Richard Douglas is a firearms expert and educator. Richard's work has been featured in large gun publications such as The National Interest, Daily Caller, American Shooting Journal, SOFREP and more. In his free time, Richard enjoys reviewing various optics and guns on his Scopes Field blog.
Wild turkeys have keen eyesight, so you will want to conceal your movements as much as possible while out hunting.
A good camo pattern for the terrain you are hunting is essential. So, make sure that whatever you wear conceals your hands, neck, and face, because a turkeys spook at the slightest movements.
Staying concealed on your turkey hunts is critical when turkey hunting and could be the difference between bagging a tom or coming home empty-handed.
Of course, unless you’re Chuck Norris, you won’t be bagging that turkey with your bare hands. So, you’ll need to have and be proficient with a bow or shotgun before heading to the turkey woods.
If you choose a bow, whether it be a compound, recurve, crossbow, or even a traditional archery bow, make your choice something you are comfortable shooting from a seated position, as most turkey hunts happen from the ground.
Even if you have become an expert at harvesting trophy deer or other animals, you must realize that turkeys can still be a difficult animal to hunt and kill. Heading out on a scouting trip before the big hunt can be crucial to your success.
So when it comes to scouting, knowing what to look for can help you determine if turkeys are frequenting your property and if so, where they are the most active.
Knowing what turkey sign looks like is a great start for determining if turkeys are active on the property you will be hunting. After all, you can wear camo from head to toe, put on face paint, and be as still as a statue, but if you don’t have turkeys on the land you’re hunting, well, at least you enjoyed being outside.
Here are some types of sign to look for when scouting for turkeys:
Turkey tracks: Tracks can certainly help you identify where a turkey has been, but you also want to figure out where it went and when, so hopefully you can intercept one on the next trip there.
Feathers: It might seem obvious, but turkey feathers are a great indicator that there are, or have been, turkeys in the vicinity. So keep an eye out for the feathers, especially if roosting trees are in the vicinity. You may have turkeys nearby.
Turkey droppings: Turkey droppings can be J-shaped (often a tom) or in a spiral shape or a “blob” (usually indicating a hen) in a variety of . But, if you find fresh droppings, that’s a good sign that a turkey is nearby.
Scratching: Be sure to pay close attention to the ground as you walk through wooded areas, as turkeys will scratch the ground. They do this to look for insects as well as other types of food, like acorns. Scratching can be a great clue to whether turkeys are frequenting and feeding in wooded areas on the property you will be hunting.
Dusting Areas: Turkeys like to roll belly down in loose soil or sand to clean their feathers and will leave behind distinct areas of disturbed terrain along logging roads or under standing pines.
To be successful in turkey hunting, many hunters rely on calling to help bring the birds within shooting range.
Calls work by replicating a wild turkey’s natural vocalization. Turkeys of all ages and genders produce various types of yelps and calls.
Box, slate, mouth, diaphragm, and locator calls (like crow and owl calls) are all different options a hunter can choose from. However, beginners usually find a box calls as one of the easier ones to get consistent sounds.
A box call is used by scraping a paddle bottom along the side of the box panel’s lip. The hollow inside chamber provides a distinct note that appeals to the birds.
Here are a few tips to remember when calling turkeys:
Practice, practice, practice: As a new turkey hunter, it’s important to learn basic calls like the cluck, cut and the yelp. Learn all you can about making these turkey vocalizations as life-like as possible.
Get real: Turkeys aren’t all that different from people in that they don’t always sound exactly the same. Mix in some varying cadences in your calling. There’s nothing more unnatural (or annoying) than a “turkey” that makes the exact same sound for the same amount of time, every single time it calls. Turkeys can be extremely wary, so don’t let your calling be one of the reasons. Mix things up.
Keep it short: Keep your call series brief. You won’t be able to hear a tom gobble in response in you are yelping your head off! Listening is as important as calling, so keep thing short and stayed tuned in.
That’s it, nice and soft: If you notice that you have a tom’s attention with your calling, don’t keep calling at the same volume. Change your calling to softer clucks and purrs and see if you can smooth-talk him into range.
Sometimes less is more: Turkeys will be wary if you call too much, so make sure not to call too often. Sometimes the best thing to do after calling is not to call again. A tom may get worried that his mate-in-waiting has decided to leave and he’ll want to find her!
Another way to attract turkeys is by using a decoy. Turkeys are territorial, so if a gobbler happens to see a hen decoy or another jake or tom infringing on their territory, he is sure to take notice.
There are many price ranges of turkey hunting decoys on the market. Spend the extra money to get the most realistic ones you can afford.
When turkey hunting with decoys, here are a few tips that are helpful to know:
Decoy transportation: Be sure to carry your decoys head down in a bag. In the event another hunter is in your area and thinks the decoys are real turkeys, it could lead to a terrible injury or even death. Safety first!
Use a hen and a jake decoy: A gobbler will be attracted to a hen, (and mad if it sees a young male turkey trying to steal his girl!)
