How to Hunt Turkeys With a Boat

Warm up the outboard, throw the lines, and start your public-land gobbler quest at the reservoir boat launch.

Beach Party Turkeys often strut on open stretches of lake or reservoir shorelines. Photo by John Eriksson / Images on the Wildside

The shorelines of America’s reservoirs offer thousands of acres of public turkey woods, and the best way to hunt them is by boat. A water approach not only saves you legwork, but it can also help you get the drop on a ­giant gobbler. Here’s the game plan from launch to taking the shot.

Illustration by Jason Schneider

Shore-Shot

1 | Get a View
Study aerial photos of nearshore topography to locate potential strut zones, such as log landings, agricultural fields, and flats along wooded ridges. Some reservoirs have open areas where gravel roads were cut off when the reservoir was filled, and they also make great strutting areas. Be familiar with the public area's boundaries.

2 | Work the Water
Get on the water before dawn, and drift while owl hooting and listening during prime gobbling time. Later, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., cover as much water as you can, trying to strike a bird. Nose into coves and blow a crow call, then yelp and cutt to prompt a gobble. Look for turkeys, too. They often strut along bare shorelines.

3 | Prepare for ­Landing
When you strike a bird, motor into a cove, beach the boat quietly, and climb above and behind the turkey to cut him off from the mainland. Call and be patient. If you see birds traveling along the shore, get ahead of them around a bend, and beach the boat. Loop back, set up in the timber, and call, or just wait in ambush.

Liquid Assets

Top gear for a water-bound turkey hunt.

Meopta MeoPro HD

Is that a hen, a gobbler, or a stump? A good binocular lets you spot birds from a distance without alarming them. This pair in 8x32 features “twilight optimized optics” for high light transmission early in the morning, when birds are active. $748; meoptasportsoptics.com

Quaker Boy Road Warrior

At 17 inches long, this box call is almost too big to carry in the woods, but it’s perfect to keep on the console. That’s because it’s loud, broadcasting long distances to pry gobbles out of faraway reservoir toms. $70; quakerboy.com

Muck Edgewater Hi

Rubber boots are a necessity for hunting by boat. This Muck Boot’s neoprene upper makes it much lighter than an all-rubber boot, and it wears extremely well. $120; muck​boot​company.com