So you’re comfortable calling yourself a turkey hunter. You’ve selected your shotgun and pinned down that “season appropriate” camouflage pattern. Now you’ve got to think hunting tactics. Camouflage is the pole position (one for those NASCAR fans) of turkey hunting tactics but it is only part of the art of concealment. We look for camo that allows us to blend with our environment like a chameleon and also practical and functional in any and all situations. But what do you do if you are unable to sit stone still for hours on end (be it because you’re new to hunting or you’ve just got ants in your pants), or if you have a young hunter with you? You strive for physical concealment.
Turkeys have extraordinary vision and can detect the slightest movement. It doesn’t matter how statuesque you’ve been for the past three hours, if you shift because of that rock jabbing into your rear end and you hear a hen sound the, “Putt!,” well that’s the end of your hunt. You forget to get your box call out of your pocket or you reach to put your diaphragm call in your mouth, you hear that “Putt!” and your hunt is over. You move your shotgun to sight down the barrel in a slightly different direction and you hear that same “Putt!” and the hunt is over. Yes, the slightest movement can wreck a whole day of hunting that you just sacrificed a vacation day for.
Obviously, the solution to this problem is not your camouflage. It is the actual physical concealment of your movement that will allow an otherwise disrupted hunt to be one that ends with you hauling a 20-pound bird over your shoulder.
Ideally, when we are doing our pre-season and pre-hunt scouting, we will identify areas that we want to set up in to hunt. At that time go ahead and arrange brush, limbs, and whatever natural materials are available, into a barrier that you can comfortably settle in behind to hunt. It is amazing at how welcome just a small area of concealment can be when all you need to do is scratch a maddening itch on your knee. Carry some brush clippers or a small hand saw with you in the field to help build your concealed position. Commonly available olive drab paracord or 550 cord is a staple material for building structures in the field.
Building your hunting sites before the hunt allows for several things: First, those birds frequenting the area will notice it, satisfy their curiosity and eventually ignore it. Ignoring the hide is exactly what we want, especially once a hunter is sitting in it. Second, you will have a positively identified position to hunt from. You won’t need to wander around looking for a place to set up and possibly alert the turkey. Third, it is one less thing to worry about, which is guaranteed to make the hunt more enjoyable.
Another option for concealment is the portable concealment such as drapes, nets and cloths. These are usually very lightweight, patterned in popular and appropriate camouflage and can be rolled up and placed in a roomy pocket or daypack. Systems usually come with string or stakes and small poles to set them up in the woods. You’ll still need to place limbs or brush of some sort around them to break up the outline but they are a good base cover for a hunter to sit or crouch behind them. Many have cut-out leaf patterns that will move with a breeze giving that extra bit of added realism.
The cream of the crop in concealment is the portable blind, readily available from most outdoor retailers. These blinds are available in a variety of sizes, shapes, patterns, and hit every stop on the line in terms of ease of use. There are those that require 60 seconds to put up and there are those that require the flick of a wrist to erect. Which you choose is strictly based on personal preference and the thickness of your wallet.
By some miracle of nature, spring-time wild turkeys are ordinarily oblivious to these blinds. They seem to look right past them. It is ideal to install a blind days or weeks before a hunt because turkeys will notice new additions to their environment. They may be curious at first and keep a watchful eye on the blind but eventually they will ignore it completely. Having said that, it is still possible to have a very successful hunt from a blind placed just thirty minutes before you fire a shot.
Remember, the purpose of a blind is to “blind” the game to your position through concealment, which is achieved by removing the human shape from the scene. Many blinds have closeable windows on all sides. Ideally you want the interior of a blind to remain dark so that the turkey cannot see inside. To do this you want to open viewing ports and windows as little as possible to allow you to see out but not allow the turkey to see inside. A Cardinal Rule here is you never want a window to be open behind you as you look out another—it will throw your silhouette against the light and send the bat-signal out to any observant gobblers.
As with all hunting, location of the blind is important. You would not want to place it in the middle of an open field. Inside the edge of a tree line, against a hedge row, amid brush and weeds, and under overhanging limbs are ideal places for a blind. Once you select your spot and set up your blind, take a few minutes to arrange the blind so it won’t shift if bumped or picked up by the wind. Also, clean out the inside of the blind. Leaves on the ground inside the blind still make noise when stepped on and can give away your position.
It is useful, especially during the spring season to utilize decoys for turkeys. Many are available and in addition to drawing turkey to you, they keep the turkeys distracted and so add to the concealment concept. Many decoys are available including toms, hens, mating pairs, jakes, and toms in full strut. The most effective decoys that I have ever witnessed blended artificial and real elements. One was a plastic tom in full strut, but incorporated a real fanned turkey tail. The other, most effective, was a full body mount tom turkey. Obviously the real turkey made the best decoy but it was difficult transporting into the field and the owner did worry about moisture doing damage to it.
Camouflage well, conceal well and be patient. Combine these elements with other tactics such as game calling and accurate shot placement and you can have a very successful turkey hunt.