These tips, tricks and gear picks will put hunters in range of a Texas long beard
It’s turkey time in Texas, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited about it. Temperatures are climbing, wildflowers are blooming, song birds are serenading and everything is coming to life amid the aftermath of winter. Most of all, lovestruck long beards are strutting their stuff, letting out roaring gobbles, and putting on their Sunday best in hopes of attracting a mate.
It’s a wild love story you don’t want to miss. If you play your cards right, you can have a role in the saga developing in the turkey woods, and score a close encounter with a boss gobbler.
These tips, tricks, tactics and gear will help you achieve success in pursuing wild turkeys this spring.
Camo from head to toe
If chasing turkeys on foot without the concealment of a blind is your plan, then covering up with high-quality camouflage from head to toe is a must. Wild turkeys have superior vision. Fooling their eyes is tough, but it can be done. Long sleeves, long pants, gloves, a face mask and long socks are all necessities.
It’s important for these items to be lightweight, yet durable. You want gear that will keep you comfortable and stand up to abuse.
One of my favorite concealment items is the Leafy Pullover with a hood by North Mountain Gear. The hoodie is breathable, lightweight and tough. It comes in a variety of camo patterns that will disguise your presence from the wary eyes of approaching gobblers on just about any terrain in Texas.
Sitka Gear also makes lightweight clothing options perfect for turkey hunting. From pants and long-sleeve shirts and hoodies, to gloves and face masks, Sitka has you covered. Its Optifade Subalpine camouflage blends well with springtime vegetation.
Above all, though, the best form of camouflage when hunting turkeys is simply sitting still and being quiet.
Some turkey hunters don’t like using decoys. But I would never go turkey hunting without them. Often, a couple of realistic decoys are what helps seal the deal on bringing a long beard into shooting range.
By far, the most effective, lifelike turkey decoys on the market are manufactured by Dave Smith Decoys. I’ve seen DSDs fool a turkey more times than I can count.
Not only does using realistic decoys improve your success rate, it also makes for a unique and exciting encounter. Watching a gobbler interact with the lifelike fakes is an experience that’s hard to describe. Whether it’s a tom fighting with a jake decoy or strutting for a hen decoy, moments likes these never get old.
Wild turkeys react differently to a variety of decoys, depending on their mood and the period of the spring breeding season. Therefore, it’s a good idea to have a variety of decoys, including hens, jakes and strutters readily available.
When the birds seem to be aggressive, jake and strutter decoys paired with a hen or two will produce some exhilarating action. If the turkeys are more passive, a pair of hens can be a better option.
The best part about chasing gobblers is hearing them respond to a call, and then realizing they’re closing the distance between you and them. As their gobbles get louder and closer, it’s hard not to get pumped up.
All turkey hunters should include slate calls, box calls and diaphragm calls in their grab bags of springtime tricks. Box calls work well for grabbing the attention of distant birds, and work well on windy days when you need more sound to be heard. They are loud and easy to use.
Diaphragm and slate calls take a little finesse and practice to master. But they can produce a variety of subtle turkey sounds that will bring gobblers into shooting range.
Some of the best calls in the business are handmade by David Halloran Turkey Calls.
One trick that can be extremely effective is simply giving a long beard that’s fired up the silent treatment. Sometimes not calling at all is the ticket to success. Once he’s clearly locked onto your turkey talk, put the call down and let him come find you.
A comfortable turkey vest with a seat can make long days in the turkey woods much easier on your body. I’ve been using the ALPS OutdoorZ Grand Slam Turkey Vest, and it’s an absolute game changer. It has plenty of storage for calls and other gear, plus it comes with a detachable seat cushion that sports adjustable folding legs for added comfort and back support. You can forget about sitting on the wet, hard ground when you’re using this vest.
A pop-up or ground blind can be extremely effective for bow hunters. The blind provides enough concealment to get away with the movement necessary to draw a bow when a gobbler is no more than 10 or 15 yards away.
I’ve been bowhunting turkeys from a Primos Double Bull ground blind for years. It’s easy to set up, durable and gets the job done.
Decoys are essential to hunting from a blind because they help draw the turkeys in front of the shooting window.
Decoys also help captivate turkeys enough to ignore the fact there’s a blind sitting where there usually isn’t one. I’ve set up blinds in the middle of a flat field numerous times and successfully harvested gobblers. The birds didn’t even seem to notice the blind because they were too focused on interacting with my decoys.
In addition to the aforementioned gear and strategies, turkey hunters will need a shotgun and shells, or a bow and some arrows, along with determination to put a tag on a mature long beard this spring. Chasing the thunder of the woods can be frustrating at times, but when it all comes together, the encounter is 100 percent worth the effort.