As I attempt to pen this column, my mind drifts off to the sound of a lonesome gobbler. With the opening day of the turkey season beginning Sunday, I am trying to put together an opening day / week plan. I don’t mind sharing with you all that it’s been a challenge, mostly because Mother Nature keeps us giving us curve balls weather-wise. She doesn’t seem to want to let go of her winter grip in Western New York. With high in the 80s last weekend and snow forecasted for mid-week, it’s going to be interesting. Needless to say, the weather has been a roller-coaster ride, but my dad would say we are over the hump.
While this past youth season found young hunters successful during the weather break, one needs to wonder how this opening day will stack up to recent successes.
There isn’t much one can guarantee anybody about turkey hunting, except this one fact: If you’re not in the woods trying, you aren’t going to kill them.
I am truly in love with hunting, especially spring longbeards. There is nothing I have experienced in the wild that gets my heart bumping more then hearing a gobbler sound off at first light. Heck, recently I have renewed that passion by traveling to other distant states hunting these pea-brained critters. I told you, I’m not right in the head.
During my travels I have learned a lot about the wild turkey and how other hunters chase them. Turkey hunters are a different breed of human. They get up in the middle of the night and hike back into the woods under the cover of darkness just to hear a gobble in hopes that they can entice the bird into range. Different breed of folk, us turkey hunters be.
Knowing what the birds are doing in your hunting area is the most important piece of the turkey hunting puzzle. Without birds, all the calling, set-ups and fancy equipment are for naught if you don’t have birds in your hunting area.
Back in the day, I felt during the first part of the season the best way to hunt birds is covering their travel routes. Traditionally, it is best to roost birds in the evening before your hunt and then sneak as close as possible for the perfect set-up.
I have used trail cameras to not only scout for birds but also to find out the quality of the birds in a given area. Any spring turkey hunter will tell you that the more hunting ground one has, the better chance one has to fill his tags. Fine-tuning your hunting ground with the use of cameras is a great first step to start getting ready for upcoming hunts.
Wild turkey are interesting critters. The way they live, where they sleep, their travel and their mating ritual is like that of no others in the wild. In the real world, boy meets girl then boy courts girl and generally girl plays hard to get. Then boy chases girl. Not in the turkey world, the girl goes to the boy. Hence, that’s one of the things I love about spring turkey hunting. Some have said I should have been born a gobbler.
As spring turkey hunters, it’s our job to convince boys to come to girls. It’s backwards of how Mother Nature programmed the turkey. As turkey hunters, it’s signals our biggest challenge. This challenge is convincing a wild turkey to do something that it isn’t designed to do. Welcome to the world of spring turkey hunting.
One of the ways to get a gobbler close, but is often overlooked is decoys. Making sure your decoys are ready and possibly replaced is something that needs to be done. Checking paint, paint that peeled off or is just faded needs to be dealt with. Nothing more will make a longbeard turn tail and run into the next county more than an ugly decoy.
Decoy or no decoy is a personal preference, but I prefer to let the turkeys tell me what they want. If you are working a gobbler without a decoy and he hangs up, then maybe a decoy would help. If you call for a longbeard and he stops at the site of the decoy, you don’t want to use a decoy next time you see that bird.
With all that said about decoys, it comes to a gut feeling at the time.
There are a ton of great real-looking turkey decoys on the market today. I prefer to mix up my decoys, whether it be model or style or breed. Mixing up your decoy spread is very important.
From folks who have never hunted the spring turkey this may sound like a difficult task, and they are right, but it’s also one of the most rewarding when one is successful than just about anything in the wild.
Calling and total concealment is vital to your success. Calling a wild turkey is truly an artform. Not only knowing how to use a wide variety of turkey calls but knowing what to say and when to say it is just as important.
While calling turkey is an artform, it is not something that is impossible to learn. Starting with a basic pot style, making small circles with the striker on the surface is a great way to produce yelp. Once one has got the yelp down, purrs, cackles and cuts are a short distance away on the learning tree. As with artforms, practice is necessary and will help one when they need to make decisions on when to call and what to say.
The wild turkey has one thing on its mind from the time it shakes the eggshells off to the poult stage through adult life, and that is to stay alive. There are numerous predators that are looking for a fresh turkey breast for their next meal just around the next bend.
With that in mind, staying concealed and not moving is imperative to turkey-hunting success. When hunting at the base of a tree one needs to blend to his surroundings. Remember, turkeys have excellent eyesight and hearing. Staying still and becoming one with the tree is your goal.
For most of us, spring turkey hunting is a lifelong passion. Some say that spring turkey hunting is a sickness and they are right. The cure for spring turkey fever is to get up early and go hunt spring gobblers.
Patience and having all the pieces of the puzzle fit just right at the right time will make you successful. Listening to your birds and letting them teach you, instead of you teaching them will help fill your spring tag.
But every season thousands of folks get introduced to hunting through spring turkey hunting. Let this season be the one where you introduce a new hunter to the exciting world of spring turkey hunting.