Rules For Guided Turkey Hunts

Spring turkey seasons are kicking in around the country. Now’s a good time to talk about hunters and the guides we sometimes ask to put us into gobblers. Let’s look at the pros and cons of hiring somebody to help find spring birds.

GOOD AND BAD: A good guide often knows the land, the game animals and birds on it, better than anyone, including you. Let them do their job. A bad guide says they have permission to take hunters on land they don’t. That’s when you need to shut it down. Fortunately this kind of guide is rare in my experience.

EXPERIENCE RULES: Day in, day out, hard-working guides deal with a variety of hunters, from the absolutely inexperienced to veteran gunners, but often the former rather than the latter. Keep this in mind.

CHECK YOUR EGO: If you’re like me, half your spring will include distant trips where you’ll hunt with somebody who knows the land and turkeys on it better than almost anyone on the planet. The other half of the time will include you hunting on your own, with or without buddies, in self-guided, road-trip mode. Here’s where ego can get in the way.

If you hunt with and hire out professional guides, trust their judgment—within reason, of course. In the end though, you pull the trigger. Try to see how, why and where you’re hunting birds a certain way, and maybe you’ll learn something new, even after years of chasing gobblers.

ALL EARS: Listen to your guide. Some outfits conduct pre-hunt lodge discussions the night before clients and guides go out. If the camp you’re visiting doesn’t allow time to exchange ideas in this setting, suggest it at the supper table, or some other comfortable situation.

If possible, meet with the guide before going afield, and discuss your preferences for the hunt. Also share how long you’ve been chasing turkeys and your preferred style of hunting, be it run-and-gun or blind sitting.

If the hunt prohibits covering a lot of ground due to limited property, and you prefer that sort of deal, well then, you didn’t do your homework. Communicate before, during and after the hunt.

KNOW LIMITS: Ideally your hunting guide should also know your gun or bow’s limitations, the ammo or archery tackle you’re using, and most of all, your experience level. It sounds simple, but don’t take anything for granted.

CHILL OUT: Mostly relax, but not too much. Remember, this is supposed to be fun. Pressing too hard has a way of translating into a lack of hunting success—both shooting, and otherwise. Both turkey fever—the sudden, undeniable racing of your heart and failure to stay calm when you need to react—along with the opposite exaggerated nonchalance of not being fully prepared, will make you miss shots, and fail to close the deal. Bear down at the moment of truth. You’ve worked too hard—you and your guide—to arrive at that opportunity to blow it.

FIRST-PERSON PLURAL: And when you’ve got that turkey by the feet, realize it’s a “we” not an “I” deal. Yes, you tagged that gobbler. Just don’t forget you had some help. -- By Steve Hickoff