There are generally two types of turkey hunters. One is the “I was tagged out in time for a late breakfast” guy. The other is, “my turkey gear is for sale for the right price,” guy. Too often both of these hunters are hunting under similar circumstances, but with very different results. The worst part is, most of these differences are self-inflicted. If you want to fill your turkey tag on opening morning, here are three things you need to make sure you aren't doing.
Locate your birds. Try to understand their pattern. Then leave them alone. Turkeys are creatures of habit, far more so than deer. Once they have a routine they like, they are going to follow it until something messes it up. Scouting too much, too often, or too close is just going to make those birds wary of the areas you know they are frequenting.
Best case scenario, you locate the area the birds are using two to four weeks before the season opens and monitor the area with cameras to make sure they don't disappear during that time. The last few nights before the season opens, visit your turkey hunting property and, from a distance, monitor where the gobblers are roosting. Use that information, along with your camera study to make a plan for opening morning that gets you close enough to work the birds, but not so close that you push them off the roost or mess them up while scouting too much.
DON'T TALK TOO MUCH
There's a reason you see this in almost every turkey hunting article you read. It's true. Overcalling is a problem. No matter how many times people are told not to call to much, they still do. If the bird is working your direction, and talking to you, just stop.
Calling too much, especially to a bird that's already working to you does several things you don't want. First, the more you call the more he can narrow down exactly where you are. If he knows exactly where to find you, he's going to be that much more focused on watching for movement. If the movement he sees isn't that hen he's after, that bird is likely heading the other direction.
The other thing aggressive calling can do is make that gobbler think you're more desperate than he is. If you give that tom the impression that you, as a hen, are willing to do anything to get his attention, he may well let you. There's nothing wrong with playing a little hard to get. It'll keep that gobbler guessing, and give you a better chance at killing a bird.
The last thing calling too much can do is educate birds. There's nothing worse than hunting call-shy birds that have been pressured. Not too long ago I hunted a farm where after two days of chasing birds, the landowner mentioned that he likes sitting on the deck of his house and “ talking to his birds.” He didn't mean singing them lullabies, he was literally calling to these birds seven days a week. They were so used to be being called to by “birds” that weren't there, that they wouldn't react like you'd expect birds to react and they'd hang up well out of range. Don't educate those birds more than have to if you want to fill that tag.
Patience kills almost as many birds as lead does. Provided you haven't educated your birds in some other way, they have a pretty short memory. Too often hunters will see their initial setup fail and then overreact to the situation and do more harm than good. Did the gobblers pitch down and work away from you even though they answered your calls? Did they skirt you but not commit and come into range? Before you jump up and chase them across the county, give it a little while. Turkeys can cover a lot of ground in a hurry. Unless you've given them a really good reason to put ground between you and them, if they know you are there and you sound like a hen, they will probably work their way to you as birds get into their morning routine.
It may feel like torture to sit there for 30 minutes while the birds work away from you, but if you did your job, they'll more than likely circle back sooner than you think and you can close the deal. But if you force the issue, overreact, and get into a here-we-go-again mindset, you're going to blow those birds out of the area, and maybe do damage that you can't undo before the end of the season.
At the end of the day, having a successful turkey season is often as much about what you don't do, as what you do. If you can keep your wits about you, and avoid the common mistakes that everyone knows, but still commits, you can be the guy bragging about punching that tag before the local diner stops serving breakfast on opening day.