Saturday, February 4th, 2023
Saturday, February 4th, 2023

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Turkey Hunting Kill Spots

How to force a turkey within shooting range by choosing the
right place to sit

The ‘setup’ is a concept most turkey hunters have heard about,
and yet most turkey hunters do not consistently pick good setup
spots.

For consistent success in the spring turkey woods (and fields),
keep your mind engaged at all times, looking for kill spots. Even
if a turkey gobbler himself has never strutted in a given place, if
you choose it for him and then invite him over there, he will feel
comfortable about approaching- and then he will feel compelled to
come within shooting range, if you have chosen a kill spot.

In other words, you can think your way to more turkey opportunities
just by recognizing the right kind of spots when you see them.

What Makes a Kill Spot?

In the broadest sense, a kill spot can be any place a tom is
willing to approach, assuming he is in the right mood, or you can
force him to change his travel plans through convincing calling.
Beyond that, there are different places that qualify, beginning
with anywhere you have seen turkeys strutting.

Think about that for a second. As you drive around turkey country
in the spring, there are common spots you tend to see strutters.
When you stop the truck and watch a big gobbler all fanned out,
also look around and notice physical characteristics of the place.
Anglers call this paying attention to what kind of structure- or
structure/cover combinations- are holding fish.

Think about the classic places you always see turkeys strutting.
Many of them are in corners of fields, places where the cover of
trees and other brush are just a few frantic footsteps away, in the
event danger approaches. Others are smack in the middle of open
places, where it is extremely difficult for predators to sneak up
without being noticed.

Beyond these, there are many not visible from the road.

Most kill spots have common features. Almost always, they are found
in relatively open ground. In a patch of dense woods, it’s a bend
in a trail where it widens out more than normal. On a steep wooded
ridge, it might be a ‘bench’ as they call it, a slightly flatter
area, with a decent opening.

There can be a big difference, though, between a place turkeys
would be willing to go and a kill spot. You have to be able to
notice the fatal flaw in some setup spots before you sit down and
try to call in a gobbler.

In many cases, you have a nice open spot, or a flat opening on a
fairly steep hillside, but the fact is a turkey gobbler will be
able to peer at the source of your calling from long distance and
expect to be able to see the hen calling to him. In those places, a
decoy can and does work, at times. But, more often than not, if a
gobbler can look from outside of shooting range and expect to be
able to see the hen, he is not willing to come all the way. If he’s
in the right mood, yes, he will keep coming. On some days, places
like that are home to successful hunts. But they are not true kill
spots by the definition we are making up as we go here.

Kill spots, in the purest and truest sense, are places a gobbler
feels comfortable approaching, and the terrain forces him to
approach within shooting range before he can reasonably expect to
see the hen that is calling to him (that would be you).

So, true kill spots are places where you sit and call, the gobbler
is more than willing to approach to where he thinks he will be able
to see the hen calling to him, and you are able to shoot him from
right there. All other places require luck and/or the gobbler being
in the right mood- willing to keep coming, past where he thinks he
should be able to see the hen, past where his instincts tell him to
stop and make the hen come to him.

The best kill spots have everything going for them. That’s why I
often take extra time to go look at a place where gobbling was
coming from, if it turns out that bird was not callable. Especially
if a tom appears to have been gobbling from about the same spot for
quite a while, I want to know what that place looks like.

If it turns out to be a nice little opening that’s difficult to
approach for predators (including hunters), that place goes into my
handheld GPS because it’s probably a kill spot. If I can get there
before he does the next day, and call from there, I am probably
going to get a shot at him.

These are the places where you should set up a blind. Go in there
to set the blind only when you know the bird is not there at the
moment, and get into it before the time he starts gobbling from
that spot. If you don’t know the timing of these turkeys, get into
that blind before daylight and take your chances. Make sure you are
in that blind about an hour before you heard the bird gobbling the
day before.

