WDFW home
Buy license
Hunting highlights – Turkey Takeover
Monthly recreation opportunities by region

Chapter 4 – April 23, 2024

The Minimalist Turkey Hunter

By Tom Ryle/WDFW

Let’s face it, getting started in fishing and hunting can be overwhelming. There is so much gear, so much jargon, and gobs of information out there. It’s nothing short of information overload!

With the 2024 general spring turkey season underway, I wanted to cut through the clutter and provide a minimal approach to getting started with turkey hunting. Assuming you’re either new to hunting or new to turkey hunting, here’s all you really need to hit the turkey woods this spring with minimal investment.

Before we begin, you must first familiarize yourself with the 2024 Spring Season Wild Turkey Regulations to ensure you are informed and understand your responsibilities. You’ll also learn about the First Turkey Program, the challenge of completing the Washington Slam, and a fantastic wild turkey chili recipe!

Choose a Method

In Washington you have quite a few options to choose from including bow, crossbow, shotgun, muzzleloading shotgun, and even a legal modern handgun designed for hunting (see regulations for details).

Regardless of your method, be sure to practice and study shot placement resources (below) to ensure you are proficient and know where to aim when that gobbler struts into range.

Concealment Options

Turkeys have incredible eyesight, see in color, and can detect danger from great distances. They have monocular, periscopic vision, meaning their eyes are located on the sides of their heads. This means they can see about 270 degrees while facing straight forward. With a slight turn of the head, they can see nearly 360 degrees, which is why you see them pivoting their heads constantly while walking and feeding.

The bottom line is that you need to be concealed if you expect a shot opportunity. With budget in mind, there are two general approaches when it comes to concealment: wearing camouflage clothing or using a portable pop-up style ground blind. In a pinch you could skip the commercially produced camo clothing and instead opt for muted earth-toned clothing, but you will need a drab-colored face covering and gloves. Covering your face and hands is imperative to avoid being seen.

With camo clothing, including a face covering and gloves, it really doesn’t matter what style or pattern you choose. Movement is typically what catches the eye of turkeys and sours many opportunities. On the other hand, with a pop-up blind, you can literally hunt in your regular clothes provided you keep away from the window openings and keep them closed as much as possible. An inexpensive black hoody bandana or other face covering, and black gloves are recommended to help with concealment inside the blind. Shop the sales and you can likely score a great deal on camouflage clothes, a portable blind, or both.

Pop-up ground blinds are a great way to stay hidden and still remain somewhat mobile. (Tom Ryle, WDFW)

When hunting from pop-up blinds, wearing black helps mask movement in the blind, especially helpful when hunting with youngsters. (Tom Ryle, WDFW)

There several different camouflage patterns and solid colors in this photo. Muted earth tones are the name of the game in the turkey woods. (Tom Ryle, WDFW)


Footwear and socks are important and can make or break any outdoor activity. Depending on where you hunt and how you intend to hunt, turkey hunting can be done in a variety of footwear options. With the minimalist in mind, I would recommend a light hiking boot with a merino wool blend sock. My go-to option for many hunting areas is a pair of rubber camo hunting boots. I like being able to slip them on and know my feet will remain dry while crossing dew-soaked pastures, fields, and creeks. I prefer an ankle-fit (snug around the ankle) boot that does not slip in the heel while navigating hilly terrain.

I’ve had many blind set-ups on state land where I was hunting only a short walk from where I parked, and many more set-ups in or along the edges of private fields that could have been accessed wearing just about any comfortable footwear. On the other hand, if you plan to stay mobile and cover ground to locate birds, you’ll want a quality pair of boots for better ankle support and overall protection.

These options will ensure your feet are set up for success in most turkey hunting situations. (Tom Ryle, WDFW)

Calls & Decoys

The topics of calls & decoys are a turkey hunting rabbit hole! Turkeys make a variety of vocalizations, especially during the spring mating season. There are clucks, yelps, purrs, putts, kee-kee runs, and more. And there are many styles of calls available to help hunters replicate these sounds in the turkey woods.

Calling game adds a whole new level of enjoyment and excitement to a hunt but there is a lot to learn when it comes to calling turkeys. My advice is to keep it simple. Choose a basic friction call and learn how to do a basic yelp sequence of 3-to-5 yelps and a simple soft cluck sound. If you observe and listen to turkeys on the roost or just after they fly down, you’ll hear these sounds, especially yelps because they are much louder.

Friction calls are relatively easy to use and produce very realistic turkey vocalizations. (Tom Ryle, WDFW)

As for decoys, many successful turkey hunters don’t use them while others swear by them. It really comes down personal preference, just know they are not required to have a successful hunt. That said, it’s exciting to have a group of jakes (immature male turkey) or boss gobbler (dominant, mature male turkey) come running into your decoy setup! For those starting out and want the option of trying a decoy, you’re in luck because you can pick up inexpensive, collapsible foam decoys for around $15 each (hen or jake). These are nice because they are lightweight, easy to carry, and work every bit as well as the more expensive, realistic (and bulky) options.

Inexpensive foam decoys are easy to pack and dupe even the wariest of gobblers! (Tom Ryle, WDFW)

Mosquitos & Ticks

April and May weather is typically mild, which can create perfect conditions for pesky mosquitos and ticks. Some seasons are worse than others so it’s best to treat clothing and gear with products containing 0.5% permethrin. Permethrin can be used to treat boots clothing and remain protective through several washings. It is widely accepted as a safe and effective deterrent, especially for ticks. Follow the application instructions and be sure to review the labels before using. I never leave home without a mosquito headnet because waving your hands around your face will tip off every turkey in the county to your presence.

Field care & transporting your turkey

To properly break down your bird and cool the meat, you’ll need a sharp knife and cooler with ice. Gallon Ziplock bags are a great way to keep your turkey meat clean and protected while cooling on ice in a cooler. You’ll want to keep the meat out of icy water as it will turn breast meat mushy over time.

All you need to process and transport your turkeys (minus the ice). (Tom Ryle, WDFW)

Treating your hunting clothing with 0.5% permethrin prior to your hunt will help fend off ticks. (Tom Ryle, WDFW)

Useful resources

The internet is chock-full of information on turkey hunting, so consume at your heart’s content. Here are a few good references to get you started:

As with most outdoor pursuits, there’s a lot to learn when it comes to turkey hunting. But you don’t need to know everything all at once or have every piece of available gear to get started. It’s much more advantageous to acquire the minimal necessary gear, buy your license & tags, and just go turkey hunting! You’ll learn so much faster and have a great time in the process.

To further your learning, check out our Turkey Takeover blog series where we dive deeper into all things turkey hunting to provide you a weekly playbook of tips and tactics that you can take to the field throughout the spring turkey season. Check it out at myWDFW.com. Good luck this season!

Turkey Takeover Home
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7

Previous hunting highlights
Buy License