So, you have drawn your spring turkey license. Now what? Get out to the woods! A great time to scout is now when snow is still on the ground. Nothing is easier than telling where the turkeys are when you can see their tracks in the snow. Granted, this time of year, the turkeys are grouped up, which may make it look like you have a ton of birds on the land you can hunt or next to none. If you have an early season to hunt or the youth hunt, many of the birds will still be in groups and likely be close to their wintering grounds.

Locate Turkeys Areas

Food plays a big role during the early season; look for areas where the snow may be off the fields or where fresh manure has been spread. As the season goes on, food becomes less of a factor as it is everywhere for turkeys. Look for the turkeys' roosting area; there may be more than one. Generally, turkeys roost where there are larger trees with less underbrush. You will notice a fair amount of feathers and droppings in these areas. 

Last but not least, drive around; even if you may not have fields on the land where you can hunt, there may be some nearby that you notice turkeys on. It feels good to see turkeys in the general area you are hunting to know they are around. If there is some on your neighbor's land, chances are that sometime during the season, they will travel onto your land in search of that lonely hen. It also never hurts to ask for permission to hunt on the land where you see birds. If you do get permission it gives you more options to fill your tag.

Put the Turkeys to Roost

Now that you have located areas where the turkeys are and your season is upon you, where do you set up to hunt? If you have time, go out to the woods the evening before and try to put the turkeys to roost. 

To do this, go out just before dark and slowly walk towards the roosting area you have located during your preseason scouting. About every hundred yards, use a locator call to see if you can get a turkey to gobble. A locator call could be anything from an owl call to a goose call if you are fortunate enough to locate one back out of the woods and leave the bird alone. You want to do everything possible not to make the bird aware of your human presence. If you do not get one to gobble, don't be disappointed. If you know there are more areas where they may roost on your land, try locating one there. If you are unsuccessful in locating a bird, you are not out of luck. Chances are they are just not talking that night or have roosted nearby where they cannot hear the call.

Get the Most Shooting Opportunities

It is the morning of your hunt, and you have a bird roosted from the night before. Get out to the woods early, before light, so you can reach about a hundred yards from where you heard the turkey. You don't want to get much closer than that because you may spook the bird. If there is a limited amount of cover on your land, you may have to back off even further. If possible, you will want to set up where it is fairly open to give you the most shooting opportunities. Turkeys also feel safer when they can see a larger area. If there is a bigger tree to sit by, use it as it will give you the most cover from behind.

Also, try to have some branches or taller grass in front of you for cover, but not too much that might block shot opportunities. If you have yet to find a bird the night before, you will want to stick to an area where you have seen signs of turkeys while scouting. Your setup will be the same as in you will want a fairly open area where you can see the birds, and they can also see your decoys. A small clearing, open hardwoods, or logging trail works best in the woods. 

When I set up in a field, I will sit on the edge halfway between the corners if the width is a couple hundred yards or less. For example, if the field you are sitting in is 300 yards wide and in the middle, you only have to draw that turkey in 150 yards or less, instead of the 300 yards if you were sitting in one corner and it comes out in the opposite one. If you are on a much larger field, you will have to choose where you found the most signs, whether tracks, feathers, or droppings. 

Set up Decoys

When it comes to using decoys, I will only set them up when I know the birds I am hunting have not been highly pressured. When they have seen a lot of decoys, they know what the real thing is and what is not. If you do use decoys, I usually keep it to one or two at the most. If I use just one, I use a hen decoy. If I have two, I will use a Jake and a hen. I keep my decoys within 15 to 20 yards; that way, if they hang up, chances are they may still be within shooting range. I face the decoys in my direction. That way, when the bird comes in, he will try to get in front of the decoy so they see him, putting the bird in your lap.

Tips to Call Turkey

I usually carry a slate call with several strikers and a box call. I will also carry a small piece of scotch bright and a piece of chalk so I can maintain my calls in the field throughout the day. My favorite call is the slate call, and I will mainly use it unless it is quite windy out. Then, I will use the box call. I will start the morning with a soft purr and a couple of small yelps to let the turkeys know where I am. 

If you get a response to this first set of calls, that is great. Now that bird knows where you are, and when he flies out of the roost and is looking for a hen, you gave him the option of coming your way. If you don't get one to gobble right away, call again in about 10-15 minutes. If you still have not heard anything, continue to call in sets of purrs and yelps every 15 minutes, with a couple of louder yelps thrown in just in case the birds are further away. 

How to Hunt Farmland Turkeys in Spring

If you have one responding to your calls, keep him interested by calling him about every 5 minutes. If he doesn't respond every time, he may be on his way in, or he has lost interest. If there have been 15-20 minutes that have gone by where he has not responded, try using a different call or striker to regain his interest. Birds sometimes come in silent, so I usually give them an hour or two before I decide to move.

“Run and Gun” for the Turkeys

If you have all day to hunt, I will usually "run and gun" for the turkeys during the middle of the day. This works best if you have enough land to where you can move around on or if you have other properties you can hunt. "Run and Gun" slowly moves around the property, calling about every 100 yards and searching for willing turkeys. When I do this, throughout the day, I will always return to the spot I started in that morning. Turkeys are always moving around and may come looking for that lonely hen they heard earlier that day. 

Don’t Give Up When Hunt Farmland Turkeys

If you are unsuccessful in filling your tag, in the morning or during the day, the evenings also can be quite rewarding. By the afternoon, the toms are usually done with the real hens and are out on the prowl for any remaining hot hens. I will usually set up close to where I know they have roosted or near a food source I have seen them on in the afternoon. If you can get one to respond in the evening, that bird will come in more often than not. 

If you don't get a bird on your first day of hunting, don't give up; keep trying every day to get out there. Turkeys are always moving and will change areas where they roost or feed throughout the week. One day, they could be on your neighbors' land, and the next, they could be on yours. The real hens might be hot one day, and the tom might be busy, but once he is done with them, you can bet he will be out looking for more. There is always more you can learn about turkeys in different situations, so keep your mind open and keep learning. This basic guide to turkey hunting can help some new beginners or even add some knowledge to some seasoned hunters out there. Good luck to all who are getting this spring or the following years.

the young hunter sits with the Turkey


Josh White

Josh White

Josh is an avid outdoorsman with his main focus being turkey, whitetail, and ducks. He enjoys teaching his son and others about the hunting and fishing traditions. Central Wisconsin is his home area, but likes learning new areas within Wisconsin and outside of Wisconsin.


Related blogs

March 05, 2024 — Josh White
Tags: Hunting Tips

Leave a comment

Please note: comments must be approved before they are published.