All that can be excellent strategy, but it assumes turkeys are as
patternable as deer, and they are not. They don’t always do the
same thing every day, so the search for kill spots should be
continuous, and you should call from every one you encounter every
time you’re out there.

One of the most important factors to remember: before you think of
a spot as a kill spot and start calling from there, look all around
and mentally choose where the bird would have to come before he
would expect to be able to see you.

If you can see in any direction well beyond your shooting range,
then you better put out a decoy. Hen decoys should sport a relaxed
posture. Jake decoys can be extremely effective when they sport an
upright “spoiling for a fight” posture. Hen decoys should be facing
away from the direction gobblers can see from long distance! That
way, if an approaching tom (still out of shooting range) sees it,
he will also notice that her back is to him. That way, he is more
likely to come all the way to where she can see how amazing he
looks all puffed up, at which point you have a shot at him.

This is the visual evidence you supply that helps you make up for
the fact that it’s not really a kill spot you are calling from.

Approaching a Kill Spot

Let’s say you know five kill spots on a piece of property you hunt.
You can’t set up on all five of them at the start of every outing.
At some point, you are going to be quietly working your way through
the woods and end up close to one of the kill spots.

Or, maybe you just have a feeling about a place, on a new piece of
property.

Before you approach within sight of the kill spot, take time to
pick a reasonable secondary setup position (someplace a turkey
would also be willing to approach), and call from there. It is
easily possible that a gobbler is already at the kill spot, and you
will spook him away if you walk right in there. But if you call to
him before you get there, and he’s there waiting, you are likely to
get an eager gobble. You might be able to lure him off the kill
spot to your secondary spot. In this situation you really have to
sound convincing, and hold super still as he comes off his
spot.

(Again, a relaxed-posture hen decoy, facing away from the kill
spot, can really help in this situation.)

If you call from your secondary spot and he gobbles with gusto but
will not budge, it is best to leave the place without spooking him
and come back later. A true kill spot is one that you will not be
able to approach without him seeing you. If he’s there already, all
the advantages are his when it comes to seeing you before you even
get to where you can glass the spot.

In this case, leave him alone and come back at a time when you can
set up on the kill spot and then bring him back there with your
calling.

It’s All About Odds

Turkey pro Eddie Salter gets criticized for seeming to think there
is “a turkey behind every tree,” because of the way he slinks
around the woods and sends pleading calls into many areas. But I
think he understands the concept of kill spots, and chooses to err
on the side of caution when it comes to the possibility that he
will bump birds if he walks forward without sending out some
calling first.

All forms of hunting and fishing eventually come down to experience
and tipping the odds in your favor. You can have great fun out in
the spring turkey woods getting “answers” from distant gobblers-
even nearby gobblers that won’t come to you. It is exciting to hear
gobbles. It’s exciting to see a big puffed-out tom peering down at
your calling position for a half hour before walking away.

But nothing beats completely fooling a mature gobbler and having
him come all the way to a kill spot you selected, presenting an
excellent shot well within range for your weapon of choice.

The concept of kill spots is fascinating, something that I have
been focusing on more every year, almost to the point of obsession.
About three years ago, while walking out of a spot in Missouri,
Dave Wilson and I came upon a depression in a green field that had
all the right ingredients and stopped to check it out. There, in a
patch of sand, were wing-drag markings and loads of turkey tracks.
Looking around, we couldn’t see more than about 50 yards in any
direction when standing down in the depression. Two wooded draws
ended near the sandy area. You could not see the main road from
there.

Turkeys might not even gobble from such a place, but there was
evidence they were gathering there and strutting. We walked back to
Dave’s truck and drove back to the spot and set up a blind without
hardly even talking about it.

We had not hunted that spot during the day that was now over, but
we both felt fully committed to it and wanted to be there the next
morning before daylight, calling like an eager hen. After several
hours of nothing, at around 9 o’clock, out stepped a monster
gobbler from the wooded draw opposite the blind. He spotted the
decoy and came right into the sand where he presented a perfect
shot at about 18 yards.

Kill spot, for sure.

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