Meet Martin Léonard: our hunting specialist shares his best tips and destinations
Fishing | October 24, 2023
September 17, 2023
So you just freshly got your wild turkey hunting licence? Or you’ve had it for a while, but your technique still needs perfecting? Claude Bissonnette, hunting specialist at SAIL, shares his best tips to help you become a real predator for wild turkeys. Whether you are turkey hunting in Quebec or elsewhere, in April/May or towards the end of October, you can look forward to some great hunting mornings. Expect an active stalking experience, combining prospecting, observation and stealth! In the meantime, pour yourself a nice cup of coffee and enjoy the following tips, which will surely help you harvest two males with beautiful beards. Remember to always respect the limitations, and get ready for action!
In this article, you will discover the best turkey hunting techniques for 2023:
Whether turkey hunting happens in the spring or fall in your area, the one thing that’s for sure is that you’re on the hunt for an animal that likes to get some height. Wild turkeys spend the night in trees – or at least on high ground. In the morning, they can be found in forests and agricultural land close to wooded areas.
Fields are the primary feeding grounds for wild turkeys. In spring, for example, the snow melts more quickly there, giving them fertile land where they can find plenty to eat, whether it’s residues or fresh shoots. When you’re out in the fields or their vicinity, you are staying as close as possible to potential prey. Feel free to prospect the area with a good pair of binoculars in hand the day before you go hunting.
On the big day, Claude recommends setting up around 4 a.m., when it’s still dark. Move around as quietly as possible and avoid using a flashlight so as not to attract the attention of wild turkeys, which have excellent eyesight. Always try to remain as quiet and invisible as possible. Wild turkeys are very fast: if they spot you, they’ll bolt, and your chances of harvesting will be over.
The idea is simple: plant yourself as close as possible to where the turkeys will come down from the trees. At sunrise, they will return to solid ground in search of food.
By staying in the fields (if you have permission to do so in the case of private land), you’ll maximize your chances of harvesting. Hunting wild turkeys in the forest is also possible, but it calls for greater mastery. Movements must be slow, camouflage precise and stealthy… In spring and autumn alike, you should only “try” hunting in the forest if rain or weather conditions are keeping wild turkeys away from the fields. Unless, of course, you’re an experienced hunter looking for a challenge!
Planning to start turkey hunting in 2023? Hoping to harvest for the first time this year after a few unsuccessful outings?
In all cases, there is no doubt that Claude’s advice will come in handy. And as far as game calls are concerned, our hunting specialist is categorical: they are essential for wild turkey hunting in Quebec or anywhere else.
There is a wide variety available. Diaphragm game calls are certainly one of the best options. The most sophisticated ones can imitate female turkeys with extreme precision, with tones very close to the original. A big advantage of these little rounded devices is that they leave your hands free. But be wary: mastering them requires a great deal of practice. Brands like Primos, Recall and Buck Expert all have developed their own versions.
There are also “locator” calls that mimic the sounds of owls or crows. When used very early in the morning, they help you locate turkeys, which tend to answer each other.
Claude also appreciates disc-shaped friction slate calls. The friction of a small stick on the disc imitates female turkeys with astounding realism. Several models are available, either made of wood or copper. Give them a try!
And don’t hesitate to give box calls a try, too, as they also mimic the sound of female turkeys. While they may not always be as effective as other bird calls, these types of accessories do have one big advantage: they are very easy to use. The brand Recall notably offers several interesting models.
One last option mentioned by Claude is “Gobbler” game calls, which imitate male turkeys to provoke a confrontation. These can be very effective during the rut season in spring.
How do you hunt wild turkey, and more specifically, with what weapon? The answer is simple: use the one you’re comfortable with. You can use the same weapon whether you’re hunting in the forest or in a field.
Firearm, bow, crossbow... The choice is yours, depending on what you prefer and what you already own. Just be aware of the regulations: only 10-, 12-, 16- or 20-gauge shotguns are allowed. For shotshells, you can go with 4, 5, 6, or 7. If you’re an archer, make sure your arrows are in order.
If you hunt with a shotgun, Claude recommends a 20-gauge. In fact, as he tells us, it is close to being the most popular, second only to the “classic” 12-gauge.
When it comes to shooting distance, stay at a range of 20 to 40 yards. That’s how you maximize your chances of reaching your target – and therefore harvesting!
At SAIL, you will find a nice range of turkey-specific weapons, all shorter and available in camouflage patterns appropriate for the season. Our in-store specialists will be happy to assist you!
Turkey hunting, whether in autumn or spring, requires suitable equipment if you want to put all the odds on your side.
When it comes to clothing, don’t forget that wild turkeys have even better eyesight than deer! This means no skimping on camouflage: your goal is to blend in with your surroundings. Go for “100% camouflage,” without forgetting the face mask. When your camo is on point, you increase your chances of harvesting.
You can also equip yourself with a total camouflage “turkey vest.” It has the particularity of featuring a cushion and back support so you can stay comfortably seated for 3 or 4 hours. Wild-turkey-specific hunting vests also come with plenty of pockets to stow all your accessories (game call, ammunition, etc.). Pair yours with a bag to pack your decoys and larger equipment.
To keep your feet warm, especially in the fall, wear a good pair of hunting boots, which may or may not be rubber, depending on the weather.
As for accessories and equipment, don’t forget to bring a good pair of binoculars to spot your prey in the forest or on the edges of wooded areas. Add decoys, too, to increase your chances of success. If you’re hunting with a shotgun, a shooting stick can be a valuable tool for stabilizing your aim. If you’re more of a bow or crossbow hunter, consider using a rangefinder.
Wild turkey hunting in Quebec and Ontario is highly regulated in terms of hunting zones, dates, etc. As far as safety accessories go, you don’t necessarily have to wear orange unless you have a turkey hunting vest on your back.
For safety, Claude recommends hunting in pairs, using two different calls. Ideally, the two hunters should maintain visual contact, but if that’s not possible, they should at least be aware of each other’s position at all times. This is something to keep well in mind, because it’s not always easy to do when you’re hunting on the ground.
The question of how to hunt wild turkey in the spring or fall is often followed by another: do you really need to use a blind? The answer is no: there’s no obligation. While using a (tent-like) portable blind is certainly effective, you can do without one if you want to start turkey hunting on the “lighter” side. Many different options are available to you. The simplest approach may be to sit on the ground (with a good cushion seat), making sure you have some vegetation in front of you for cover.
Remember: careful camouflage is crucial for wild turkey hunting. Everything must be camouflaged, and your skin exposed as little as possible. Hunting pants, jacket, boots, hat, face mask, gloves… Choose appropriate patterns and colours for the season. Come and chat with our in-store specialists to find out exactly what you need to wear.
Once you have your turkey hunting licence in your pocket, you can start to enjoy the thrill of this very special hunt, which requires patience and skill.
For some hunters, it may take a season or two to achieve the first harvest, but there are others who manage to land two turkeys in their very first year! We can’t predict how it will turn out for you, but our specialist Claude Bissonnette believes that turkey hunting is an excellent choice for “beginners” while also remaining ultra-stimulating for seasoned hunters.
Whether or not you get the chance to shoot, turkey hunting is always an active pursuit. Turkeys will undoubtedly appear in your field of vision. Success in harvesting will be entirely up to you!