Spring turkey hunting success and safety comes down to the same thing – proper planning. Preseason scouting can put hunters in the right position when turkeys come off the roost, increasing their chance for success.
That same preseason preparation should happen with equipment and with the hunting plan, said Jeff Barnes, recreation safety officer with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
“Hunters need to go through their equipment to make sure everything is in good shape, make sure their calls sound like they want them to sound and pattern their shotgun with the ammunition that’ll be used during the hunt so they know where the bulk of the shot is hitting,” he said.
Being familiar with the equipment will help minimize any disturbance to the roosting birds when hunters are setting up in the dark.
“Turkeys are aware of their surroundings so hunters should stay close to cover even when coming to the timber in the darkness. Know how to set up your blind in the dark. Know how you want to set up your decoys in the dark,” Barnes said.
Turkey hunters are skilled in the art of concealment either inside a hunting blind or in camouflaged clothing blending in to the understory or fence line.
“Be aware of what’s around you. Even if you’re on private property, there could be other hunters out there who are coming to your call. Don’t shoot at movement; don’t shoot at sound; no turkey’s worth it. I encourage hunters to only shoot after they see the turkey’s beard,” Barnes said. “Being safe is important because the people we hunt with are our family and close friends.”
Hunters who do shoot a turkey are encouraged to not carry it over their shoulder to avoid someone mistaking it for a live bird and take a shot. Barnes suggested hunters use a blaze orange turkey transport harvest bag.
Practicing safe hunting becomes more crucial as the annual spring leaf out progresses.
“The later it gets in May, the harder it is to see. Hunters need to stay vigilant to identify the bird and the beard,” he said.
· Plan to wear blaze orange when moving from one spot to another because you never know if someone else is out there, even on private land.
· Avoid wearing patriotic colors – red, white, blue. These same colors are found in a turkey’s head.
· Be aware that mushroom hunters will be moving through the timber in late April and May. Mushroom hunters are encouraged to wear blaze orange and avoid red, white and blue.
· Plan to add bug spray and drinking water to the field bag
· A blind is good for concealment and when taking kids turkey hunting, but not for moving around. If you plan to be mobile, don’t bring the blind.
· If hunting private land, be sure you have permission and know the property boundaries.
· Even if hunting private property, the potential exists that someone else may be out there. Trespassing calls increase during turkey season.
· Be extremely careful if planning to use a turkey fan to hunt. Another hunter may mistake you for a turkey.