There are some rabid turkey hunters out there — and I’m not just talking about in the Deep South where they have large numbers of birds and have hunted them for generations. I’m also talking about out West.
The big number of turkeys here in Idaho is a huge success story because of the combined efforts of the National Wild Turkey Federation and the Idaho Fish and Game. While we may not have the big numbers like I’ve seen down in the southern states, that doesn’t mean there aren’t enough to get excited about. Plus, down there, you’ll be hunting on farm ground. Out West, we have the opportunity to hunt them in the mountains, which gives us a unique twist.
I think being able to hunt them up in the mountains makes a turkey hunter get as excited as an elk hunter. I don’t want to say it is the exact same, but you are in the mountains, you set up decoys and try to call in a lovesick tom. You’re up before daylight setting up close to a roost that you had to scout to find. There are a lot of similarities to elk hunting.
So how do you hunt them? I’d recommend having a jake decoy and a couple of hens. For calls, I’m old school and still like the old box calls. I use a Quaker Boy Hurricane call.
A ton of turkey hunters like the slate plates, and push-boxes are popular, too. A 6 year-old kid can master a push box in minutes and be effective. You can also tape them to the forearm of your shotgun and operate them as you are leveling down on your gobbler. You also need to learn to use a reed.
I’ve never used a scope or red dot sights while turkey hunting (I know, I know, I’m old school), but with the turkey loads that they have now that can reach out to 60-plus yards, you need one. I just got a Riton Optics RT-R Mod 3 RMD red dot sight.
Ninety-nine percent of new turkey hunters think they just have to aim and shoot. It’s a shotgun, right? Wrong! I’ve never measured one, but let’s say a turkey stands 3 feet tall and you’re using some good turkey loads and a turkey choke. You need to aim at a body part just like if you were deer hunting.
They make some really cool realistic turkey decoys. The bad thing is they’re expensive and heavy to carry. If you’re hunting on the Boise River maybe you can use them, but if you’re running and gunning in the mountains then you need to use Montana Decoys. They’re super lightweight. I like a lot of their offerings but check out their Spring Fling, Jake Purr-FECT, Miss PURR-FECT and Fanatic.
Shells and chokes
I wrote for Bass Pro Shop for more than three years, and once they had me test nearly all of the turkey loads out there. Hands down HEVI-Shot is the best, and they have a new offering they call the HEVI-X Strut that I’m about to test. But you must use a proper choke. Check out Trulock chokes.
You need to sight in your shotgun just like doing your rifle because it has a tight choke. I use Birchwood Casey turkey targets.
As you can see, to be successful you need some specific gear. To carry all of this gear you’ll need a Scent Blocker’s Thunder Chicken Turkey Vest. It has more than 15 pockets to carry your calls, a back pouch you can stuff decoys into (and use bungee cords to strap on more), a detachable pad to set on while calling and an orange safety flag you can pull out on back. I’m not known as Mr. Safety but be careful; I think more turkey hunters get shot than in any other shooting sport.
And lastly, check out the Ameristep Throwdown blind. It’s light weight and compact. Have fun!
Tom Claycomb lives in Idaho and has outdoors columns in newspapers in Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and Louisiana.