Kevin VanDam might be the greatest bass anger of all time, but if you ever wondered what stokes his fire, he’s obsessed with hunting.
Despite being hard at work on the Bassmaster Elite trail during the peak of turkey season in Michigan, he’ll steal every second to get some hunting in. In this article, KVD share's how he hunts wild trukey and his favorite tukey hunting gear.
“You’re trying to make them do something in nature that they’re not supposed to,” VanDam started. “In nature, a gobbler gobbles and the hens come to him. By imitating a hen, you’re trying to make him frustrated enough that he hunts you. That’s the challenge!
1. Where to Look for the Gobblers
Much like his approach to fishing, VanDam prefers “run-and-gun” by covering ground while looking for an aggressive bird.
His best success comes late morning or mid-day; Michigan allows turkey hunting throughout the day. “If you can get one to respond to you between 11am and 1 pm, you’ve got a good chance at calling that bird all the way in,” he said. Quite possibly the the hens are sitting on the nest at that point and a bird is a lot easier to persuade to come to you at that point.
“The only way to know you are around an older 3.5 year old bird is through scouting,” Van Dam said. He advises hunters be where turkeys habitually want to be instead of calling them into unfamiliar territory.
2. The Roost Pattern
Knowing where they roost, where they want to go, or where they have been feeding is critical.
VanDam suggests that turkey hunters monitor potential strutting areas in the mornings before the season opens. “If you can see where one was the day before, there’s a real good chance it’ll be there the next morning,” he said.
VanDam will try to roost a bird the night before at dark and return when legal hunting hours begin. ”I’ll let them gobble on their own as the sun starts to come up in the morning and sneak in as close as I can and call one in. You’ll hear a lot of action because they really like to gobble on the roost more than they do on the ground,” Van Dam explained.
3. The Art of Deception & Young Hunters
Whether solo, hunting with his boys, or a group of friends with some kids in tow, keeping a small pair of snips in his turkey vest goes a long way. He’ll trim some branches and strategically lay them down to prevent turkeys from getting a clear view.
VanDam suggests a trigger stick for younger hunters so they can rest the barrel of the gun and not have to move.
“The hardest thing for new turkey hunters to learn is that you cannot move. Turkey’s will catch the slightest movement,” he said. VanDam noted that turkeys have the same eyesight as an eagle.
“Be fully camouflaged with gloves and a facemask. I prefer to get up against something that can break up my background- like a big tree,” he said.
4. The Art of Turkey Calling
VanDam favors the Primos brand of turkey calls, especially a slate call for the unique calls they can produce. “If I want a lot of volume just trying to locate a tom, it’s hard to beat a box call because you can get a lot of volume. You can create real soft purrs, clucks, and yelps- it’s hard to beat a good slate call,” VanDam said.
Don’t “over-call”- calling loudly or aggressively every time they gobble is not the deal. “It’s critical to call just loud enough for them to hear you,” he said. “Let their own curiosity get the best of them.”
VanDam cautions hunters that once a turkey is fired up- stop calling. “I’ve seen them pinpoint your exact location from a long distance. You just have to outwait them. As long as some real hens don’t come into them, they’ll get to you.”
5. Pattern Your Shot
VanDam prefers a Benelli 12-guage, 3 ½-inch with a turkey choke and he’ll shoot only the best ammunition.
For him, 20- to 30- yards represents the perfect kill shot. He cautions hunters that if they’re too close to their target, the pattern will be too tight and they’ll miss their shot. Knowing exactly how their shotgun patterns will translate into more efficient kills.