Are you looking to get an edge on turkeys this spring? Will Brantley, with Field & Stream, has some new cutting-edge turkey tactics to share. Turkey hunting is full of obstacles, so put these tactics to work this spring!
On the cutting edge of turkey hunting, the most obsessed gobbler fanatics are pushing the boundaries to be more successful and have more fun. Today’s trendsetters are toting crossbows and .410s, pressing their own mouth calls, tackling tough public birds by choice, busting birds on purpose, and generally doing whatever they can to make the madness of spring last a little longer. If you want in, these are the hot tactics, tricks, and gear you need to try.
Game Changer: Carry a .410
Yes, carrying a .410 to the turkey woods is now a thing. Guys do it to prove they’re good, and the successful ones can teach you a thing or two about getting super-close to gobblers.
Even with quality loads, a .410 shotgun forces you to get pretty tight to a tom. But a couple of springs ago, Realtree’s Phillip Culpepper took the small-bore trend to the extreme and set the online turkey crowd abuzz when he killed an Osceola longbeard on camera with a Taurus Judge .410 revolver. “Shooting at a pie plate, the pattern started getting sketchy at seven steps,” he says. “So I knew I’d have to get close.” For that, he used a specialized reaping tactic. All the usual open-field safety rules apply.
Culpepper uses a Flextone Thunder Chicken, which is a compact reaper-style decoy. In addition to a real fan, he zip-ties dried turkey wings to the fake. They provide extra concealment—but they also allow Culpepper to employ another trick.
“Michael Waddell showed me this,” he says. “If you’re crawling in close but the gobbler’s not breaking, you can pop the decoy stake hard against the ground. It makes those wings beat against the decoy, and it sounds just like turkeys flogging in a fight. Do that while making a fighting purr, and it’ll drive him nuts.”
When the bird does break, Culpepper stakes the deke in front of him, sits back, and pokes the barrel through the tail fan or eases it over the top of a wing. “When a tom is locked in, he won’t notice that movement.”
Culpepper killed his Osceola at two steps. “I love to see how close I can get to them,” he says. That’s the whole appeal of the small-bore trend. “Still, I think I’ll leave the Judge home and go with a shotgun from now on.”
Trending: Breeder Hens
Decoy companies have been making “breeding pairs” for some 20 years. After all, if a jake decoy just standing there upsets old gob, then the sight of one on top of his girlfriend should really create issues. Problem is, those decoys have historically looked so fake that I doubt some manufacturers have ever witnessed a real round of turkey coitus.
Today’s top makers must be more voyeuristic because they are now making highly realistic breeder-hen decoys that can be used with or without a jake. Late in the season, I leave the jake home and add a breeder to several feeding and alert hen dekes. I position the breeder for my best shot. The other decoys help draw gobblers in from a distance, and when they finally spot that hen on her belly, they’ll strut right in to do God knows what. Be ready to shoot—or cover your eyes.
Game Changer: Go Public (On Purpose)
Believe it or not, some top gobbler killers hunt public land because it’s harder. On some pressured Tennessee public land that I hunt, the seasoned locals swear that all the gobblers wired to go to hen calls have been culled out of the flock. I’m not sure I believe that, but I know these toms are tough. Here’s how I’ve managed to bag a few.