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13 Turkey Hunting Tips: How To Turkey Hunt Like a Pro

WriterAubrey McShan
27 min read
Man and woman use a rangefinder while they turkey hunt in the cold

Struggling to bag that prized wild turkey? Don't fall prey to their keen eyesight and quick wit. For many hunters, it's those two things that really make hunting them so challenging.

To successfully hunt these birds, you'll need the right know-how and a lot of patience. Our experts share their favorite turkey hunting tips so you can start hunting with confidence.

Key Takeaways

  • Turkey Hunting Tips for Beginners: Embark on your first turkey hunting expedition armed with essential tips that optimize your chances for success.
  • How To Hunt Turkey: Discover the step-by-step guide to hunting turkeys. We walk you through each step you should consider before you leave on your next turkey hunting trip.
  • 5 Types of Wild Turkeys: Learning all you can about the type of turkeys you're trapping can give you an advantage.

Turkey Hunting Tips for Beginners

Whether you're completely new to the turkey hunting adventure or you've clocked in some time with your friends, knowing the basics always helps out in a pinch! That's why we recommend the following turkey hunting tips that every hunter should know:

  1. Learn All You Can About Wild Turkeys: Study turkey behavior, feeding habits, mating rituals, and common roosting spots to predict their movements.
  2. Know Your Area's Public Land Hunting Regulations: Check local wildlife agency guidelines for specific hunting seasons, permissible hours, bag limits, and area-specific rules.
  3. Pattern the Wild Turkeys Before You Hunt: Observe turkeys in your hunting area to identify preferred feeding grounds, watering holes, and roosting spots.
  4. Know that Turkey Hunting Is Hard, But Rewarding: Turkey hunting can be challenging, but patience and effort can result in a thrilling and fulfilling experience.
  5. Pattern Your Gun Before You Head Out: Test your gun's accuracy with your turkey loads to ensure a clean, ethical shot when hunting.
  6. Diversify Your Turkey Calls: Master various turkey calls, like yelps, cuts, and purrs, to attract turkeys effectively.
  7. Practice Turkey Calling a Lot: Practice makes perfect; consistently practicing your calls will improve your calling skills and turkey interaction.
  8. Stay Silent & Don't Move: Staying still and silent is critical; turkeys have acute hearing, and any movement can scare them off.
  9. Know that Turkeys Have Impeccable Vision: Turkeys possess incredible vision; camouflaging yourself effectively can make the difference between success and failure.
  10. Prepare To Shoot Before You Start Calling: Get ready to shoot before you call. Turkeys can quickly respond and appear sooner than expected.
  11. Find Where They Roost: Identifying roosting spots will help determine where to set up your blind for the hunt.
  12. Stay Patient While You Hunt & Wait: Patience is key. Hunting requires long waits; successful hunters know to wait for the right moment.
  13. Get as Close as You Can: Approach turkeys carefully and get as close as possible before making your shot to ensure accuracy.

1: Learn All You Can About Wild Turkeys

Wild turkeys (toms & jakes) strut around a large open field with a fence and trees in the background

As a hunter, there's no such thing as knowing too much about your quarry — and that goes double for hunting turkey. Good news: you're in the right place to start your studying!

To maximize your chances of a successful turkey hunt, it's critical to equip yourself with knowledge before you embark on your first hunt:

  • Turkey Behavior: Understand the habits and routines of turkeys, including their feeding times and mating rituals. This may vary by which state you hunt in and which species you plan to hunt.
  • Turkey Sounds: Learn to identify different turkey calls and what they signify.
  • Local Hunting Regulations: Familiarize yourself with local hunting laws and seasons.
  • Wild Turkey Species: Know the different species of wild turkeys and their unique characteristics.
  • Safe Hunting Practices: Brush up on hunter safety practices like proper gun handling and shooting protocols.
  • Turkey Habitat: Learn about the preferred habitats of turkeys in your hunting area.
  • Turkey Hunting Gear: Understand the appropriate gear for turkey hunting, including clothing, weapons, and calls.
  • Turkey Hunting Tactics: Study various hunting strategies like setting up blinds and decoys, and calling techniques.
  • Tracking and Scouting: Learn to interpret signs of turkey activity like tracks, droppings, and roosting sites.
  • Field Dressing a Turkey: Understand the proper method for field dressing a turkey post-harvest to ensure meat preservation.

2: Know Your Area's Public Land Hunting Regulations

North American wild turkeys displaying and showing off to the female hens during their winter mating season

Check with your local game and fish department to see if they offer a course and if there are any rules specific to your local public land like:

  • How many turkeys you can bag
  • Exact turkey hunting season dates
  • Whether or not you can use electronic calls (or calls at all)
  • Which types of turkeys you can bag
  • If you need to wear blaze orange
  • If you need a hunting license, permit, or other documents

Expert Tip:

You can pick up a hunting license at your local Academy Sports + Outdoors store if it's required for your state.

