Make like a tree

by Mike Miller | April 21, 2016
Tree stand turkey hunting

Photo by Brent Richardson

Finding yourself a nice comfy spot at the base of a tree, sitting statue-still, and calling in birds is one way to hunt for turkeys. Settling yourself inside a blind is another. But after 20 years of turkey hunting, I’ve decided to mix it up this year and perch myself in a tree.

Admittedly, it’s an unconventional way to hunt turkeys, but it’s perfectly legal. I’ve encountered hundreds of wild turkeys while hunting for deer and bear from a tree stand and I’ve found the birds are less apt to notice me in a tree, even when I’m wearing hunter orange.

Find your perch
If you’ve seen turkeys regularly from your deer or bear tree stand, you have an easy place to start your tree stand turkey adventure. But, if you’re setting up a new stand, here are three game plans to try:

  1. Place a tree stand on the southeast edge of an active field where there’s lots of strutting activity. The sun will be behind you on morning hunts, making it harder for birds to spot you, and easier for you to see. This is where I’ll be on opening day, and to make it even more interesting, I will face the woods so I’ll be concealed and my calls will sound like they’re farther away.
  2. Locate a roosting tree and set up in a tree very close by with your stand on the opposite-facing side of the roosting tree. Go in quietly while it’s still dark. Birds may get nervous, but they will usually relax once you’re settled. (The show when the birds come out of the roost is worth it.)
  3. Set up over old deer or game trails that run to and from field edges. Turkeys will use the same trails almost every day, and with any luck you can get great shots at birds passing below.

No matter what spot you choose, the higher your tree stand the better. I like to be a minimum of 15 feet off the ground and in a conifer tree if possible.

Call time
Just like turkey hunting on the ground, you’ll need to be very still. But, if you use my second or third game plan suggestion, you won’t need to do much calling, if any. You’ll be on the birds already and calling might give away your position.

If you’re setting up on a field edge calling will be required, but if done right it’s sure to draw in an aggressive tom. Use whatever calling method you’re comfortable with, but once a tom gets onto it and is headed for your location, keep calling to a minimum. In my experience, he will zig-zag in and out of the treeline looking for the hen delivering the call. This should give you a couple of great chances at him. When the tom goes behind natural cover, adjust your position or call as required.

Firearm preference
A crossbow will be my firearm of choice when I’m in a tree stand. It allows me to stay seated and limit any movement needed to draw on a bird at close range. But, there’s nothing wrong with using the trusty turkey gun you’ve always used or even a compound bow; you’ll just need to be stealthy on the draw.

Tell your friends you plan on hunting turkey from a tree stand this season, and they might tell you to give your head a shake. But if you’ve been hunting turkeys for a while, why not challenge yourself with something new?

Looking for more turkey hunting tips? Click here. 

Catch Mike Miller on Angler & Hunter Television.