Any turkey hunter with an ounce of honesty will readily admit having committed one or more of these turkey-hunting sins. A good turkey hunter will learn from his mistakes and the mistakes others make.

Here are a few that teach plenty of don't-make-this-mistake lessons.

Mistake: Wiggle While You Work. Movement after setting up is the No. 1 reason you go home empty-handed.

John Carmachael of Latta and the late Harry Tinsley of Rock Hill were hunting in York County and had gotten several toms to gobble at their owl hoots before daylight. They slipped to within a hundred yards of the roosting toms, then set up with their backs to trees with wide trunks.

 

It was Tinsley's first turkey hunt, and he had been cautioned to sit still. Fly-down cackles and excited yelps enticed the toms to fly down towards the hunters.  As they approached, they gobbled in response to every yelp that was made.

 

Tinsley's body was motionless, but his head swiveled towards each tom every time they gobbled. The toms saw the movement and disappeared into the trees.

 

After their departure, Carmichael asked, "What was the score of the tennis match?" Dumbfounded, Tinsley answered, "What tennis match?" Car michael responded, "Every time one of the toms gobbled, you spun your head that way just like you were watching tennis players volleying the ball."

 

Mistake: Don't bother to scout. Make sure you spend some time in the woods before Opening Day, even if you've been hunting an area for years.

 

I had hunted one piece of property for years, and before one Opening Day hunt, I failed to check it out. There had been a tremendous roost next to a pasture, a roost that usually accommodated 50 or more toms and hens, but that morning, I failed to raise a single gobble. When daylight came, the reason became obvious: the hillside had been clear-cut since I had last visited, and the turkeys had moved to another farm. Things can drastically change in the course of a year.  It is imperative to find out what the current situation is.

 

Mistake: Don't give up on a bird too quickly. Rick Morris of Roseboro had set up where he thought he was close to a gobbling tom.  After 20 minutes of the best calling he could muster, no tom had answered. He made out the gobble of a tom a long ways away, and when he stood up to close the distance, the tom he had been calling flushed within gun range. 

 

"This taught me a good lesson," he said. "When you commit to a set-up,  give it ample time to materialize. When you think it is time to leave, wait another 15 to 20 minutes before you get up. A few more minutes at that set-up would have meant a filled turkey tag."

 

Mistake: Just put your decoys anywhere. Improper placement of decoys can ruin a hunt. Never position your decoys directly between yourself and the direction you expect the tom to come from - for two reasons. First, as a tom approaches with his attention riveted on the decoy, any slight movement on that line-of-sight is easily detected and will cause the tom to leave immediately.  Second, for safety's sake. If another hunter sees your decoy and hears your calling, you stand a good chance of getting shot. David Hutto of Orangeburg learned this lesson early in his turkey hunting career. 

 

"Always place your decoys off to the opposite side of the shoulder you shoot from," he said. "This will not only lessen the chance of the tom spotting you, but will make it much easier to mount your gun to make the shot."

 

Mistake: Don't worry about range. What appears to be a slam-dunk shot in a flat, open field just might be beyond the capability of your gun with the load you are shooting. This is especially true when your target is about at the limit of your perceived range.

Joe Brice of Winnsboro was hunting with a friend when a tom appeared on the opposite side of the field. It was a huge tom, but at the sound of the shot, it ranoff. Joe stepped off the distance, and the bird had been further away than he thought.  The tom had been coming towards the decoys and would have been an easy shot had he waited.

 

"If there is the slightest question in your mind about whether you can make a shot or not, wait until that question disappears," Brice said.

 

Mistake: Call all you want. Calling too much is a common problem with new turkey hunters that affects seasoned hunters, too. Our calling always sounds better to us than it does to turkeys. Too much calling is unnatural in the spring and will put unnecessary caution to a wise old tom.

 

Dave McCauley of Lake Wylie had a eager tom answer him every time he called across a pond from his position. The tom hung up and would not cross the water. He talked to the tom for the better part of an hour before giving up.

 

"It dawned on me that when the tom wouldn't come but continued to gobble," McCauley said. "I should have backed out and gone to the side of the pond that the tom was on to set up again. Extended calling probably cost me a tom."

 

Mistake: Don't study your setup. Choosing a poor setup is a common problem. Often, we doom a hunt because of the spot where we make a setup. Sometimes a hunter doesn't have a choice, but when a choice is available, be sure to make a good one. Avoid setups that put natural obstacles such as fences, gulleys, thickets, streams and bodies of water in your way. If a tom is gobbling just over the hill, set up within gun range of the crest. Have your gun up so when the tom's head pops up over the crest, shoot. To let him come closer only invites disaster.

 

John Good of Rock Hill is an outstanding caller, and he is a stickler for a proper setup. "Try to set up where the tom wants to go, not where you want him to go," he said.

 

Mistake: Call too loud to close turkeys. Turkeys rarely call loudly unless they want to communicate with another bird a long distance away, or if want to get aggressive. When turkeys are close, they usually make subtle yelps, clucks and purrs. Loud calling when turkeys are close is unnatural and will doom a hunt in a heartbeat.

Nelson Alexander of York learned this lesson early in his turkey hunting career. In his excitement to see an approaching tom, he poured on the coal. After that, he heard nothing but the wind blowing through the trees. 

 

"You can call aggressive up to a point," Alexander said. "After that, you had better ease up or shut up."

 

Mistake: Don't know your shotgun. If you don't know your gun and its limits, you are asking for trouble. Pattern your gun to see where the densest part of the pattern hits. Every spring, numerous turkeys are completely missed or hit poorly because a hunter assumed that his gun would hit where he aimed. You need to hit the turkey in it's head or neck for a clean kill; body shots rarely work.

 

Bill Davis of Pure Gold turkey chokes in McConnels advises every hunter to pattern his gun before the season.

 

"You need to place targets every 10 yards on out to a distance where you feel comfortable making a shot," he said. "The target you shoot at 10 yards will probably only have a hole the size of a golf ball. Close shots are like you are shooting a rifle. Keep shooting targets until the pattern shows less than four to six pellets in the head and neck of the turkey; this is the maximum range you should take a shot. Take your gun to a gunsmith to get the point of aim corrected, or install a scope."

 

Mistake: Go ahead, stand out. Improper camouflage is a big problem with new hunters. You are not going to a fashion show; you are going turkey hunting. You need complete camouflage from the top of your head to the bottom of your pants leg, including a face mask and gloves. Any bare skin will shine like a mirror. Make sure any manufacturers' logos that adorn your camo clothing don't stand out.