Wild turkey hunting tips

Both new and experienced hunters can benefit from the safety information and hunting tips on this page.
Firearm for turkey hunting with green safety sticker

Safety tips

The wild turkey has a keen sense of sight and can easily detect movement and colors that are out of place in the woods, making the use of complete camouflage or drab colored clothing almost a must. Camouflage not only reduces the turkey's chance of seeing the hunter, but also has the same effect on other hunters. Hunters can be mistaken for turkeys and accidents can happen. Most turkey hunting accidents occur when hunters sneak up on (stalk) other hunters who are calling and when people wear turkey colors (red, white, blue, and black) in the field. Remember these tips: 

  • Be completely sure of your target and what is beyond it before you shoot. Always practice firearm safety.
  • Don't stalk turkey sounds; it could be another hunter. Sit or stand and call the birds to you.
  • Do not wear red, white, blue, or black; these colors are associated with male turkeys.
  • Protect your back. Set up against a large tree or rack and make sure your view isn't obstructed. Don't hide in a place with an obstructed view.
  • Do not place decoys too close to where you set up. Never carry an exposed decoy or tail fan while hunting; put them in a bag when carrying them in or out of hunting locations. 
  • Consider wearing hunter orange when entering or leaving your hunting area.
  • Remember to place an official green safety sticker on your firearm positioned so you can see it when sighting down the barrel. For a new or replacement sticker, visit any MassWildlife office or send a self-addressed stamped envelope to: MassWildlife, 1 Rabbit Hill Road, Westborough, MA 01581.

Hunting tips

Tips for pre-season

  • Spend time identifying active gobblers a week before the season. Turkeys will move a lot weeks before the opening of the season. The birds you saw displaying or heard gobbling in early April may have moved elsewhere by late April.
    • If you wish to scout early, focus on identifying new parcels to hunt. You can do this by:
      • Securing permission from the landowner.
      • Identifying parking and access locations.
      • Checking local bylaws relative to hunting or private property access.
  • Some locations attract turkeys during the hunting season each year, but others are less predictable. It pays to scout close to the beginning of the season to determine which locales have turkeys.
  • Avoid calling turkeys during the pre-season to locate gobblers. Rather, look for scat, feathers, scratching in the leaf litter or other signs of turkey activity.
  • Once you locate one or more gobblers, it is best to determine their roosting areas. Gobblers are most vocal before sunrise and sunset. These times are your best bet for scouting them in the field.
  • Pattern your shotgun before the season to determine which load will work best at various ranges.

Tips during spring season

  • In the spring hunting season, many hunters try to roost a gobbler the night before they hunt him. The next morning, try to set up early within 100 to 150 yards of where the bird roosted and before he starts gobbling. 
    • Call the gobbler to you, don't stalk it. Stalking can lead to hunting accidents.
    • Select a calling position with your back against a tree or other natural obstacle large enough to cover your human outline.
    • Keep good visibility so you can see turkeys and other hunters approaching your position. Some hunters tie bright survey tape to a branch above their position to alert other hunters of their presence.
    • Respect the other hunter. Don't approach areas where other hunters are working birds. Don't get between another hunter and a bird.
  • Be patient, often gobblers will be unresponsive to your calls in the early morning when they are with hens. Those same birds can become very active and callable in the late morning.
  • Hunt in the rain. Many turkey hunters don’t like hunting in the rain, but turkeys are active rain or shine. During rainy days, focus your efforts in open hay fields or agricultural areas, as turkeys prefer these openings when it’s wet.
  • If a turkey does appear, identify your target and what is beyond it. In the spring season you can only harvest a bearded turkey in Massachusetts.Know how to identify the sex of the turkey by: head color, body color, and make sure it has a beard before you shoot. Make sure other turkey hunters are not in line with your targeted bird and that no other hunters are behind your intended target.
  • If another hunter does approach your position, remain still and call out to him in a loud voice. Do not wave or use your turkey call to get another hunter's attention.
  • Know your shooting range and make sure the gobbler is within distance before you shoot.
  • Don’t disregard the late season. Although breeding activity is declining, there are still a lot of active gobblers around.

Tips for fall season

Successful fall hunting often requires more scouting to locate birds and pattern their movements. In the fall, some hunters will roost turkeys and try to call them when they come off roost, or they will scatter a flock off the roost when feeding. They then pick a spot to sit near the break-up point and start calling for about 10 to 15 minutes, unless they hear calling before that. The best call to use in this situation would be the lost call of a young turkey, also called the Kee-Kee run. Another good call is the assembly yelp of the adult hen. Once you get a response from a bird, try to imitate the sound the bird is making.

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