The Woodsman Magazine

How to Swat Turkeys, Not Bugs

By Babe Winkelman

Have you ever had a gobbler approach in stealth mode? Without making a gobble or even the sound of a footstep? I have, many times. But the one bird that stands out in my memory the most was an Eastern that was easily the biggest turkey I've ever seen in my life. I can¹t even guess how heavy he was, and his beard was as thick as my wrist and practically dragged on the ground.

He came in just outside of my peripheral vision. And like I said, he didn't make a sound. Ten more steps and he would have popped out right in front of me. But he didn't, because of a mosquito.

A mosquito you ask? How can a winged creature that small have any kind of effect on a winged creature the size of a mature Tom? I¹ll tell you how: the voracious little blood-sucking bandit had rudely attached himself to my neck, just as the unseen turkey was approaching. I could feel its little syringe going in, and I tried not to flinch because it¹s always so important to sit like a statue when turkey hunting. But the discomfort of that tiny torture machine was too much for me to take, so WHAP! I got him with my right hand. I also unwittingly spooked King Kong Tom with my movement. I have never hated a mosquito more than that one, and I never saw that bird again.

Well, there are lessons learned on every hunt and that day I learned (the hard way) to always be prepared with the right gear ­ insect repellent included. This is especially true when hunting in areas that have ticks carrying Lyme Disease, which is a terrible disease that can have dire consequences if undetected or untreated.

So now there's always a can of repellent in my turkey pack, whether I¹m hunting in the spring or fall. And because I hunt turkeys so often with the people I love most in the world, my wife and daughters, I always make sure they're protected with an effective repellent too.

Now, let's talk about swatting TURKEYS! I want to give you two sure-fire tips that will help you bring home more poultry, whether you're hunting with a shotgun or a bow.

For shotgun hunting, it is 100% critical to pattern your turkey gun before you go hunting ­ with the choke you're going to use in the field. Some hunters like to use anatomical turkey targets when patterning. And they're great for the job. But a sheet of cardboard with a snuff-can-sized circle drawn on it will do just as well. Because all you're trying to determine is whether the payload is landing where you aim it; and that a lethal dose of BBs are hitting inside the strike zone at your gun's effective range for turkeys. Knowing your gun's patterning performance ensures two things. First, that you¹ll make humane, lights-out shots. We owe this to the birds we hunt. And second, it will arm you with confidence in your shooting skills and equipment ­ which is so important.

For bowhunting, know where the vital organs reside in a turkey. That might sound silly, but it¹s not where people instinctively assume they're located. Rookie turkey bowhunters regularly shoot too high and too far forward on turkeys ­ into the meat of the chest. And you will not kill a gobbler with that shot. The vitals in a turkey are quite low and located about where the drumstick muscles meet the body. 

Here's what you do to get a study in turkey anatomy. Go to the grocery store, buy a turkey and study how it's built and where the organ cavity is located. Engrain it in your memory, so when the moment of truth comes and you¹re putting that pin on your bird, you put it where it belongs. After your anatomy lesson, eat the bird. It¹s a win-win.

I hope these little lessons pay dividends for you this season, and I hope you swat a giant gobbler. Who knows, maybe you'll get the one that mosquito cost me.

Good Hunting!

Babe Winkelman is a nationally-known outdoorsman who has taught people to fish and hunt for nearly 30 years. Watch his award-winning Good Fishing and Outdoor Secrets television shows on Versus Network, Fox Sports, Wild TV and many local networks. Visit for air times where you live. 


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