5 Tough Shots You'll Take While Turkey Hunting

By author of Turkey Blog with Steve Hickoff

And How to Prepare Yourself to Kill That Turkey

Tough shots come your way while turkey hunting.

You're sometimes seated at the base of a broad-trunked tree, anticipating where the gobbler will slip into view. Trouble is, wary spring turkeys have other plans.

Whether you're on your butt, sitting in the woods, or in a blind, watching a field, seconds can mean the difference between putting a tag on that bird – or watching it walk out of range.


Here's how to prepare yourself for this moment of truth.

Click through this blog post to see if you've ever experienced one of these five tough shots.

Gobbler Behind You

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1 | Gobbler Behind You

A gobbler is hot. The bird rips back at your every call, double-gobbling on top of your yelps. It's coming, no doubt about it. You ease your gun barrel in the turkey's direction, settle in.

The gobbler goes silent. That's not so unusual, as the wary bird is looking for the sound of your calling. No decoys? It needs more evidence. Decoys? It's still not buying in just yet.

Where the heck is that bird? Pfft-dummm, comes the sound of it strutting in range, but right behind you. Out-drawing a gobbler at that distance is as difficult as shooting gets. Some would tell you it's impossible – unless you happen to catch the turkey facing away, strutting tail fan hiding its view of you wheeling around. Even then . . .

Solution: Wait the bird out, as it may just slip into view, or momentarily walk past, with its head (and eyes) behind a broad tree trunk. Lift your gun and kill it when the bird steps out.

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Gobbler Too Close

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2 | Gobbler Too Close

The name of the game is to get a turkey close so you can kill it.

Trouble is, sometimes gobblers sneak in too close. You might be handcuffed.

Your hunting tactic may bail you out.

If you're on the ground, shotgun ready, and the bird eases past your setup tree at whispering distance, let it drift away into more comfortable killing range. At distances under 20 steps or so, gun and load depending, the shot pattern might be the size of a tennis ball. That's cool if you hit where you aim; not so much if you whiff.

If a gobbler struts away a bit, tail to you, its head hidden, get your gun ready. Cluck to get its head and neck up. Kill it.

If you're in a blind, you may have the luxury of watching turkeys mill around your position. When bowhunting in this situation, and assuming you've practiced all kinds of shots prior to the season, wait for the best moment, and shoot that gobbler.

Sometimes a close bow shot is absolutely fine.

Solution: Be patient, don't panic, and let the gobbler you want step away to a more comfortable shooting distance. Go here for bowhunting turkey video tips.

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Too Many Turkeys

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3 | Too Many Turkeys

You've seen it before, a number of gobblers run to your yelps, shoulder-to-shoulder, in a race to get there. They do, but there's a problem.

You only want to kill one, and legal reasons make it so. Problem is, they strut and wheel about right in front of you, all wadded up.

Solution: If the birds are focused on your decoys, be cool, let them get some separation. If that doesn't work, raise your shotgun or bow, slowly, but intentionally trying to be seen. Sometimes turkeys with a dominant strutter will spot you, and step away from each other a little. You might get a perfect shot then. Also, they may react and step into high gear. Shoot the one you want in the back of the head and neck with your shotgun. Cutting on your mouth call can make them stop for just enough time to put an arrow in one, too.

Shot placement for turkey hunting with a gun. Shot placement for bowhunting.

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Buddy Double

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4 | Buddy Double

You and your hunting buddy want to shoot a double. Timing is everything with this one.

You call a couple of gobblers up into range. Good, you've taken care of this essential part of the deal. Problem is, hens surround them (go back to "Too Many Turkeys"). Or one is a jake and the other is a longbeard, and you both want adult male birds. Or . . .

Many scenarios in this situation challenge your ability to both drill down on a turkey.

Solution: Discuss a "what if" plan before the hunt. One guy might take the bird on the left, the other buddy, the turkey on the right. You can also whisper intentions based on curve-ball scenarios, when things happen you don't expect. Also, if only one guy can get a good shot on a bird, and even though you wanted a double, let that single kill happen. One buddy can also shoot a bird, and the surviving gobbler might just come and beat up the dying turkey in a display of pecking-order intentions. The second guy who hasn't shot can take that one. Call it a delayed double . . .


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Impossible Shots

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5 | Impossible Shots

Impossible shots happen all the time in turkey hunting. Okay, take a second now to remember some of them. It's okay, that's cool, this is part of turkey hunting, too.

Gobblers that hammered away in range, but unseen behind brush, strutting but well-hidden.

You never got a shot.

Gobblers in range, but too close. Gobblers just out of range. Gobblers that came to you, stopped behind a tree in range, and you waited. And waited. And waited.

And the turkey you had right there somehow vaporized into thin air. 

Solution: Accept it. It's all good: the kills, the near-kills and even the gobblers walking away. This beautiful tradition of turkey hunting is made up of all the many experiences you've had this season, and in the past. Give thanks, and realize you can hunt those birds again another day. And that's a great thing.

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Editor's note: This Realtree.com evergreen post was first published Feb. 15, 2017.



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