7 Costly Mistakes to Avoid When Hunting Turkeys

Learn how to identify and avoid commonly-made turkey hunting errors that can leave you holding a gobbler-tag sandwich

By: Travis J. Faulkner, TheSportsmanChannel.com

Biggest Mistake While Turkey Hunting

Longbeards, such as the one above, don’t get older and bigger from not being cautious. Following a few tried-and-true tips can help outwit educated gobblers. (Travis Faulkner photo)


Sometimes it’s easy to let our egos swell just a little when things go as planned, such as those times when a fired-up gobbler practically trips over his beard while racing to your sweet-loving calls. It would be nice if all hunts ran smoothly, but that’s not always the case in the turkey woods.

The truth is all of us are going to eventually make mistakes that will cost us a longbeard or two.  As dedicated turkey hunters, we must take our mistakes in the woods and transform the shortcomings into knowledge to help eliminate future blunders in similar situations. Here are seven commonly-made errors you need to avoid during spring turkey season.

1. Choosing Weak Setups

Biggest Mistake While Turkey Hunting Weak Setups

Strategically choosing setups that eliminate natural obstacles and make it easy for gobblers to reach your position will dramatically increase shot opportunities. (Travis Faulkner photo)


Consequently, how you setup can actually be more important than your calling skills. Some turkey hunters merely flop down anywhere close to the tom and begin their calling sequence without much consideration or thought about their setup.

On occasion this technique will produce and the hunter will score with a nice bird. However, how many times have you heard about or experienced a gobbler hanging up just out of gun range?

In many cases, terrain features that form natural obstacles will cause a seemingly fired-up gobbler to throw on the brakes. Creeks, rivers, ditches, thickets, blow-downs and cliffs are all capable of freezing a longbeard dead in his tracks.

If you want to avoid this notorious situation, then you need to develop an intimate knowledge of the longbeard’s stomping ground through meticulous scouting efforts. Preseason scouting allows a hunter to locate turkey sign and pinpoint obstacles that can potentially blow your chances of calling a gobbler into range.

2. Keeping Gobblers on the Roost

Biggest Mistake While Turkey Hunting Roosting Gobblers

Calling to a roosted longbeard over and over is a major mistake, because it keeps him on the limb and increases the chances of attracting actual hens and other hunters. (Travis Faulkner photo)


Entering a heated conversation with a longbeard that is still on the roost is a common slipup many of us make each and every season. It is important to note that delaying the fly-down by keeping the tom gobbling can lead to disastrous results.

Many hunters tell stories back at camp about a how a longbeard gobbled frantically from the roost and was never heard of again once on the ground. It’s likely the gobbler attracted a hen that decided to escort her man away from you.

In this situation, a hunter should make contact with the gobbler by submitting soft and subtle tree yelps just before first light. After you trigger a response, you should not call again until the tom is on the ground. The gobbler has already located you and should be headed your way shortly. Remember, when you keep him talking on the limb, he is likely to attract other hunters or actual hens and you really don’t want either of those showing up.

3. Failing to Blend in with Surrounds

Many longbeards get educated each season by hunters failing to blend in with their surroundings. A turkey’s eyes are equivalent to a deer’s nose and serve as their main line of defense.

Old timers swear turkeys can detect a hunter merely blinking their eyes in the woods. If you question or doubt a turkey’s sight capabilities, chances are you will find yourself spinning yarns about the one that got away on a regular basis.

In order to avoid getting busted, always try to setup with your back against trees wider than your shoulders. Disappear into the darker shadows and stay out of areas that are well lit by the sun. It’s also not a bad idea to cut and utilize sapling tree limbs with leafy foliage to help naturally break up your outline.

4. Overcalling

Calling too much causes hang-ups and draws too much attention from nearby hens and other hunters.

Overcalling is probably the number one crime committed by turkey hunters each and every spring. The easiest and quickest way to educate a longbeard is to be a jabber mouth with your calls. Sometimes a pumped up two-year-old that is getting to breed for the first time will make you think you can’t call too much. However, a veteran gobbler does not always cooperate as easily.

We all enjoy hearing a tom pound our ears with ground-shaking gobbles, and it’s this addiction that often generates errors. These mistakes are usually associated with volume and the intervals between calling sequences. It is easy for even experienced hunters to get caught up in the moment and overkill their calling. Placing a cap on the amount of communication between you and the gobbler will ultimately allow you to bag and tag more birds.

5. Chase and Call

Biggest Mistake While Turkey Huntng Chasing Calling

Trying to run a longbeard down and calling along the way will often make him go the opposite direction. Patience is the key to success in this game. (Travis Faulkner photo)


A tom asserting his dominance by filling the morning air with hair-raising gobbles is enough to drive any hunter into a state of sheer madness. This is a situation where pure adrenalin pumps through our legs like racing fuel in a stock car.

All of this excited energy has the tendency of producing an impatient hunter who tries to chase the longbeard down, while calling every breath. This technique works wonders for getting in shape, but has a poor track record for filling tags.

An aged gobbler who has experienced and judged all the local calling talent is not going to be overly anxious. The situation often transforms into a waiting game or a chess match.

In many cases, the absolute worse strategy you can employ at this juncture is to call louder and move closer. Instead of getting into a big hurry, exercise a little patience coupled with some light-calling strategies. These two tools will create way more shot opportunities than your legs and aggressive calling.

6. Misjudging Gobbling Distance

Early in the spring season, the woods are relatively open without much cover. The lack of foliage and greenery allows sound to carry greater distances. Under these circumstances, many hunters setup farther way from gobblers than they initially think.

Remember, distance dramatically increases the chances of a longbeard hanging-up behind some unforeseen obstacle. This is where you must utilize your surroundings and terrain to move closer without being detected.

On the other hand, the game radically changes as the season progresses and the warm weather generates a sea of green. Now, that seemingly distant gobble is probably a lot closer than you think.

Spring’s new coat of foliage hinders sound from traveling as far as a few weeks earlier. As a result, many of us will bump birds by miscalculating the distance and trying to setup too close. The trick is to learn how to accurately gauge the distance and setup accordingly.

7. Utilizing One-Dimensional Calling

A lot of hunters make the mistake of stubbornly sticking with their favorite go-to call that has produced for them over the years. They rely on the same call for each and every hunting scenario. As with anything in life, certain situations require the use of different tools to fix a variety of problems. The same can be said about turkey hunting, especially when it comes to calling.

A prepared turkey hunter will carry an assortment of calls that may aid in coaxing a hardheaded longbeard into close range. It’s extremely important to realize there are differences in individual turkey sounds and vocalizations. Sometimes switching calls is all it takes to make a reluctant gobbler break into a dead run to your position.

The longbeard you are working may be sweet for a hen that submits a high pitch yelp or he might be looking for a feathered seductress with a raspy voice.

My point is a hunter should never be afraid to put away old reliable for a call that emits a different sound. All turkey hunters should be capable of producing a wide array of sounds that create tones from raspy to clear within their arsenal of calls. My turkey vest is crammed packed with numerous types of calls that can effectively attack each calling situation.

This spring, make a mental note of your own personal past mistakes and breakdown these commonly-made hunting errors before hitting the woods. Taking steps to avoid such mishaps will ultimately generate more shot opportunities and lead to more punched tags.

Learn from these painful errors, make the right adjustments, and experience an action-packed season that you’ll never forget.