Turkey Hunting - Calling Turkeys: How Close Is Too Close

How close is too close when calling in a turkey? Well, I don’t know if I can definitively answer that question, but it’s probably a better idea to shoot before a turkey gets inside of the 20 yard mark. Why? Because shooting a full choke shotgun at a target that is too close doesn’t give the pellet-pattern enough time to develop; meaning it is possible that your shot will be more like shooting a slug instead of utilizing the killing power of ten to twenty pellets hitting the head/neck kill zone.

As unbelievable as it sounds, Carson missed a shot at 8 paces! He probably would have had a better chance to kill a bird if he were to have used his bow and arrow. His bulls-eye with a bow would have been mid-turkey body as opposed to the narrow neck shot when using the shotgun. With that said, the hunt was unbelievably fun and exciting…here’s how it all went down.

flock of turkeys along hedgerow
                                         No easy way to get to these birds


The youth turkey hunt started on a Friday, so as soon as school ended my son and I hit the road for southern Utah. We arrived at our hunting spot a couple of hours before dark and wasted no time getting out into the field. As luck would have it, we found a few birds feeding along a hedgerow and lo and behold, a strutting tom accompanied them. We tried to make a play on the birds but our plan failed to materialize. It seemed that the turkeys already had a destination in mind, so we decided not to push it.

turkey hunting - napping in ground blind Turkey hunting decoys

      9:55 a.m. - my turn for a nap                            Looking past decoys where the 5 long beards passed by

Evening came and we hadn’t been able to roost any turkeys. So without our knowing where to setup for roosted birds, we threw caution to the wind and setup the next morning near some big cottonwood trees hoping roosted birds were near. We were up before first light, set our ground blind and positioned a few decoys close by. As darkness gave way to light, we anxiously glassed the surrounding trees hoping to see the silhouette of roosted birds but saw none. However our hopes were still high as the sound of distant gobbles rode the airwaves of the cool crisp morning air right into the confines of our ground blind. Minutes turned into hours and no turkeys ventured our way. Suddenly I awoke to Carson whispering “don’t move too fast, we have turkeys!” Apparently Carson awoke and decided to peer out the blind window and spotted a flock of five long beards 40 yards away. We scrambled as if the ground blind was on fire to get the gun and prepare for a shot. I’m not sure if it was the anxiousness or what, but Carson missed a gobbler at 42 yards, we had blown it. I looked at my phone, 11:00 a.m. We’ll never know if the flock had danced around our decoys beforehand or if they were merely passing by at a distance, but I can tell you that my falling asleep haunted me all day long.

turkey hunting iwenthunting long beard turkey hunting jake turkeys

     Had a strutter with a bunch of hens who just wasn’t interested and then we called in these jakes, no shot

We spent the rest of the day searching for turkeys and saw one big strutter that wasn’t interested in our calling but we did manage to call in two jakes to within 25 yards. However, they came in from behind us so Carson wasn’t able to whirl around in time to get off a shot. Finally with just an hour before dark we found some turkeys that we thought we might be able to roost. We watched as three big strutting toms and their flock of fourteen fed near some big potential roosting trees. Since there didn’t appear to be a safe way to approach in the light of day and our position wasn’t ideal for calling them toward us, we decided to sit tight and watch. After a long while of watching the posturing toms, the show ended with the fly-up. We now had roosted turkeys and knew where we needed to be come first light.

turkey hunting roosted turkeys
                                Looks like we've got us some roosted birds


Early the next morning we anxiously sneaked into position. The warm morning breeze was blowing straight at our backs and right toward the roosting tree. But having the turkeys hear us wasn’t our biggest worry; it was our approach that concerned us most. We were illuminated by a huge white moon that hung like a spotlight in the western horizon, so we were nervous that we would be seen. Cautiously we continued until we arrived at the first clump of brush where we stopped, only 50 yards from the roosted birds. We could actually see the silhouette of several turkeys, but it seemed that the gusting 20 mph wind had them holding on for dear life as they balanced on the flimsy branches where they had perched. Carefully I army-crawled 30 yards farther away to the west and placed a couple of our hen decoys. Undetected I made it back and we waited. As shooting time approached, we watched as a turkey let out a gobble from his perch, exciting! Then a hen started yelping from the roost. Suddenly a hen flew down right behind us and started yelping, which caused the tom we were watching to do the same. As soon as he landed, the hen next to him started yelping which caused him to gobble again. At that moment I wasted no time and started matching her calls, yelp for yelp. After several times of exchanging calls back and forth, a couple of toms let out gobbles from the roost. That caused me to really hammer away because I wasn’t going to let this lone hen (which was totally concealed behind us 25 yards away) draw these other two toms to her. For thirty seconds my calling was relentless. Immediately after I quit calling, two toms flew right down in front of us. They no more than hit the ground and were in full strut! The two strutters took five to seven steps toward our decoys and that’s when I thought we were going to get busted since we no longer were concealed by the bush where we sat. Carson mouthed to me, “should I shoot”, I nodded. Boom…a clean miss. As hard as it is to believe, his shot completely missed the turkey’s head at less than 25 feet!

turkey hunt red, white, blue headed tom
                           Big red, white and blue tom cozying up to our decoy


In the end, Carson redeemed himself as we later called in another nice gobbler that came right in and courted our decoys. At 16 yards (still a bit close, but we couldn’t help but watch the festivities from our hiding spot) Carson’s aim was true and his 20 gauge Weatherby dropped the big red, white and blue headed tom in his tracks!

Youth turkey hunt iwenthunting tom turkey gobbler long beard
       Headed up to the high country and got this big old gobbler with huge tail fan, 7 inch beard, ½ inch spurs