Also available in: French
Wild turkey hunting is an exciting activity that requires patience and strategy. To ensure you are fully prepared, find out SAIL Buyer and hunting specialist Martin Léonard’s recommendations on what turkey hunting gear to take with you.
Have a look at our Spring Hunting Guide to discover other tips and videos on wild turkey hunting.
In this article, you will learn more about:
- Where and when to hunt for wild turkey
- The right turkey hunting gear
- Clothing essentials for wild turkey hunting
- A few pro tips
Where and when to hunt for wild turkey?
In Quebec and Ontario, wild turkey hunting is mostly done in the spring.
In Quebec, spring hunting season starts on April 29th and ends on May 23rd, 2022 in most hunting zones and can be done with a shotgun, muzzle-loading or breech-loading firearm, crossbow or bow. Turkey hunting can begin 30 minutes before sunrise, but must end by noon.
In Ontario, spring hunting season starts on April 25th and ends on May 31st, 2022 and can be done with a shotgun or bow. During the spring season, wild turkey hunting is restricted to 30 minutes before sunrise to 7pm.
What are the bag limits?
In Quebec: during the spring season, a hunter may bring home up to two male bearded turkeys (one of which must be caught in one of the following zones: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 or 10). Both turkeys can be caught on the same day.
In Ontario: during the spring season, a hunter may bring home one male bearded turkey per tag, for a maximum of two tags. However, both turkeys cannot be caught on the same day.
What about scouting?
Scouting is one of the most important steps when hunting for wild turkey.
It is recommended to head to the site of your planned spring hunt around mid-April, after the snow has melted, so you can search for signs that there are turkeys around. Look out for tracks in the snow or mud, or for fallen feathers on the ground.
The day before your hunt, at nightfall, head to your spot so you can scout for bearded males. These are also referred to as Tom (the contour of their tail fans will be uniform in length) or Jake (which feature longer central tail feathers). Check out trees where they might head to roost at night (big larches or pines, and trees with a good view over the surrounding area).
You won’t need a GPS device for wild turkey hunting, as most hunting zones are usually covered by cell phone networks.
In the morning, plan to arrive around 3:30 or 4:00 so you can get dressed and prepare, get used to the darkness, reach your chosen spot slowly and quietly, and install your decoys and your blind (if you are using one). Then, position yourself 200 to 300 yards (183 to 247 metres) away from the tree roost without being seen.
Do not use a headlamp under any circumstances as you could startle the turkeys and scare them away.
What about fall turkey hunting?
Wild turkey, male or female, bearded or not, can also be hunted:
- From October 22nd to 28th, 2022 in Quebec (with a shotgun, muzzle-loading or breech-loading firearm, crossbow or bow).
- From October 1st to 31st, 2022 (bow) and from October 12th to 24th, 2022 (shotgun), in Ontario.
However, turkey hunting in the fall is often less popular, as it is not as hands-on or strategic. Turkeys can be found in groups during the fall season and their focus is not on mating (as opposed to springtime), but on feeding. This means that males will not be on the lookout for female mating calls.
What gear should you use for wild turkey hunting?
Once you’re in position, you’ll need a few accessories in addition to a crossbow or a shotgun and ammunition. Make sure you skim through this turkey hunting gear list so you don’t forget anything on your next outings.
Decoys are fake turkeys made of plastic used to lure animals closer so you can shoot them.
When it comes to wild turkey hunting, follow these basic rules to choose the right decoys:
- Opt for decoys that look as close to the real thing as possible
- Three decoys are more than enough; two should be female turkeys, and one should be a young male. There is no need to set up more.
- Note that both static and motion decoys work just as well. If opting for a motion decoy, keep in mind that this is one more thing to manage as motion is generated using a pull cord or a remote. It is best to use them when hunting as part of a duo.
- Look for decoys that are detailed enough, with a realistic shape and posture such as those from the Primos, Avian-X and Flextone brands.
Set up your decoys on the morning of your hunt, on the edge of a field within a radius of 30 yards (27 metres) of your shooting position, between yourself and the wild turkey roosting tree. Position them so that when the moment comes, all you have to do is shoot.
It is best to set up before light. Turkeys have excellent vision – they can see up to a distance of 1km (3 280 feet) – but a very poor visual memory, so they will not remember whether or not they have previously seen your decoys or your blind.
Using a blind isn’t necessary in order to take home some turkeys; you can simply sit with your back against a tree.
However, considering that turkeys have highly developed visual acuity, a blind allows you to move around a bit more without being spotted.
What’s more, a blind is just as effective during spring hunting as it is for fall hunting, and can be very useful in case of rain or when bringing along new hunters who may struggle a bit more to remain perfectly still.
