Spring turkey hunting season dates and regulations are varied by states. Whether to hunt in private land or public land, hunters should scout and set up well before the opening day. The preseason scouting is crucial for successful spring turkey hunting, and in-season scouting is also needed to have an idea where other hunters are already set up. Although you can use air rifle for turkey hunting, even bow or shotgun, the traditional way is to hunt turkey using shotgun. But nowadays, many serious hunters prefer using air rifle. Turkeys can be hunted with air rifles in three states California, Virginia, and Maryland (for fall only).
For a humane kill and respect to your quarry, to take down a tough bird like a turkey, an instant kill is the goal. To do that, hunter needs to aim and shot in the head, break the spine of the bird and the bird’s central nerve system is disabled instantly.
About air rifle for turkey hunting, there are only a few things are required: it must fit you, and it definitely must throw a good pattern where you aim it. You need to feel right when handling, so that you can shoot it well. Importantly, an air rifle for turkey hunting must be a non-reflective finish because most of the time turkeys will catch the dazzling of a shiny gun. So it is highly recommended using camouflage guns, or even a matte-black gun will also work.
Scouting for Successful Spring Turkey Hunt
Preseason scouting is very important for successful spring turkey hunting. According to the turkey biologists, there are 10 to 50 percent of an ideal turkey habitat is open, non-forested lands. Wild turkey habitat is enhanced and created by land managers and biologists who are paid to do so, and interestingly all say essentially the same thing that diversity is the key to a good turkey habitat. An ideal scouting should be conducted on both private and public land combined for more efficient on turkey findings.
Hunting Turkeys in Private land
Turkeys roost in trees, in private land, there are trees big enough for roosting. There are three basic needs of most living creatures, turkey included. So, turkey ideal habitat contains: food, water, and shelter. Other than those big tree roosts, as long as there is sufficient food, water, and cover that they can use to hide from predators, turkeys can thrive in sparse timber areas.
Turkey hunters who hunt in private land are required to have landowner permission. Before your hunt, you need to purchase license and permits, but to hunt in private land, you should have a landowner consent form signed prior to purchase your license and permits. In state like Connecticut, private land turkey hunters must carry the signed and dated consent form for the current season.
In other state, to get the permission, you need to find out who owns the land by either searching it in the computer or visit the county courthouse office where usually has the recorder of deeds. It is the list of all properties which can be searched by the owner’s name or a property’s physical address. Next, what should you do? Drive up or make a phone call to the landowner?
The answer is no! I would guess the landowners who purchase the private land would have the same mindset is that they want their privacy and space. So driving up and knocking on the door simply to meet them is not an approach. Wandering around in the woods without permission is illegal and it could get you arrested. So your next step is to write a letter including your resume and attached a self-addressed stamped envelope for the landowner’s reply. This should be the way to get your permission hunting in their lands.
Hunting Turkeys in Public land
Excellent numbers of turkeys are presented on public lands across the United States, and their population are booming throughout the nation. Turkeys on public land often face more hunting pressure than those in private land with controlled hunting pressure. However, the advantage of public turkey hunting is that there is usually more space to escape and roam that pressure.
To find a place for turkey hunting, you can simply browse the state wildlife agency websites to search for public hunting areas. Some large expanse of state and national forests in the Midwest are usually home for an increased numbers of turkeys. Some public lands of state offer 1,000 acres to find and hunt turkeys.
Scouting is the key to have a successful turkey hunting in public lands. Scout the area and then move on to scout more areas. But you will always need a good plan B when hunting in public lands because other hunters would already have set up in that spot just before you get there.
Before opening day, your scouting objective is to find tracks to locate gobblers as much as possible. Ideally, both private land permission and public land access combined are more productive in finding turkeys. All hunters are required to have landowner permission for private land hunting. Once obtained, you can then find turkeys visually by tracking for their traces and by listening to their gobbling.
To have successful spring turkey hunting, the preseason scouting is a very important part of the game. What to look for? You should look for sign like tracks of scratching and droppings in mud, snow, and sand. Look for dirt roads with tracks after a good rain. Scratching is often left behind by turkeys when they scrape at the ground to feed. Look for large winter turkey flocks and their tracks are left behind like scratching in hardwood ridges of mast trees such as oaks and also beech nuts. If you have found these signs, it is unmistakable. Once turkeys have dispersed later in the spring, their traces and scratching will be scattered and distracted to be scout.
