Growing up, my dad took my sisters and me hunting all the time. It started with small game - squirrels, rabbits and partridge - and then we graduated to big game hunting - whitetail deer and bear. Dad never really got into turkey hunting though, so until later in life turkey’s weren't in our repertoire. My dad’s friend Doug, however, loved hunting and fishing and he offered to take me turkey hunting. While I didn’t end up getting a bird my first time out with Doug, it was enough to convince my dad to learn the art of turkey hunting.
After dad got the hang of it, it became a tradition for my sisters and me to get out with him at least once a season. I will admit, I don’t love turkey hunting, but it’s not because I don’t like the activity, it’s because there isn’t anything that I want to get out of bed for that early in the morning. What I do love is spending time with my dad in the woods. It’s peaceful, relaxing and some good old fashion quality time. Not to mention I sure do love the sound of a turkey gobbling.
So to make sure we’re ready for turkey season, we do the following. I use the “we” term lightly… I’m a little spoiled and my dad does a lot of the prep work for us, but if you asked him, he’d tell you it’s totally worth it because it gives him precious time with his daughters. Plus, he’s retired and it gives him something to do (kidding - he’s busier now than he was when he was working and I’m just making excuses, but I digress…)
Don’t forget to confirm permission to hunt. If hunting on private property, check with the landowner. Just because they granted you permission last year doesn’t mean you’ve got permission this year. We have several locations that we’ve found over the years. Dad makes sure to check with them each year that it’s still okay.
Whether you're hunting on private property or public land, be considerate of others that might be out hunting. Be respectful, be aware, and be smart. This means knowing when to cool it with the calling, placing decoys with care, and taking extra safety precautions with your attire and movements.
Once you’ve got the green light, go scouting. If you can find out where they are roosting and hanging out in the morning, you’ll up your chances at success. Dad sometimes does this on his own, or if I have time away from work, I’ll join him. We’ll also scout a place to set up that is dry and somewhat comfortable (I’ve been known to take a nap or two mid-morning after the excitement starts to wear off a little).
Clean it up and sight it in. Give your shotgun a nice clean and head to the range to make sure it is sighted in. And if you haven’t shot it in a while, it’ll be good to re-familiarize yourself with operating your shotgun - for safety’s sake and to ensure there’s no fumbling when you’ve got a gobbler in your sights. Remember earlier when I said I went hunting with Doug and we didn’t get a bird?, well… there was a bird. And I had an opportunity. But my sling got caught on a sapling and I couldn’t make the shot. For many years later, I would take my sling off my gun as soon as I sat watch because I wasn’t letting that happen again.
Speaking of familiarizing yourself, practice your turkey clucks, gobbles, yelps… whether you use a slate call, box call or mouth call, dust them off and get going. I remember kids getting in trouble in high school for bringing their mouth calls to school and practicing in the hallway between periods. My dad was a teacher and, while quite strict, he secretly praised those students. I will be the first to admit, I’m not great at calling in birds. But my dad’s pretty good at it so he does the calling.
Get it in gear. Shotgun, ammo, sling, hot seat, facemask, camo clothing, boots, calls, decoys, etc. Gather everything you need and take inventory. Do you need to make a last minute trip to a sporting goods store? Think about the weather and bugs. I always struggle with morning hunts because it starts out cold and if I’m not dressed warm enough I can’t shake the chill all morning. I can’t stand being cold just about as much as I don’t like getting out of bed. Cold and grumpy is not a pleasant combination - just ask my husband!
Don’t forget a ThermaCell or bug spray. The bugs seem to make their debut and somehow a mosquito or two always finds it's way inside my face mask. It’s hard to stay quiet - and still - when you're fighting off mosquitoes.
Did I mention snacks? I can get hangry sometimes - so pack some snacks so there’s no excuse to leave before noon. Plus it helps pass the time if there’s a lull in the action.
Dad and I have had some pretty good times turkey hunting - whether we were successful or not. One year, the conditions weren’t that great. There was some flooding so our typical spot was marshy. Because of that, we had packed stools to sit on - a nap was not even in the cards for me. I wasn’t a happy camper and we weren’t having much luck. Time felt like it was standing still. Then out of nowhere, birds came from across the field. Dad elbows me to get ready. They were coming in fast - two nice big toms. He whispered that he’d take whichever one I didn’t shoot. I set my sights on the one on the left and pulled the trigger and a split second later dad did the same. It was the perfect day, being able to get a turkey but more importantly, spend time with my dad and watch him take one too.
So whether you are a diehard turkey hunter or willing to leave your cozy bed to spend some quality time with dad in the woods, have fun this season and good luck!
Heather is the associate director of marketing at Otis Technology. She enjoys hunting, fishing, four wheeling and the outdoors, as well as being a mom to her 3 month old son.