Close but not too close: Be sure your decoys are close enough so that if a tom gets hung up on the far side of them, he is still close enough to shoot and kill. But, they also need to be far enough away so that your gun’s shot pattern can open up. Setting up decoys at about 15 yards is a good rule of thumb.
Placement is key: When setting up your decoys, ask yourself, “could a turkey see these from a long way off?” If the answer is no, then consider repositioning. The last thing you want is to call and have a tom come in and not see what he was looking for and leave… heartbreak city! Setting up your decoys in the open will also allow other hunters to identify them as decoys, so that they don’t attempt to shoot in your direction.
Don’t skimp: If you’ve walked the hunting aisles at your local sporting good store, you have probably noticed that there are are many different brands of turkey decoys (and several price points). Get the most realistic you can for your money. A life-like decoy could be the difference between getting that tom in close enough to shoot and watching him run off to be hunted another day. Spend the money and get good decoys.
If you are fairly certain of a tom’s presence in the area, and have an idea of where he is going to be, and you want to sit moderately comfortably while you wait, a blind may be a good option.
Ground blind hunting can work well in clearings, field edges and ridges and is a good option if hunting with youngsters.
Turkey blinds are also a good option if you are hunting with kids. It’s a little easier to get away with movement if you are in a blind. So, if you or the youngsters are a little fidgety, a blind might be a good option.
Even if you are hunting from a blind, it’s still a good idea to wear dark clothing and a mask or face paint that will blend into the darkness of the inside of the blind.
You can set up your blind on a field edge or ridge. Blinds can work great when using decoys as well.
When it comes to turkey hunting, “running and gunning” can be a very exciting and effective way to bag a gobbler.
Basically, it means that a hunter will not be stationary, as if he/she were in a blind or sitting at the base of a tree. Rather, the hunter will try to locate turkeys by walking short distances, watching, calling, and listening for turkeys.
So, if the hunter calls and hears a gobble, the next step is to try and pinpoint the location of the tom and get as close as possible and get set-up in order (at the base of a tree, for example) to make a good shot on the bird.
“Running and gunning” for turkeys is quite the rush, but can leave you scrambling to find adequate cover that is close enough to get a shot on a tom.
Much like hunting from the base of a tree, you need to use the available natural cover and also be sure to wear as much camo clothing as possible, including face mask/paint, camo shoes/boots, etc.
Once you have located a tom, be sure to set up where you will have a shooting lane toward the bird’s expected travel path. It’s important to always be sure of where you are aiming and shooting.
If you cannot clearly identify the bird, do not shoot. Never shoot into brush or an area where you cannot clearly see the target. Safety first!
Get Out And Go!
Hopefully these turkey hunting tips will help you progress from a beginner into a seasoned and successful turkey hunter.
When it comes to bow hunting, unless you shoot a long bow, there are two options to choose from: compound bows and recurve bows.
But what’s the difference between the two? And which one is right for you?
Well, I’ve taken a close look at both compound and recurve bows and put together this article to help answer those questions.
Let’s get started!
First, let’s take a closer look at both types of bows.
On a basic level, a bow stores mechanical energy in it’s limbs as you draw back on the string, and then releases that energy when you let go of the arrow. Traditional longbows are limited in their range and power, which is where recurve and compound bows come in.
Simply put, a recurve bow is a longbow where the limbs curve away from the archer at the tips.
The limbs of a recurve bow curve back away from the archer; thus the name “recurve.”
This additional curve allows for a higher draw strength, which in turn increases your range and power with the bow versus longbows with no “re-curve.”
With a recurve bow, all of the draw weight is held by the archer. So, a recurve bow with a 70-pound draw weight requires that the archer holds that 70 pounds back until they release the arrow.
At full draw, the full weight of the bow’s draw weight is held by the archer. (Photography by Southwest Archery)
But, compound bows are a bit different…
Compound bows, like this one pictured from Prime Archery, have “cams” that look somewhat like wheels on either end of the bow.
Compound bows use a system of wheels (known as “cams”) to literally compound the force of the draw.
Basically, this means that once you get the string about 3/4 of the way drawn back, the cams take over and do the heavy lifting for you. Unlike recurve bows, you aren’t left holding the full draw weight while you aim a compound bow. This reduction in draw forces is known as “let-off.”
The cams of a compound bow, like this one pictured above, literally “compound” the force of the drawback by the archerand also provides “let-off.”
Let-off works like this:
Let’s say you have an compound bow with a 50% let-off that is set to a 70-lb draw weight. This means that you’ll draw back 70 pounds, but once the let-off of the cams engage, you’ll only be holding 35 pounds. Then, when you release, the bow will fire at all 70 pounds because of the cams.
A compound bow’s “let-off” allows the archer to keep the bow at full draw without having to hold the full weight of the bow’s draw weight.
The answer to which bow type is better depends. So, let’s break it down by category.
Repeatability is important to accuracy in any shooting sport, and archery is no different. This means that the archer must replicate factors like draw distance and release, and these can be tricky to get right on a recurve bow, since the archer is holding the full weight of the draw while trying to aim.
