You can buy books about how to turkey hunt, but you can also buy books on how to do home surgery for fun and profit. Literature will give you a general, two-dimensional idea on how these tasks are accomplished, but they won’t give you practical and real-world examples on how to actually do them. If you have never turkey hunted and you want to begin, here are some suggestions and observations that might help you start dragging home Wild Turkeys sooner than you think.
Before you begin your quest for these overgrown thunder chickens, you have to decide if you want to go it alone or enlist some help. During my three decades of turkey hunting and seven years of guiding turkey hunters, I have helped many people new to the chase. I have guided rookies who knew a lot of facts about turkey hunting but needed that actual experience, and I have guided rookies who knew nothing about turkey hunting. There are several ways in which people learn information and skills, but there is no substitute for good old kinesthetic, in-the-field, hands-on education.
A professional hunting guide can get you on the fast track. Northern Missouri hunting guide Mike Binkley, of B&B Outfitting, makes a strong case, “The average hunt time for a new turkey hunter, who listens and takes instruction well, is one day. We can usually get quality people a quality bird in one day of hunting.” No guide can guarantee a hunt for wild animals, but Binkley’s career success rate is a safe bet at around 95%, and that’s not rare. Every good turkey guide I have ever been associated with, in several different states, has a success rate north of 80%, and you can too, eventually.
Most guides love to guide, and going with them can be more fun than you ever imagined. Plus, you can start building awesome hunting memories instead of disappointing ones. My single greatest memory from guiding was the time I helped a sixty-two year old gentleman from Utah bag his first gobbler in the state of Kansas. Although this man was a retired Major in the Green Berets (U.S. Army Special Forces) and a lifelong big game hunter, he did not know anything about hunting these giant birds. He was a serious man, but he was also humble enough to inform me of his lack of experience. He did everything I asked him to do and after only a couple hours on day one of his hunt, we were breaking out the cameras, laughing, and taking hero shots with his first tom turkey. It was a nineteen pound, two year old gobbler with a nine-and-a-half inch beard. I remember this because he left the tail fan and beard to me when he died five years ago.
Again, the first step in your learning journey should be figuring out which way you want to learn. Do I go with a guide, or do it myself? If you have the patience, time, and confidence to set out on your own solo mission, then good for you and good luck; however, if you want to reduce some of the pain of learning and save some time doing so, then calling a professional is a great option and a practical choice.
There are huntable populations of Wild Turkeys in 49 of our 50 states, so you can most likely find a good turkey guide nearby. Even Hawaii has them (Alaska is the only state without turkey hunting). Selecting a more local destination will save you the time and money of making an unnecessary and expensive trip.
Do your homework and learn some facts before you e-mail or call that guide or outfitter. Do not assume that just because you have chosen to learn from a pro that you will be required to purchase a fully guided hunt. You don’t have to. Fully guided hunts are often guided hunts that include lodging, meals, and transportation to and from the field. Use the internet and find a reputable outfit with many good references. Find names of people who have previously hunted with your target outfit and call them or e-mail them with questions. The number one question should be, “Do you recommend so and so?”
Once you have found a few reputable targets, find out if they offer single-day guided hunts and better yet, find out if they offer semi-guided hunts for a lesser price. Most outfitters who specialize in deer hunting might let you turkey hunt for a small trespass fee. If you can find a single-day guided scenario, this will let you obtain a crash course so you can set out in the same area on your own. Once your hunt has been set up, then it will be time to figure out what weapon and what gear to use in the second part of our two-part series, ‘A Beginner’s Guide to Turkey Hunting.’
To learn more about hunting opportunities with Mike Binkley, visit bboutfitting.com