3: Pattern the Wild Turkeys Before You Hunt

When hunting season arrives, knowing where to look and what to listen for can increase your chances of success! Complete beginners should understand that turkeys have daily patterns:

  • They typically roost in trees at night
  • They usually fly down at dawn to feed
  • They often return to the roost at dusk

Pay attention to the types of food sources in the area. Turkeys eat food like acorns, seeds, small insects, and even small reptiles. Areas rich in these food sources are likely turkey hotspots.

Observing turkeys from a distance, without disturbing them, can also reveal their preferred routes and travel patterns. Look for signs of turkey activity like tracks, droppings, and feathers.

Expert Tip:

If you think you've found areas where turkeys are active (but are still unsure), you can always set up game cameras to further document their patterns.

4: Know that Turkey Hunting Is Hard, But Rewarding

Whether or not you've hunted, it takes a lot of patience and skill to bag a bird. Turkey hunting has a narrower margin of error:

  • You must shoot a turkey in one place (the head) from close range.
  • You must call them toward you, which takes practice to learn.

It can take all day, from tailing them in the mornings to waiting for them to roost in the evenings. But the result of that hard work is a satisfaction all its own, so don't let that scare you off!

5: Pattern Your Gun Before You Head Out

If you choose to turkey hunt with a shotgun, you can pattern it before you hunt! Testing the effectiveness of your gun and ammo combination helps you find the perfect load that shoots accurately with your exact weapon.

  • Make sure your gun is shooting where you're aiming and that the pattern of the pellets is consistently the same number of shells within a given space.
  • Bring a rangefinder when you hunt to ensure you don't shoot beyond your effective range.

Expert Tip:

Shotgun patterning is the spread of shot pellets fired from a shotgun shell. The size and density of the pattern depend on factors such as distance from the target, type of shotgun, a shotgun's choke, and type of ammunition used.

Wild tom turkeys strutting a mating dance with their tail feathers fanned out

6: Diversify Your Turkey Calls

Wild turkeys produce various types of calls throughout the day, and these calls can vary more noticeably or subtly depending on the species. As a beginner, diversifying your call repertoire will help you adapt to different situations in the field.

There are four common turkey calls used for different scenarios. Start by familiarizing yourself with them:

  • The yelp (a communication call)
  • The cutt (a locator call)
  • The purr (a call of contentment)
  • The cluck (a call for contact)

Turkey calling is an art form. It's not just about making the right sounds. You'll have to adjust the volume, rhythm, and pitch based on the situations or hunting conditions. Practice your calls frequently to ensure you can perform them correctly under the pressure of a real hunt.

As a beginner, you might find it helpful to carry an assortment of turkey calls with you. Box calls, slate calls, and diaphragm calls are the most popular choices. Each produces a slightly different sound and can be effective under different conditions.

Don't forget to practice proper call etiquette. Overcalling can make turkeys suspicious, so use your calls sparingly and wisely. The key is to sound as natural as possible - after all, you're trying to mimic a real turkey.

Expert Tip:

Call lightly at first and progressively get louder. Once a turkey starts moving your way, sit back in silence and wait for it to come to you. If the bird stops or hangs back, start your calling again.

7: Practice Turkey Calling a Lot

The more you practice, the more authentic you'll sound and the more comfortable you'll get — eventually fooling even the wisest turkey. Listen to real turkey sounds (not people simply impersonating turkeys) to get an ear for their calls.

Expert Tip:

If you're using a diaphragm and it feels too bulky, you can trim the tape skirt and/or bend the frame to better fit your mouth and create a better air seal.

Wild turkey tom gobbles at something in the distance during the day in an open field

8: Stay Silent & Don't Move

  • Head into an area around the middle of the afternoon when you know the turkeys will be gone, and sit quietly.
  • The birds will return, fly up and reposition themselves from branch to branch — this will be very noisy, so remain in position and stay quiet.
  • When they're settled in, wait until it gets dark and then sneak out.
  • The next morning, wake well before daybreak, slink back into your spot from the previous day, and get as close as you can, making sure not to spook the birds.

9: Know that Turkeys Have Impeccable Vision

Turkeys can't see long distances, but they have keen eyesight up close. They have a wide field of view due to their side-mounted eyes. This means they can see almost 360 degrees just by moving their head slightly.

Wild turkeys can and will spot things as small as sunlight reflecting off your zipper or shotgun muzzle. Absolute concealment during the hunt is critical.

