Hunting Turkey Tip: You Want to See Them Before They See You

Sitting in a clump of palmettos with my back against the jagged trunk of a cabbage palm, my shotgun on the ground and two gobblers running at me, I couldn’t help but think, “What a way to screw up a perfect spring turkey hunt.”

Fortunately, Ron Bergeron yelped on his mouth call to stop the birds 10 yards away from us, which allowed me to noisily yank my gun up through the palmettos, point it at the gobbler on the left and drop him with a single shot.

A moment later, as the gobbler on the right realized his mistake and started running, Billy Culligan’s shotgun boomed to complete the quickest turkey hunt I’ve ever experienced.

It was three minutes from when we sat down to when the second bird hit the ground.

Our success was all due to the woodsmanship of our host, which is something to remember when the spring turkey season in South Florida opens.

Moving through the woods without wild turkeys detecting you has resulted in the demise of way more gobblers than great calling and shooting.

Before we even left camp at Bergeron’s Green Glades West ranch in Collier County, which is ideal habitat for Osceola turkeys, a sub-species unique to Florida, he said we needed to quietly and carefully approach the prairie he wanted to hunt.

On the way there, Culligan, of Pembroke Pines, said that if two birds were to come in, I should take the bird on the left and he would wait for me to shoot.

Bergeron, of Weston, Fla., parked our vehicle well short of our destination, then we hiked behind him in single file.

As we neared the prairie, he got off the trail and slowly moved from one tree to the next, using his binoculars to scan the area.

Bergeron spotted several white-tailed deer and hen turkeys, then saw two gobblers walk behind a clump of trees 200 yards away.

We moved to the edge of the woods to set up, Bergeron in the middle. Bergeron stuck a gobbler decoy that he named “Butch” in the ground next to him, but before any of us could put down a seat or cushion to sit on, trim any vegetation and ready our guns, the gobblers reappeared.

A skilled outdoorsman who is a commissioner with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Bergeron called once and the birds charged in to beat up “Butch” for intruding on their territory. His next yelp came just in time.

“Good thing I yelped when I did,” Bergeron said. “I should’ve stopped them at 20 yards.”

That yelp was critical. So was our approach.

Often, said Bergeron, a gobbler will see you first and head the other way.

“Had we made one mistake in approaching them, they never would have come in,” Bergeron said.

“People don’t realize how well turkeys can see. You want to see them before they see you.”

Even when you do everything right, turkey hunts are often frustrating.

Spring is when wild turkeys mate. Males gobble to attract hens. Hunters try to reverse nature by imitating hen calls to lure lovesick gobblers within shooting range.

When real hens hear a turkey gobbling at a hunter, they often show up and the gobbler goes with them.

Sometimes a gobbler stops just beyond shooting range because he can’t see the “hen” that is calling to him, and he eventually leaves.

But just in case a gobbler comes running, make sure you’re in position, comfortable and ready to shoot so what could be the best hunt of your life doesn’t leave you feeling like a turkey.