Where gobblers drag their wing tips while strutting, look for these drag marks on dirt roads and in strut zones. Gathering all of these bits of sign confirm turkey are living in a particular location. Next, all you need to do is listening to birds in the evening as they fly up to roosts.
Old and fresh scratching will look different regardless of the time in the year. Old scratching look dry and old, fresh scratching will show dirt and moist leaves underneath. With droppings, you will scout for the same sign. That means a fresh turkey turd is soft and moist. You can tell by looking, no need to touch.
During the preseason, many hunters scout eagerly and then focus on hunting in the opening day. These hunters often sure that they have good information of how unpressured birds moving and their activities in a particular area, but they may be missing important point is that turkeys when pressured will change their routine and change normal cycles in their breeding activity.
In-season scouting reveals some particular areas where hunters are likely to set up for their hunt. Interesting fact is that many hunters will not want to walk for more than five or six hundred yards from the parking lot. You would be likely hunting all alone in a vast land, if you are willing to go further than that.
What Types of Air Rifle for Turkey Hunting?
The appropriate airguns for hunting turkey use two primary power sources: spring piston and pre-charged Pneumatic (PCP) airgun. Typically, you can see the air rifles at most of the big box store are often the .177 or .22 caliber. The power is generated using a large mainspring to drive a compressed piston, that is then released when the trigger is squeezed. When the rifle is cock with either a break barrel, side lever, or under the barrel mechanism, the spring is compressed. Depending on the rifle caliber, pellet size, and power of the gun, these riffles typically drive a pellet type that propel at 800 to 1,000 fps.
Hunting turkey with an air rifle is similar to those which used with shotgun or bow, and typically hunting will be from a blind or running and gunning. Rifle using PCP power source can be found widely at the online airgun shops, they are often not available in the local gun pro shops. These PCP rifles have an air reservoir equipped that can hold a volume of air, that is released to fire multiple pellets to the target.
Turkey hunting using spring piston rifle, I recommend the best balance of accuracy should be a .22 caliber. If using PCP rifles, however, I would recommend also a .22, but the .25 caliber is preferred and you should also try the .30 caliber which I have found it is quite impressive in the last season. When hunting big bird like turkey, for shot placement, I recommend to aim and take a head shot or to shoot at the base of the neck of the bird when it is facing away.
Hunting turkey with an air rifle is challenge for me, yet it is fun, and once you give it a try, you would hardly to go back to firearm. You need to move in closer to your target, be more selective on each of the shot you take. And as an airgun hunter, you should perform your craftsmanship utmost with respect to your quarry. So, be a better hunter and be a marksman.
All in all, scouting is an important part of the game, and choosing the right airgun for your spring turkey hunting is crucial. The gun you select must fit you and pattern well where you are aiming at. I have recommended a few rifle caliber for your references.
About 10 to 50 percent of an ideal turkey habitat is open, non-forested land. Therefore, hunting in private land and public land combined will be more productive in finding turkeys. In private land, some states offer a consent permission form to be signed and carried when you intended to hunt. In other states, where the form is not ready, you need to find out who the landowner is and write a letter to him, but not driving up or knocking on the door to meet him. In public land, you will face more hunting pressure than hunting in private land where there is controlled hunting pressure. But the advantage is that you have more space to roam or escape the pressure.
Scouting is important during the preseason, you need to locate as many gobblers as possible by looking for their tracks of scratching in the woods, and also listening to them during the weeks before opening day to locate the exact location of the birds. So you can have the range for a right setup to intercept the gobblers. Furthermore, if you are willing to walk further than most of other hunters would walk, you are likely to hunt all alone. Since most of them not likely to walk too far away from their sparking areas.
To hunt turkey with an airgun, you would get in closer, use precise shot placement, plus you can hunt in stealth mode. It lets you carry out the hunt as a bow hunter would but in the end, you are still shooting a rifle!
Get your gears be ready, find the areas within the distance to your home and convenient public land online. Get your license and start scouting the area soon. Enjoy and happy spring turkey hunting!