to fill more turkey tags.

The gun Lotte was using was a Mossberg 835.  My father, Bud Houser, won that gun in a raffle.  Sadly, my dad was killed in an automobile accident before he was ever able to use it.  As my wife put it, dad was in heaven doing a happy dance for her on those special days in Missouri.

After 6 Years of Trying, Lotte Kills a Turkey [Video]

My wife, Lotte, has not been a turkey hunter for all that long. But, she quickly fell in love with the thrill of trying to call in a big gobbler.

She has had a couple chances over the years to fill a tag, but things kept it from happening.

Last year at the NWTF Convention in Nashville, Lotte spent a lot of time talking with the guys at the Lynch Mob Calls booth.

The guys were eager to help her learn how to use the call, and eventually she walked away with a new slate call she felt comfortable with.

Work kept Lotte from hunting in Illinois, but we had plans to hunt in Missouri at Bluestem Outfitters the last weekend of their season.

With her new call in hand, Lotte was able to harvest her first turkey ever on the first morning. She was also able to harvest a second bird the last day of the Missouri season.

Watch this video to see it all unfold, and be sure to like us on Facebook.

The Best Turkey Shotgun

When it comes to the perfect gun, what’s the number-one thing that matters most to you? The opinion of most turkey hunters would be to choose a gun that shoots a tight shot pattern.

At first, all that turkey hunters had available to choose from were the Improved Cylinder, Modifies, and Full Chokes. At the time we made do with what we had, but as turkey hunting has grown in popularity we started seeing Extra-Full and Turkey-Full chokes. With these specialty chokes becoming all the rage, would one work with your gun and load?

To understand shot patterns better, we need to understand how a choke does its job. The first thing that happens is that the shot moves from the chamber (where the shell is held) into the barrel. This is accomplished by traveling through a short taper called a forcing cone. As the shot passes through the barrel, it will enter the choke; that’s the last thing it does before leaving the gun. The reason the barrel is shaped as a perfect tube is to prevent disturbance in the shot column. When the shot enters the choke, the choke will crowd the edges of the shot column inward in order to tighten the shot pattern.

Chokes can present problems if they are too tight. A good example would be pellets pushing against each other. When this happens, the result is a pattern that will have holes throughout it, instead of a nice, tight pattern. It is possible that hunters will have an irregular pattern with some loads and not with others. It may occur with every shot or just occasionally. You’ll never know for sure when it will happen. The good news is that there’s a simple remedy — shot size.

Hunters will begin to see irregular shot patterns with a large shot like a number 4 and other large pellets. A choke that delivers a tight pattern with the smaller number 6 might have problems with the bigger number 4 in the way of leaving holes in the shot pattern. A large shot might even damage the choke itself. There’s no room in my turkey-hunting arsenal for a number 4 shell, and I recommend that all turkey hunters stay away from the 4 shot.

Hopefully turkeys will get to within 20 yards for the perfect shot, but when they don’t cooperate, you ‘ll need to have a gun and a load that will reach out and deliver a punch with a tight pattern. Let’s face it, turkeys don’t know what we hunters expect from them, so we have to be ready for anything.

After you have your shot pattern to a point where you can no longer complain about it (with the correct choke and shot size), there are still other factors that will make an individual turkey gun more comfortable to hunt with. Autoloaders, pump, single, and double barrels — turkey hunters can choose from all of these actions. Your decision ultimately depends on what you’ve grown accustomed to over the years.

Autoloaders are the first choice among many turkey hunters, despite being more costly than other actions. With more and more turkey hunters shooting heavier loads, autoloaders are popular for being able to minimize much of the recoil. Chances are that hunters will not get a second shot at a turkey, although it does happen. Whatever the situation, it’s nice to know that you’ll have a gun ready to fire.

Many hunters pursue other game with a pump-action shotgun; it’s a popular choice amongst turkey hunters. I’ve used a pump throughout my hunting career, and it has become second nature for me to eject a shell from the chamber. I often do it without even realizing it.

A double-barrel shotgun will allow a hunter to use two different loads, depending on the shot distance. In one barrel you can have a load that will hold a tight pattern for long shots, with an open pattern in the second chamber for shorter shots. Simply use the barrel selector to choose the desired load, aim, and fire.

Single barrels are usually inexpensive compared to other actions, and lighter too. A hunter will only have one shot, but how often does a turkey hang around after you shoot? An easy fix is not to miss the bird the first time you shoot.

A 12-gauge that’s chambered for a 3-inch case is all that you need to kill a turkey. The 3 ½-inch casings came out because there’s not room for lighter steel in the smaller 3-inch shell to give maximum performance. Now that hunters are able to hunt turkeys with lead, the 3-inch shell is sufficient, having power comparable to a 3 ½-inch casings.

Most of the top shotgun makers offer specialized turkey guns. If you’re loyal to one brand, chances are that you can find a gun to suit your needs. f course, it wouldn’t hurt to shop around a bit.

Today’s hunters have many sight options available to them, including a vent rib with a front bead, rifle-type sights, and scopes. Unlike shooting at a flying bird (such as a quail, where you instinctively point and shoot), a shot at the head of a turkey requires you to aim as if you’re shooting a rifle.

A vent rib with a front bead has provided many hunters with a dead turkey at the end of the day. With more options in sights, they have almost became obsolete in the turkey woods.

Most gun makers now offer rifle-type sights that come standard on their turkey models. For those gobblers that come in straight from the roost on low-light mornings, rifled sights are perfect, as they’re fiber optic. That makes them great for aiming during low-light conditions. Jakes and smaller toms are likely to come in on any hens before the boss gobbler can get to her. If you don’t mind a smaller bird, rifled-sights are good under these circumstances.

There’s one small problem with rifled sights on some shotguns, but it can be easily fixed with an adjustment as to how you hold your head. Shotgun stocks put the eye of the shooter in line with the rib. This is so that the barrel will not sidetrack the shooter, but instead allow the hunter to focus on the intended target. Stocks on a rifle are raised a little higher so that the hunter’s eye lines up with the raised rifle sights. Most, if not all, shotgun makers have begun to use rifle-type stocks on their turkey guns. If you have an older model, all you have to do is raise your cheek slightly for a good sight picture. Hunters can also purchase a padded cheek piece to help properly position your cheek.

Many optic companies are now offering scopes for the shotgunner. I recommend a scope that provides at least 3 ¼-inches of practical eye-relief, preferably 3 ½-inches. (“Practical eye relief” refers to the distance between your eye and the scope.) Low-power shotgun scopes are parallax-free at 50 to 75 yards for close shooting. Be sure to purchase a scope specifically designed for a shotgun. You need a scope that can withstand the big-bang punishment that a shotgun delivers. Scopes designed for rifles are not up to the challenge.

A scope’s magnification at three power allows you to get a good look at the gobbler, and it allows you to see any obstacles in the way that could prevent you from getting a clean shot at a turkey’s head. When it comes to accuracy, low magnification scopes are the better choice over other forms of sights on the market today.

Having a shotgun that you’re comfortable shooting, a load that shoots a deadly pattern, and a sight that you feel will allow you to consistently hit the head of a boss gobbler: Put these three things together and you have a deadly trio.

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