It’s been said that the turkey is so devoid of intelligence, it will stare at the sky during a rainstorm until it drowns. And if the extent of your experience with the bird is what ends up slathered in gravy on your Thanksgiving table, you might just believe it.
But those of us who hunt the damn things know better. We know the belief that turkeys are the dumbest animal on the planet is the product of domestication—and that whole rain staring thing is just a misconception. We know that there’s a certain shrewdness to the wild turkey, a cagey alertness that makes them wickedly elusive.
Ben Franklin himself once famously exalted the wild turkey, suggesting the scrappy North American bird might have even made a superior choice for the nation’s preeminent symbol:
“For my own part, I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the representative of our country. He is a bird of bad moral character. He does not get his living honestly… In truth, the turkey in comparison is a much more respectable bird and withal a true native of America… He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his farm with a red coat on.”
In short, the wild turkey is one tough S.O.B.
See, unlike deer, the wild turkey has no natural curiosity. The first sign that something is off and he’s gone faster than you can say Jack Robinson. And no matter how well you think you know the terrain, he knows it better. The wild turkey has the incredible ability to map over 1,000 acres of territory and, even more incredibly, the ability to remember the ins and outs of that territory after more than a year of absence.
He’s got incredible eyesight (3x more clear than 20/20), a running speed of 25mph (don’t get me started on flying) and exceptional hearing (if they could smell, we’d never get them). If you’re still not convinced, consider that a wild turkey can differentiate between a member of its flock or an outsider by any one of 20 unique vocalizations—making mastery of these varying turkey calls painstakingly difficult but crucial to the success of the hunt.
And yet, all of these factors are what make the challenge of outsmarting wild turkeys that much more rewarding. Perhaps challenge isn’t even the right word… When it comes to turkey hunting, the ability to outcall, to spot and stalk through tough terrain, to fool a seemingly foolproof bird, borders on an art form. There’s a different level of pride one feels after bagging a big, beautiful wild turkey tom—knowing full well how much strategy, precision and hard work went into defeating such a worthy adversary.
Wicked Willy’s Turkey Hunting Tips:
- Wild turkeys hunker down around sunset. Spotting a bird less than an hour before dusk will give you a good idea of where to start in the morning.
- Save empty medicine containers for storing and separating species tags. Our Free Range and Fast Food stickers are perfect for quick differentiation.
- If you’re not stalking solo, put the buddy system to work. When you’re at bat, have your friend sound their turkey calls from 20-30 yards behind you. Birds will often hang up before fully committing—putting you in a primo spot for the shot.
- Snow is a godsend for pre-season scouting. Take advantage of fresh powder to locate tracks to and from turkey roosting sites.
- Keeping the chess game going is hard work—winning it is even harder. Stay fueled with plenty of snacks and water to make sure you can go the distance.
Roosting is for the birds! Get up and get out there.