Turkey Season: Can you tell your Toms from your Jakes?

Hunter With Gun Wearing Full Camouflage Camo Clothing

With turkey season approaching for our friends across the pond, we thought it apt to delve deeper into the nature of the turkey shoot and the various regulations of the tradition. Although the term “turkey shoot” is used in common language to describe the completion of easy targets, the sport is much more complex than one would imagine.

Firstly, one must be able to identify which turkey they can shoot according to legislation, so telling the difference between a Tom and a Jake is crucial before embarking. Unsure of the two? Not to worry. Both are colloquial terms for adult male and juvenile male turkeys, with Tom being used for the adult and Tom for the younger. The quickest way of identifying the two is by observing their tale when they strut. A Tom’s tail feathers will all be the same length across the circumference while a Jake’s feathers will be longer at the centre. Depending on where you hunt, it may be illegal to kill turkey hens, so knowing the difference between a mature female turkey and a young male is crucial. Because of the various breeds of turkey, we suggest researching these individually and dependant on the area you are shooting.

Turkeys themselves are intelligent wild animals, and although they lack in their sense of smell, they make up for this with their eyesight that helps them detect even small amounts of movement. For a shooter to allow themselves an approach to the bird, camouflage is a hunter’s best friend. Calling can also be used to imitate a hen to play on the animal’s curious nature. Many hunters believe that if you spook a turkey you can never call it again, however patience is key (like with most shoots) and by switching calls and positions, the bird is unlikely to resist because of the short nature of the breeding season.

Calling technique is an often-debated topic when it comes to the hunting of turkeys. As a matter of personal preference, one can use their woodmanship with minimal calling for a slower paced hunt, or for the more aggressive shooter, the use of more frequent and loud calling can be used to try and force the issue. Although the extremes of subtle and aggressive calling have both proven to work, striking the balance between the two and reacting to the rafter’s behaviour is most likely to yield the most efficient results.

Although hunting is generally more varied in the USA thanks to the many shapes & sizes of their wildlife, the execution of a turkey hunt is not too dissimilar to our own shooting practices and demonstrates the common gamesmanship shared between our two nations. We wish our friends from across the pond the best of luck this Spring season, and to those closer to home, we hope this has furthered your appreciation for our sport.