Turkey Hunting Truths or Lies?


You hear a lot of things said in turkey hunting camp. What's true? What's not?

Wild turkeys are dumb.

Truth: Count how many times wild turkeys have beaten you. Who’s dumb now?

Turkey poults drown in the rain by looking up.

Truth: Hypothermia can kill young turkeys, not drowning.

Spring gobblers only come to hen calls.

Truth: Gobbler yelps, fighting purrs and gobbles also pull male turkeys in.

Smoke-gray phase turkeys aren’t wild.

Truth: Wild turkey color mutations occur nationwide. Red and white wild turkey feathering can also be seen.

Turkey hens don’t have beards and don’t strut.

Truth: Found in less than 10% of female turkeys according to studies, adult hen beards are skinny, often 7 to 8 inches long, with a kink in them. Boss hens strut to show dominance. Some reliable sources have even seen and heard the rare hen gobble.

You can’t call spring gobblers away from hens.

Truth: Submissive satellite gobblers running with a dominant longbeard often look for a chance to breed, and will sometimes leave henned-up flocks and check out a hunter’s calls.

Turkeys eat quail eggs.

Truth: While some blame quail population troubles on the big birds, there’s no biological evidence turkeys eat quail eggs.

Turkeys don’t cross fences or creeks.

Truth: Sure, turkeys hang up sometimes when faced with obstructions but others simply fly over fences or creeks.

Warm winters make turkeys nest early.

Truth: While gobbling activity sometimes increases with warm weather, female turkeys nest according to the increase in daylight (photoperiod).

Turkeys get call shy.

Truth: Wild turkeys call every day of their lives. Why would they shy away from it? If you sound more like a screeching cat or barking dog when you try to turkey call, well . . .

You can’t call back scared turkeys.

Truth: Wild turkeys are gregarious and want to regroup. A loud noise like a gunshot (or miss) might temporarily spook them, but not forever.

Wild turkey meat is gamey.

Truth: Wild turkey is delicious in the hands of a good cook. Not so much if your kitchen skills are lousy.

Roosted turkeys stay put all night.

Truth: Ever find turkeys you roosted the day before in another place the next morning? They moved during the night. Stormy weather can sometimes cause it as they seek shelter.

You can’t call a turkey downhill.

Truth: Turkeys go uphill, downhill and sideways to find other turkeys, often by calling.

Gobblers destroy hen nests to keep breeding.

Truth: No biological evidence supports this. It’s a funny idea to suggest male turkeys might do this, but as polygynous birds, they’ll try to breed other non-nesting hens too if they can.

Go here for more truths about turkey hunting.

Steve Hickoff is Realtree's turkey hunting editor and blogger.