The baiting of wild turkeys with food is banned in all states with turkey populations unless you have a permit to capture and relocate turkeys or a depredation hunt.
However, what I have in mind and the method I use, particularly during the spring turkey hunt is audio baiting.
It’s no secret turkeys are attracted by “Turkey Talk”, the sounds made by other turkeys. After all, that is why most turkey hunters make or purchase several different styles of turkey calls. Some hunters have bought into the notion that turkeys become call shy, and you should not call when you are not hunting. Unless you are a terrible caller or cause a big human disturbance entering and leaving the hunting area, you will not scare or educate turkeys by making turkey sounds. By the way, some of the worst turkey calls I have ever heard came out of the beaks of turkeys.
How it works
The evening before your hunt decide where you would like a gobbler to be the next morning, the approximate area. The tom probably will not fly into the exact tree you desire, but he may get close to it. The goal is to pull a wandering gobbler or two into the area you can hunt come morning.
Locate a prominent open location where sounds you make will have the best chance of traveling the greatest distance possible. Trees, vegetation, and hills obstruct or absorb sound. Some unobstructed sound corridors are necessary. Another method is to move quietly along a trail audio trolling; picture floating a river casting in likely spots only you are using audio lures rather than fishing lures. Think of it as audio chumming.
If your season is open and it is legal to take your gun on this setup just in case a gobbler shows, after all, you are in a turkey woods that contains turkeys and you never know when one is going to show. At least one-third of all my spring turkeys are taken late afternoon/early evening.
After setting up start calling; using yelps, cackles, purrs, and clucks; increasing the volume and intensity as sunset approaches. Guide your calling by imagining a couple of hens sparring with each other over the best roost trees. Of course, as you call, listen for an answering gobbler and if you hear an answering gobble begin calling as you would during any other setup.
Assuming you heard no turkeys going to roost, understand, this does not mean there are not any turkeys in the immediate area. If you have no other “for sure spot” at which to start in the morning, arrive at the last evening’s calling location before gobbling time. Many times I hear the gobblers without doing anything else, so all that remains is to pick a good setup location and go about calling em in. If you don’t hear anything owl hoot or tree yelp and listen, then proceed with your hunt in the usual manner.
Late in Wisconsin’s 2012 spring turkey season a friend hunting in northern Wisconsin called me for advice about finding a turkey. He is a very experienced turkey hunter accustom to success all over the country. But he wanted to kill a turkey on his property, something that had eluded him for many years. He described gobblers roosting along the property line of his land but in the morning they promptly flew into the neighbor’s field, strutted and faded away.
I suggested that he should try audio baiting as previously described in order to pull the turkeys deeper into his land in the hopes of then setting up between the turkeys and field. My grateful buddy called the next day with the happy news it worked. He had killed his first ever gobbler on his property shortly after fly down and admitted he had thought I was crazy suggesting the audio baiting strategy.
Update: Kirkland Warblers and Wild Turkeys audio baiting.
The above-linked update article covers wild turkeys being motivated to move into new areas with the use of calling. Wildlife biologists are using audio baiting tactic to get Kirkland Warblers, sage grouse and prairie chickens onto actively managed habitat.
Jim Sinquefield says
Never tried audio bating tactics. Tell your friend to put fertilizer stakes broad fertilizer pellets around the drip edge of white oat trees the deer and turkey often frequent and the following spring he will have lots of deer and turkeys feeding on the abundant crop of acorns under the fertilized trees.