I feel that what I’ve learned and will learn about turkey hunting is relatively universal to anyone who gets into it. Look with your eyes not your head, find good shaded cover for set ups, know when to call and not to call, etc. Those skills are what every turkey hunter learns one way or another. What I believe is less universal and more valuable are the different ways in which you can learn about turkey hunting. Which my experiences have shown me more than I realized. While my goal for this spring is to become more proficient at my work duties, I knew turkey knowledge and experience would come with it. My hope is that not what I learn but how I learn, will help shorten the learning curve for those brand new and somewhat new to turkey hunting.
Going into our Virginia trip my turkey experience was limited to a few uneventful hunts with my Dad and Uncle when I was younger. I didn’t get into it back then because, in the spring especially, I spent all of my time and energy playing lacrosse. Besides those hunts as a kid I managed to knock down a long beard each of the past two seasons behind my house. They weren’t traditional hunts, but I made it happen in 2020 by cutting off a henned up Tom and waiting for him to walk by. The next year I put more time in the woods by myself, with buddies, and practiced my calling in hopes of getting one fired up like everyone talks about. Instead, I ran into a shy lone Tom working his way up a hedgerow on my way to the top of our hill. After calling to him and realizing he was not in the mood, I jumped into a creek bed and circled about 400 yards out in front of him. I set up and called softly to keep him headed in the right direction and ended up calling a hen to eight yards. We chatted for maybe five minutes before she worked off. Even though he never gobbled, it did keep the long beard on the right course and he slowly closed to 75 yards before he changed his angle forcing me to make a move. I belly crawled to a down tree in the field and got a shot off just before he wandered out of range. That sums up my turkey experience prior to Just Hunt Club. So you can imagine my excitement and anticipation for this spring.
The more obvious ways to learn about turkey hunting are to use the resources you have immediately available. Youtube and Google have endless information, so they can definitely make you a better turkey hunter to an extent. There is also no substitute for practice. You will never become too good at calling, but you can try. This is something every turkey hunter, especially myself, needs to continuously work on.
Then there are the invaluable real life experiences that the woods and people can give you. I know this is much harder for some than others but doing what you can to find someone you can bounce turkey thoughts off and soak up real life experiences from is the most valuable way to learn in my opinion. Having in depth conversations with people who have lived through what you are trying to experience is the best way to connect the dots. That way when you do finally get on a bird and are experiencing all of the different emotions and situations turkeys put you in for maybe the first time ever, you can pull that shared knowledge from whoever mentored you and implement it in the moment with less second guessing and more confidence.
Don’t make talking about turkeys with someone a one and done situation. The more questions you ask, the more stories you hear, and the more often you converse, the faster and easier you will understand what to do and why when you’re in pursuit. Whether you have to reach out on social media or hangout with some old timers at your local diner, do what you can to connect with someone who has knowledge and experience you want. The JHC crew showed me the value in that without ever trying.
My second favorite way to learn is gathering well rounded experience from the field however and wherever possible. If you can put yourself in as many different turkey situations as possible you will pick up tips, tricks, and knowledge unbelievably faster than if you just sit on that ridge you saw Toms on during deer season hoping something will happen. Different woods, different turkeys, different habitats, different areas in your town, county, or country will make you a more well rounded turkey hunter and outdoorsman faster than you’d ever imagine. How you find those differences will be variable for everyone, but there are always ways to do it if the desire is there.
In an ideal world you do both of these learning tactics at the same time. If you can find that mentor to soak up stories and knowledge from and hunt together in various locations your turkey hunting skills will improve faster than you ever thought possible. I still have a lot to learn from the people in my circle, and the turkeys themselves, but I can see how impactful learning in these ways has been to my turkey knowledge already, and spring is just getting started.
From the other end of the spectrum if you are experienced and have turkey wisdom, make it a point to share it with someone you know is looking for help or someone you know will soak up the knowledge. Odds are you will cultivate new relationships, make new memories, and pass down the hunting culture we all want to see thrive.