To outsmart a turkey's keen vision, remember these tips:

  • Camouflage is Key: Wear full-body camouflage, including gloves, mask, and hat. This helps you blend in with your surroundings and reduces the chance of being spotted.
  • Minimize Reflective Objects: Remove or cover all reflective surfaces, including glasses, watches, and equipment. Even a small glint can alert a turkey.
  • Positioning: Choose a spot that offers a backdrop to hide your silhouette and some coverage on the sides. Sitting against a tree is a common technique.
  • Slow Movements: If you must move, do it slowly. Quick, sudden movements are more likely to be detected.
  • Hide your Gun: Consider a camouflaged shotgun or apply camouflage tape to prevent reflections and blend in better.

Don't underestimate their sight; instead, use this knowledge to your advantage!

10: Prepare To Shoot Before You Start Calling

Take a moment to set yourself up for success before luring a tom in:

  • Set your firearm over your knee with the stock close to your shoulder so you don't have to move a lot to get the shot.
  • Make a plan in case the tom goes a different direction than you're expecting, and know the range of your firearm in relation to your surroundings.

Expert Tip:

Always visually confirm a turkey before shooting. NEVER shoot at movement or a sound.

Man using a rangefinder while hunting wild turkey

11: Find Where They Roost

Like us, turkeys seek out food, water, and shelter. They roost in trees but can thrive in areas with minimal timber (as long as there is enough cover from predators).

  • Lush, green food plots provide greens, insects, and open space for strutting.
  • Hens like to nest on the ground near food sources, so hatching poults will receive ample bugs, plants, and seeds to consume as they grow.
  • During the fall, turkeys will scratch through leaves to find acorns and berries, hunt for waste grain in fields, and search for insects in grassy areas.

12: Stay Patient While You Hunt & Wait

Turkeys are cagey and cautious, so be prepared to wait after a call. In fact, playing a little 'hard to get' can be effective. Build a tom's interest by letting them gobble twice between calls.

Expert Tip:

If you're hunting in the evenings and waiting for them to roost, make a choice of where to wait and stick to it.

13: Get as Close as You Can

Try to move in as close as possible (ideally within 40 yards for a shotgun and within 30 yards for a bow) without being detected before making your first call. With practice, you'll learn how far away a turkey is by looking at it. If you need to reposition yourself, wait until the turkey's view of you is obstructed by a tree or rock or the turkey's own tail fan.

Expert Tip:

As you get used to turkey hunting, you can use a rangefinder to help you gauge your distance and set up your shot for success!

How To Hunt Turkey

You've prepped and packed with the right knowledge and gear. Once you're out in the wild, follow this guide for turkey-hunting success.

Step 1: Know the Types of Wild Turkeys

Turkeys are smart. Their intelligence combined with acute eyesight and cagey demeanor is what makes them so difficult to hunt. There are five types of wild turkeys in the United States:

Eastern Wild Turkey
Eastern Wild Turkey


  • East of the Mississippi
  • Resides in forests and open grasslands


  • Toms: 18-30 lbs
  • Hens: 8-12 lbs


  • Most abundant turkey type
  • Eats insects, tree nuts, and acorns
  • Chestnut-brown tips on tail feathers
  • White and black bars on wings
  • Tend to have longest beards & a strong gobble
Osceola Wild Turkey
Osceola Wild Turkey


  • Only found in central and southern Florida


  • Toms: ~20 lbs
  • Hens: 8-12 lbs


  • Eats lizards, blackberries, and acorns
  • Dark-brown tips on tail feathers
  • Mostly black wing feathers with small bands of white
  • Long legs, long spurs, & strong gobble
  • Considered toughest to call in range
Merriam's Wild Turkey
Merriam's Wild Turkey


  • Mountain regions of the western United States


  • Toms: 18-30 lbs
  • Hens: 8-12 lbs


  • Similar to Rio Grande/overlap regions
  • Light-colored tips on tail feathers (with more white throughout tail fan than the Rio Grande)
  • Short to moderate beard length
  • Weak gobble
Rio Grande Wild Turkey
Rio Grande Wild Turkey


  • South-central plains & western desert regions


  • Toms: ~20 lbs
  • Hens: 8-12 lbs


  • Eats insects, tree nuts, and acorns
  • Unique gobble
  • Tan-colored tips on tail feathers
  • Equal black and white barring on wings
Gould's Wild Turkey
Gould's Wild Turkey


  • Southern Arizona and New Mexico


  • Toms: 18-30 lbs
  • Hens: 12-14 lbs


  • Low Population
  • Snow-white tips on tail feathers
  • Long legs
  • Moderate bear length
  • Moderate gobbles

Step 2: Learn How To Identify a Wild Turkey

Distinguishing between older and younger male and female turkeys is necessary to adhere to your state's regulations. There are limits on how many of each type of turkey you can bag during certain seasons.