Look for a compact blind which is light enough to carry, easy to set up and made with a camouflage material such as the Mossy Oak Obsession (enhanced background of mottled tree bark, layered with pine and oak foliage and lifelike green colour tones to match the woods during the springtime) or Realtree Edge (abstract background with interlocking tree branches featuring realistic leaves of various colours, ranging from grey to brown and orange, which will blur out the contours of your silhouette).
3. Game calls
Turkeys are diurnal animals. Once the sun has risen, you can start making calls (or yelping) to signal that a female is nearby. Male turkeys, when seeing the decoy and hearing the mating call, will move towards your shooting zone to parade and attract females.
As turkeys have remarkable auditory memory, it’s important to take five to six different game calls with you in your hunting vest. If hearing a particular sound creates any sort of doubt, turkeys will remember it forever and that one game call will not work anymore to call them over or hunt them.
There are three types of game calls:
- Locator calls
- These are used to locate turkeys by replicating the sound of crows, owls or coyotes, as turkeys will react and flee when hearing just about any sound. Shaped like a whistle or mouth call, these game calls will also be useful while scouting as you shouldn’t look for turkeys’ hiding spots using a turkey call.
- Friction calls
- These turkey calls work by replicating the sound made by female turkeys to attract males towards you. Use them while hunting when you’re ready to shoot.
- There are several types of friction calls: the slate paired with a striker, the box call, and the push-button call.
- Slate calls are made from various materials (slate, glass, copper, aluminium, etc.). Those with a copper surface have a higher pitch.
- Opt for a waterproof wooden box (as the humidity can alter the call’s sound). Turkeys are just as active on rainy days as on dry days.
- Mouth calls
- These turkey calls also replicate the sound made by female turkeys and should be used while hunting when you are ready to shoot.
- There are several types of mouth calls, including diaphragms, which you insert into your mouth, and wing bone calls.
Always carry light, portable binoculars. They will help you spot turkeys during the scouting stage without spooking them by getting too close.
Binoculars are essential for any type of hunting, no matter the species you’ve settled on.
A rangefinder is a tool used to calculate range and help you shoot more accurately. You should ideally shoot when a turkey is close to your decoy, so about 25 to 30 yards (23 to 27 metres) away from you, but you can shoot from of up to 50 yards (46 metres). Don’t forget this essential piece of equipment when wild turkey hunting.
6. Gun rests
Seeing as you’ll need to remain as still as possible, use a light adjustable bipod gun rest to set your firearm and hold your shooting position without getting tired. This piece of equipment will help you take aim in a more stable way.
7. Low seats
You might want to give your back and joints a little break, so bring along a low folding seat, about seven inches in height (17,8 cm) so you can comfortably sit close to the ground without losing sight of your decoys.
What clothing is essential for turkey hunting?
Of course, you’ll need to wear camouflage hunting clothes so you can blend in with the decor: hat or cap, jacket, pants, boots.
As turkeys have a poor sense of smell, there is no need to cover your clothes with odour eliminator.
Also, an orange safety vest isn’t required for this type of hunt.
1. Face coverings
Covering your face with a scarf or neck gaiter worn over your nose (leaving only your eyes uncovered) will make it easier to blend in with the scenery.
Go for a fabric that’s light and wicks away humidity, with a Realtree or Obsession pattern.
2. Hunting gloves
Hunting gloves allow you to both camouflage your hands and protect them from the cold, improving your dexterity.
Choose gloves that are non-slip, have touch screen friendly fingertips, and feature a Realtree or Obsession pattern, or the camouflage pattern specially developed by SAIL.
3. Hunting vests with seat cushions
Want to treat yourself? An all-in-one hunting vest specifically designed for turkey hunting is just the thing. In addition to doubling up as a backpack, these vests feature an integrated seat cushion which you can take out, making it more comfortable for your back (and backside) when leaning against a tree.
The vest also provides you with extra camouflage, features a number of useful pockets to stash your gear in, and a strap to hook up and carry a seat; you won’t even need a backpack.
- Bring along some pruning shears so you can cut branches and camouflage yourself. A hunting knife is not necessary; you have 24 hours to gut your turkey (as long as the guts don’t get too warm, there is no danger), so you can wait until you are back home to do so.
- Practice standing still by leaning your back against a wall without moving to strengthen your leg muscles.
- Organize your hunting vest so that it is ready anytime and keep necessary items at hand. For example, put your game calls in the front pockets, your rangefinder nearby, hook your binoculars to a harness so you can wear them on your neck, etc.
Also available in: French