For that reason, compound bows are much easier to be precise with.
Generally, most recurve and compound bows top out at 70 lbs of draw weight. You’d think this means they would both have the same amount of power, but actually, the sudden acceleration from the cams unwinding on a compound bow adds a little bit more power to the shot.
On a long hunt, a lightweight bow will be your best friend. The cams and extra string to run them make compound bows heavier than their more traditional counterparts.
Since they don’t have any moving parts, recurve bows require very little maintenance to stay in top working condition. On the other hand, compound bows require more maintenance to keep the cam wheels working correctly.
There are all sorts of gadgets and doodads out there for the prospective archer to add to his bow. Not all recurve bows are made to allow for attachments, although some are.
On the other hand, compound bows are built to accept all sorts of accessories like sights, stabilizers, quivers, and more. Compound bows are sort of the AR-15 of the archery world: you can trick them out with all kinds of fancy add-ons, if you feel so inclined.
Recurve bows are generally less expensive to buy than compound bows. This is because the moving parts and additional assembly required to make a compound bow increases that cost.
I can tell you that my aging shoulders prefer the assistance of the let-off of a compound bow these days. But, there’s something to be said for the feeling I’d get as a youngster, stalking prey through the woods with nothing but my recurve and a handful of arrows.
Whitetails are generally found in the middle and Eastern U.S., extending both North and South of the border. But, whitetail are remarkable at adapting, and thrive in all kinds of environments, from swamps to forests to grasslands.
Typically, mule deer like higher territory in the mountains and are found in the central and western parts of the US, Canada, and Mexico. However, the territories of the two breeds overlap greatly. Therefore, geography can’t be relied on as a great indicator of whether that deer you see off in the distance is a mule deer or a whitetail.
Size is another characteristic where there is overlap between mule deer and whitetail. Size can vary depending on geographic location, available food sources and habitat.
According to the National Wildlife Federation, typical mule deer weights range from 130-280 pounds. However, In rare cases, very large mule deer can tip the scales at 450+ pounds.
Whitetail deer are generally smaller in average weight, averaging around 90-220 pounds, but those big bucks can, in rare cases, come in near 400 pounds.
With size varying so much based on diet, age, and location, it is impossible to tell a whitetail from a mule deer based on size alone. Even characteristics like hoofprints are not distinguishable between the two.
Now that we’ve covered some basic characteristics of whitetail and mule deer, let’s look at some differences between mule deer and whitetail that can help you distinguish between the two.
If you look more closely at the face, whitetails have more solid-colored brown heads with white around the eyes and often a white patch under the jaw at the top of the neck. (Rare genetic mutations like piebaldism can affect the amount of white markings).
Mule deer (sometimes referred to as muleys) have a lighter top bridge of the nose, with a darker forehead above the eyes. These are the general colorings, but each individual deer is different and color can change with weather, age, and location. Because of this, you can’t rely on coloring alone to distinguish between the two.
With so many similarities between whitetail and mule deer, there are a few key differences to look for when peering at them through your scope or binoculars.
One is the ears.
True to their name, mule deer have larger ears relative to the size of their head. They are also often more pointed and angle slightly more to the sides than the whitetail deer.
It is tough to compare the angle of the ears as deer have a habit of always moving them. So, try to look at the size of the ears as one indication to identify mule deer from whitetails.
While the ears are one of the differentiating characteristics on the head of these animals, the other end of the animal has a great defining characteristic as well.
Mule deer have a white colored rump that is almost always visible. They have a skinny rope-like tail tail, often with a black tip.
Whitetail deer on the other hand, have a more brownish rump and outside of the tail when relaxed. If a whitetail is startled, however, that wide flap of a tail lifts showing a bright white underside as a “flag” to warn other deer of possible danger, thus the name “whitetail deer.”
Whitetail males have one main “trunk” or beam on their antlers with the tines all coming from that main stem.
Mule deer, however, have a main trunk that branches in two before forking into tines. Because of this, the mule deer’s antlers often look taller and more upright compared to the forward “hug” of a white tail’s rack.
The difference in antler structure between whitetails and mule deer is something a trained eye can pick up. However, some individual antlers can be too small or even grow oddly, so make sure to look for other characteristics too.
The way these two types of deer typically run can be a clear distinguishing characteristic of whitetail and mule deer.
When fleeing, a whitetail has a typical run or gallop, similar in style to a horse. They may bound over fences or obstacles, but in general they have a quick, fluid motion.
Mule deer on the other hand, often flee with a stodgy hopping motion called stotting. All four hooves contact and push off the ground at once like springs, bouncing across the terrain again and again until slowing to a trot.
So, make sure that when you are trying to identify a mule deer versus a whitetail, that you compare multiple characteristics.
There are many similarities, and even the distinguishing traits can vary based on age, location, nutrition, and time of year. One can easily be mistaken for the other. Even some of the sounds these deer make can be similar.
So, be sure you know the differences – some subtle and some more pronounced – so you can easily tell the difference between the two.