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All of you turkey hunters will know what this means...

I have only hunted turkey a few times, and never as seriously as I will this year, but by accident I have managed to harvest a few.

My first turkey was taken while I was deer hunting when I was about 14 years old. All day I was thinking of the Butterball turkeys my mom had cooked, and, for whatever reason, I thought this wild bird was going to be just like them.

Boy, was I wrong! Since then I have managed to harvest a few more and learned how to better prepare a wild bird to make it more palatable.

Here is what I have done to prepare for my upcoming adventures in the woods in search of Tom. I started by doing a lot of walking and looking at the ground.

I was looking for two things during all of this walking. Because it is almost impossible to walk up on a turkey, I was looking for sign where turkeys had been. The most common sign is tracks.

Turkey tracks are easy to see, as these birds are usually in groups and the tracks are not like any other bird their size. When I found several tracks, I took a branch and wiped them away. I did this so the next time I came to this area and saw tracks, I would know they were not the same tracks I had seen the last time.

I wanted to know if the birds were frequenting this area or if it was a one-time visit. If I saw tracks in the same area several times, I would then hang one of my game cameras from a tree on the path they were taking and, of course, throw down a few kernels of that yellow “turkey candy.”

I was sure if the turkeys came back to this area they would stop long enough to get their picture taken; then I would be able to see just how many birds and what sex they were.

The next thing I was looking for was turkey feathers. I wanted the feathers for my decoys. And, if there was an area that had several feathers, it could mean that a big ol’ tom was doing battle with a jake.

After I found several areas that had some turkey traffic, I tried to find a spot near there that could be a roosting area. If I could find the roosting area, then half the battle was done.

Once I established an area where the turkeys came to roost, I now needed to find a good spot close by to put my tent blind. I needed an area with several good shooting lanes and possibly a small open area where I could set up my decoys.

After a little trimming of some low-hanging branches and a few palmettos, I had a spot that looked like it was meant for me to set up my tent blind.

I wanted to get my blind set up long before turkey season so the birds would get used to it being there. I even threw down a few more kernels of that yellow turkey candy. I knew that all of the candy would be long gone well before turkey season, so I was good to go as far as having bait on the ground during the season.

Now, all I had to do was check my cameras, get a turkey gun, find a turkey load for my shotgun, get some decoys, get a call, do some more scouting and do some more scouting.

I checked my camera about once a week. Lo and behold, it always had some pictures on it. I have pictures of raccoons, squirrels, dove, deer, pigs and turkeys. I checked the camera several times, and each time it had turkeys on it.

I must be in the right spot. (Story continued below)

(Check out these cool Youtube videos of Marlin Model 55's in action!)

Now I needed a turkey gun. After an inventory check of the shotguns in the safe, I determined I was going to have to purchase another shotgun. Don’t you just love this part of hunting? A safe full of guns, but not just the right one for my new venture.

I looked high and low, but did not find one that rung my bell until I was on an auction site and saw an old Marlin Model 55 Goose Gun. This was the one I had to have! What a perfect turkey gun this would make!

It already had a few bids on it, so I quickly clicked on the “Buy Now” price. “Cha-Ching!” I was now the proud owner of one of the most unique shotguns ever made.

I had one of these when I was a kid, and let me tell you, that gun would reach way on out there. I had purchased the one I owned earlier for shooting geese that flew over my property every day, and I could not knock them out of the sky with a conventional 12-gauge with a normal-sized barrel.

Like a knucklehead, I traded it for some other gun. Well, I now have another one. With this long-barreled gun, I can almost reach out and hit them with the barrel if they get close.

This is a 12-gauge, bolt-action shotgun with a fixed, extra-full choke and a 36-inch-long barrel. It comes with a 2-round box magazine and is bored to shoot 3-inch magnum shells. The whole idea with the long barrel is to burn all of the powder (giving you a little extra velocity) and hold the shot together longer (giving you a tighter pattern).

Now that I had the gun, it was time to test loads, so I was off to the store to spend some more money. I tested five different turkey loads out of this long-barreled bad boy, but really couldn’t tell a lot of difference out to about 50 yards.

I drew a turkey on a big target and aimed for the head. They all had several pellets of #4 shot in the head area. Once you get out to 70 yards, which is probably too far to try to take a shot anyway, the load that worked best in this gun was the Winchester Supreme High Velocity Turkey STH1234 copper-plated lead shot #4. The box stated these had a muzzle velocity of 1300 fps, but out of this long barrel I was averaging 1430 fps.

For decoys, I elected to use a three-bird set – two hens and one jake. I am going to position one hen in an upright position, one hen leaning forward, with the jake over her as if they were mating. If I am lucky enough to entice a tom close enough for him to see this arrangement, he should be fired up about the jake getting some action and come on in with one thing on his mind.

Early one evening, I started looking at turkey calls on the internet, and by midnight, all I had determined was there are a lot of turkey calls on the market.

The next morning I remembered my dad had a turkey call that he had used for several years, and it must have worked, because he brought home a turkey every time he went turkey hunting.

After a few hours of digging through boxes, I found the old Lynch box call, and it sounded just like a turkey.

I now have everything I need to go out there and try to harvest a turkey. I will report back and let you know if all of my preparation and planning paid off.

Shoot Safe, Shoot Straight.

If all guns were treated as if they were loaded, there would be NO MORE accidental shootings.


Jim Hammond has had some sort of gun in his hand since he was 5 years old. He started with a Daisy BB gun as a small boy, and with careful instruction from his very safety-minded father, has become a skilled and knowledgeable shooter now willing to share his knowledge and experience as he has FUN SHOOTING. “Safety first and everything else will follow.”