They walk different, they talk different, but a few key similarities give turkey hunters a big edge come fall.
My first year turkey hunting was quite an experience. I’d been hunting whitetail for about ten years, and was quite a skillful hunter (I thought). It didn’t take long, however, for me to realize just how difficult turkey hunting was, and how far I had to go. Just getting close to one was near impossible (every time I set up on one end of the field, they were at the other), and though I didn’t fill my turkey tag that first year, have learned some valuable lessons in the years since that I can honestly say have helped take my whitetail hunting up a few notches. So here are 3 key similarities I believe help those that turkey hunt increase the odds of filling deer tags, making turkey hunting a “must” for the serious whitetail hunter.
Turkey hunting helps hone your shooting skills under pressure.
Let’s face it, we’ve all choked under pressure. Whether it’s that free throw with no time left on the clock, a two strike pitch with 2 outs in the bottom of the ninth, or that big buck at 30 yards the last day of the season, when the pressure’s on things get dramatically more difficult. Our nerves can be hard to control, and it not only becomes more difficult physically (shaking hands, knocking knees, shortness of breath), but also mentally (going through the checklist in our mind, not rushing, actually aiming..). It takes a high degree of mental toughness, focus, and control to hold it together in those moments and make the shot. And as any athlete or hunter knows, the only thing that helps is rehearsal, practice, and better yet actually doing it in those intense situations. The more you experience those moments, the more competent you become in them, so if you want to get better in the moment of truth, you need to experience the moment of truth more! Turkey hunting, in my experience, offers the same adrenaline pumping experience that gets your body and mind in that “buck fever” state, and helps you know what to do, how to do it, and how to remain calm and collected to make good decisions, good shots, and have good outcomes. You’ll just be that more “clutch” when it matters if you turkey hunt.
2. Hone your stalking skills on the most alert game animal in the woods.
Some people may disagree about which animal (whitetail or turkey) has the most keen senses. The point is not to argue and compare the senses of these animals (honestly I’m not sure which would be more “alert”), but to point out that a turkey is very good at sensing danger, and you’re skills had better be top-notch in order to fool one! Just like a whitetail, turkey seem to have a sixth sense for danger, and that means you must have a sixth gear for stealth! A turkey’s eyes can catch you blink at 500 yards (OK exaggeration, but not much), so to get close to one and pull off a shot requires some real patience, careful observation, planning, and well timed movements and decisions. One false move can spell the end, as well as not acting at the exact right moment...just like whitetail hunting. If you really want to test yourself, don’t use a blind to hide you (like many situations in the deer stand). Trust me, you’ll know if your ability to blend in or stay still isn’t up to par, and your skills in this area will be that much sharper when it comes to fooling the wary senses of a whitetail.
3. Turkey hunting helps you get in sync with the environment.
I’ve noticed as I’ve gotten older and as the world has gotten faster (more instant everything), that it’s harder for me to slow down to the natural speed of things
than it used to be. It’s like the world is on caffeine espresso shots X 10, and you’ve got to keep up or you drown. Well, nature does not operate at this hyperactive pace (unless you’re a squirrel), and slowing down is a skill that turkey hunting can help with. Just getting away from all the things we are slave to and demanding our immediate attention will help, and probably help you see how bad it really has gotten (if you don’t believe me turn off your phone for a whole day and see how many times you try to reach for it.). I suggest, not to touch your phone when out hunting. Actually enjoy nature, and slow down to its pace. Look at the landscape, observe everything going on from the sunrise, to birds picking seed off the ground, to a creek and its rhythm, and just try to fit in. I’m not talking some mystical thing here, but just slowing down and fitting back into what’s going on in the natural world. When you do these things, I firmly believe hunting becomes fun, more natural, and success is much more possible… for turkey, and whitetail.
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