Turkey Hunting Mistakes | Lessons Learned for Next Year

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As the sun sets on the last day of Wisconsin’s spring turkey season, I find it hard not to reflect on the most eventful season I’ve experienced. Having three tags in my pocket for three completely different times of the year made for my busiest, most exciting, yet most disappointing season ever.

What Went Right

On April 23rdI headed to a blind overlooking a small clover food plot tucked away in the timber. Knowing this spot had a few toms passing through, I placed my full strut tom and hen decoy in a position that allowed anything that entered the field to see them. The setup worked as planned, and after watching a harem of hens parade into the food plot, it wasn’t long until I had my pick between three gobblers that were drawn to the commotion.

The decoy spread that featured a strutting tom as the focal point worked like a charm as the trio made their way to challenge it. The plan could not have been drawn up any better, and after the gobblers passed by at 15 yards and a well-placed Bloodsport arrow, I wrapped my tag around my first bird of the season.

What Went Wrong

This list could go on for many, many paragraphs, but to avoid hurting my credibility too much, I’ll keep it short. After the success I experienced with my strutting tom and attractive hen duo, it quickly became my go-to setup for the remainder of the season. Turkey season lasts almost a month and a half in Wisconsin, and a lot can change in that time.

Early May brought my second hunt of the year. Set up on a ridge that my Moultrie Trail Cameras showed a pair of toms frequenting, I made a few yelps on my slate call and immediately heard a close gobble. After a few more light scratches on my call, a tom was walking right into my decoys.

As I worried about getting my video camera pointed in the right direction to capture the shot, I began to panic. The bird was closing the distance and I thought he would see me fidgeting at any second. I eventually found the bird in the viewfinder, pulled up the gun, and fired a column of Longbeard XR #5. The bird flipped and I ran up to claim what I thought was surely a dead tom.

What I didn’t realize in the midst of the chaos was that I took my face off the stock just before the shot, resulting in a shot over the bird’s head. The footage confirmed my suspicion. The shot was high and the bird escaped untouched. This lesson is an easy one; take your time.

As the season drew to an end, I set up for a desperation evening hunt in a valley that allowed birds to see my suspicious setup from nearly 1,000 yards away. After waiting only 45 minutes, three hens came into view. The rolling terrain prohibited them from seeing my decoys until they were about 150 yards away. As soon as they caught a glimpse, they perked up to an alert position, made a few clucks, and headed for cover.

I should have pulled the decoys at that point, but instead decided to leave them out. Keeping my decoys in front of me kept more birds from breaking into shooting range of my Remington 870.

Lessons Learned

Much like deer hunting, strategies for turkey hunting change as the season progresses. Tactics that worked well the first week of the season likely won’t have the same effect on birds later. Strategies such as solo hen decoys or convincing a buddy to call from a position that puts you between the birds and him can pay dividends as seasons come to an end.

The old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” doesn’t apply to turkey hunting. Just because a tactic worked once doesn’t mean it will work again. Its a game of constant change, and your strategies should reflect that as well.


Originally published at www.buckadvisor.com on June 12, 2014.

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