Turkey Hunting Is Not Like Deer Hunting

The Value of Patience in the Turkey Woods

By Alex Killman | PUBLISHED April 3rd, 2023

If you’re anything like me, about an hour into any given hunt, the doubt starts to creep in. You’ve scoured the map, you’ve studied the trail cam picks, you’ve planned out where you’re going to sit and at what time, and you’ve gotten set up without bumping turkeys. But an hour of solitude, staring at the open turkey-less timber in front of you, is enough time to completely tear apart your whole plan from A to Z. Was this really the best spot? What if he comes over that rise instead of this one? Why aren’t they gobbling? Are they even still in the area? A silent daybreak can sometimes cause doubt to take hold, which all too often leads us to pack up and move without a good enough reason to do so.

Trust The Plan

If you’ve put in the time and effort and done your homework, and you’re confident in your chosen location and setup, the best thing to do is see it through. I don’t know how many times I’ve built a plan around solid intel, then moved too early because it just didn’t feel right when it wasn’t happening soon enough, only to have my trail cams tell me two hours later that I should’ve stayed put. In fact, one of my goals for every season that 2023 holds is to see my plans through on every hunt. Sometimes, they’re going to be a bust. That’s why it’s called hunting and not getting. But if I’ve done the work of building a solid plan, then I owe it to myself to learn from it. Either I hit a home run, or I learn something from the failure. But moving before you’ve given your plan time to mature ensures one thing – you have no idea if you were right or not. If you move early, strike up a bird, and get the job done, that’s awesome. But you still won’t know for future hunts if the strategy you built was worth recreating or not. Now, I’m not saying there aren’t times when you should move. There definitely are, and you have to be the judge of that on a hunt-to-hunt basis. But if you’re like me, and you have a tendency to move too often, maybe this should be the year to put your hunting skills to the real test and see just how skilled you are at coming up with a plan that ends with a tagged turkey.

Run ‘n Gun Is Great . . . At The Right Time

We’ve all seen run n’ gun hunting on YouTube that ends with lots of high fives and a turkey on the tailgate. That kind of hunting can be as exhilarating as anything you’ve ever experienced, but don’t let those highlight reels hold too much real estate in your brain during a hunt that you’ve prepared for. If you don’t have much intel to go off of, and you’re more-or-less guessing at a lot of what you’re doing, then moving around might be exactly what you need to do, especially if you hear gobbling in the distance and have no idea if they typically come anywhere close to your location. Sometimes, if you’re calling from a spot where turkeys don’t typically frequent, no matter how much they gobble back, they may never come. They may, but they often don’t. So, sometimes moving around is best. 

When The Plan Isn’t Working Out

First of all, we need to be clear on what working out means. Working out doesn’t always mean a tagged bird. It could mean any number of things depending on the scenario. In my opinion, if you put your eyes on a gobbler during a hunt based on a plan you built, it worked out. The stars just didn’t align to get him within range. So, why change anything or feel like it was a failure? Just a week ago from the time of this writing, I had two longbeards at 37.5 yards, but couldn’t fill a tag. Was that a failure? Absolutely not. I got to see my plan come to a successful, albeit frustrating, end. They hung up outside of a window I couldn’t squeeze an arrow through. It happens, but the plan was solid. On the other hand, if your plans are consistently not working out, even though you’re giving them ample opportunity to do so, then something does need to change. But the necessary changes need to come from the lessons learned through seeing plans fail. So, always ask why after a plan doesn’t produce the results you thought it would. Sometimes the answer is simple – they’re wild animals and they just did something a little different than they usually do. Other times it’s a little more complicated and requires you to fine-tune parts of your overall strategy. Either way, the best way to become a better turkey hunter is to continuously learn from every single trip to the woods.

Keep It Light

We can put a lot of pressure on ourselves when it comes to hunting, especially if you’re like me and it’s something you devote a large portion of your life to. That pressure to succeed can be one of the biggest reasons we fail to stick to a plan. We feel the urgency to try and make it happen, so we abandon what we know for the possibility of what could be just over the ridge. But we have to remember that as turkey hunters, we’re not defined by the number of spurs we’ve collected, but by the experience and wisdom we gain through the lessons learned on every hunt. So, don’t stress it. Stick to the plan until it needs to change. Learn from the failures. And most of all, have fun. 

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