By the early 1900s, the turkey population had been decimated in North America because of habitat destruction, commercial hunting, and lack of wildlife regulations. Hunters, wildlife agencies and conservation organizations intervened and turkey populations rebounded dramatically. More than 7 million wild turkeys now roam North America, with populations in every U.S. state but Alaska. Wild turkeys are also hunted in parts of Mexico and Canada.
In North America
Turkey hunting is also prevelent in parts of WExford, Rep. of Ireland, especially in such areas as Monageer and Carnew.
Species and subspecies
There are two species of turkey pursued as game animals in North America, the Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) and the Ocellated Turkey (Meleagris ocellata). The Wild Turkey is further divided into six subspecies. To harvest a bird from the Eastern, Osceola, Rio Grande, and Merriam’s Wild Turkey subspecies is known in turkey hunting circles as a “Grand Slam”. Harvesting a bird from all the subspecies in the “Grand Slam” as well as the Gould’s Wild Turkey subspecies and the Ocellated Turkey is known as a “World Slam”.
Techniques and equipment
Depending on local rules and regulations, the wild turkey is hunted either in the spring or fall. Spring hunts target gobblers (male turkeys) and fall hunts usually target either sex. Spring hunting coincides with the wild turkey mating season, where gobblers can be called into gun range with calls that mimic the sounds of a hen. Fall seasons occur when turkeys are in flocks, and the typical fall hunt strategy is to “bust up” or “scatter” a flock of turkeys, and then use turkey calls to bring the game back.
The shotgun is a popular weapon for hunting wild turkey. Shotgun gauges used in turkey hunting include 10, 12, 16, and 20 gauge. #4, #5, and #6 lead shot is often used in 2 3/4″, 3″, or 3 1/2″ shotshells. Bow and arrow is starting to become popular among hunters. Common hunting broadheads are used for body shots while “guillotine” style broadheads are intended to remove the head with the shot. Some states even allow small caliber rifles to be used while pursuing turkeys. Turkey hunters usually wear full camouflage, from head to toe, to conceal themselves from the wild turkey’s excellent eyesight. This includes pants, shirt, hat, boots, gloves, and a mask. Many hunters wear a turkey vest with a cushion to sit on and compartments to carry their calls and dead turkeys.
Calls used in turkey hunting fall into two categories, air and friction activated. Air calls include diaphragms, wingbone calls, Turpin yelpers, trumpet calls, and snuff tube calls. Friction calls include box calls, pot and peg calls, scratch boxes, and push pin calls. These calls are relatively easy to use and even a beginner can use them to call in turkeys. Common locator calls include Owl hooters, Crow calls, Hawk calls, and anything that will produce a loud noise. This causes a turkey to “shock” gobble and give away his location.