  • An adult female turkey
  • Can be visually identified by their dull, gray-brown color
  • They do not have spurs and may rarely have beards
  • Most states ban you from shooting hens in springtime
  • Smaller than male turkeys (weighing between 5-12 lbs)
  • An adult male turkey, usually around 2 years of age
  • Usually have long beards, a strong call, and long spurs
  • Identify them by their bright blue heads, red throats, and white patches on the top and back of their heads
  • Have a full, even fan of tailfeathers
  • Any male turkey under 2 years of age
  • Have short beards (2-3 inches long)
  • Usually have paler heads compared to toms
  • Softer gobbles than toms with a clear drop off
  • Middle tailfeathers longer than the rest of their fan

Step 3: Know the Best Turkey Hunting States

A map of the United States, color-coded by regions in which certain types of turkeys appear.

The United States has plenty of turkey hunting opportunities! You'll find the 5 most popular types of wild turkeys in certain U.S. regions. The following are the best states for hunting specific wild turkey species within each of these regions:

  • Eastern Wild Turkey: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, & Wisconsin
  • Osceola Wild Turkey: Florida
  • Merriam's Wild Turkey: Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, South Dakota, Wyoming
  • Rio Grande Wild Turkey: California, Colorado, Oklahoma, Oregon, & Texas
  • Gould's Wild Turkey: Arizona

Step 4: Know the Best Time to Turkey Hunt

Each state has its own turkey hunting season durations as well as its own bag limit. No matter if you're hunting deer or wild turkey, you should always brush up on your state's exact mandates, limits, and season dates.

Spring Turkey Hunting Tips

  • Every state except Alaska has a spring turkey season
  • Opening days range from the beginning of March to early May.
  • Spring is the time of year when turkeys breed.
  • Toms hunt for a hen and give you a distinct advantage when you hunt in the spring.

Fall Turkey Hunting Tips

  • Only select states allow fall turkey hunting.
  • Some states (like Georgia) don't have a fall season in order to help ensure a healthy population of gobblers and hens for future years.
  • Locating turkeys this time of year can be more challenging.
  • Wild turkeys tend to be more spread out.

Expert Tip:

Although regulations vary, almost every state has a spring turkey hunting season. Currently, 44 states allow fall turkey hunting.

Step 5: Prep & Pack Your Turkey Hunting Gear List

  • Turkey Calls: Box calls, slate calls, and mouth calls are essential to lure turkeys.
  • Camo clothing: Wear camouflage clothing to blend in with your surroundings and avoid detection.
  • Turkey decoys: Use decoys to attract turkeys toward you. A realistic-looking hen decoy can be helpful.
  • Hunting boots: Wear comfortable, waterproof boots to keep your feet dry and warm.
  • Hunting vest: A hunting vest will keep your gear organized and easily accessible.
  • Binoculars: Binoculars will help you spot turkeys from a distance.
  • Hunting knife: A good hunting knife is necessary for field dressing and cleaning your turkey.
  • Rangefinder: A rangefinder will help you accurately measure the distance between you and the turkey, making it easier to take a shot.
  • First aid kit: A basic first aid kit is a must-have in case of any accidents.

Expert Tip:

For our recommendation on what to bring while looking for toms, read our Hunting Gear Checklist.

Step 6: Know What To Wear Turkey Hunting

Because of their keen eyesight, wearing full camo clothing — a coat and pants at the least — is a must when hunting turkeys. Depending on state regulations, you may also be required to wear a certain amount of blaze orange clothing (such as a vest or hat) to help other hunters identify you on the range.

Step 7: Choose Your Weapon

Regardless of whether you choose a shotgun or a bow and arrow, the ultimate goal for turkey hunting is an instant kill.

Swipe Right Icon
Weapon Options for Turkey Hunting
Weapon Pros Cons What to Look For
Bow & Arrow
  • Silent firing
  • More of a challenge for experienced hunters
  • Cleaner harvest
  • Need to hold a draw for longer while waiting for turkeys
  • You need to be closer for an accurate shot
  • Lighter draw weight
  • Higher let-off
  • Shorter axle-to-axle length if you're using a hunting blind
  • Can fire from up to 40 yards away
  • Classic option for all hunters
  • Versatile
  • Shots inside 20 yards causes pellet damage to the meat
  • Heavier to carry than a bow
  • Non-reflective finishes, preferably black or camo
  • Shorter barrel for easier carrying
  • Pistol grip for more comfort

Expert Tip:

You want to aim for the head, where it will disable the central nervous system right away. To achieve this, you'll want a shotgun with a tight, dense shot pattern, or a bow with specialized turkey broadheads.

Next Steps

Turkey hunting can be quite the challenge, but it's certainly rewarding! You now have a wealth of knowledge to improve your chances of success. Put what you've learned to practice. Academy has all the turkey hunting essentials you need both in-store and online.