As spring turkey season approaches, hunters all over will be heading into the woods. Some are seasoned hunters and others will be on their first adventure. There is nothing more exciting than a gobbler sounding off from the roost in the pre-dawn light, or the sight of those beautiful tail feathers fanned out while he struts around the hens! Whether you’re still learning the ropes or have years of experience, here are some tactics for a safe and successful season!
Safety starts when you get dressed for your turkey hunt. Never wear clothing that is red, white, or blue that might be seen by another turkey hunter. A spring gobbler’s head and neck are these colors and, although the first rule before shooting is to properly identify your target, you could be in potential danger if you are mistaken for a tom! Socks that show when your pants ride up, white t-shirts that might get exposed, red or blue handkerchiefs and even exposed skin can be mistaken for a gobbler’s head. Use camouflage to cover yourself from head to toe, with gloves and a head net to insure you aren’t spotted by a keen-eyed tom and won’t draw unwanted attention from other hunters. Always wear your hunter orange vest or hat while you are going in and out or moving around.
Scouting – for opening day and beyond
Instead of walking into the woods blind on opening day, head out to your hunting area a few days and even a couple weeks before. Even with time constraints, scouting can provide you with great information before opening day. So, go ahead and get your camo on, but aside from a locator call, leave the rest at home – you don’t want to educate the birds any more than necessary.
Early morning, well before dawn, is a great time to visit the land you plan to hunt. Set up on a high point or in an area where you can hear for some distance and simply wait for dawn. There’s no need to call at all, including locator calls. The gobblers, hopefully, will sound off on their own from the roost. If that doesn’t happen, and the sun rises silently, an owl call can be used to prompt a response.
Late morning and mid-day can give you a chance to look for strutting toms or hens feeding and other obvious signs that the turkeys are in the area. Look for feathers, droppings and tracks as well as strut zones indicated by telltale parallel drag marks in the dirt, dust, or leaves. Take note of the terrain and the obstacles, such as creeks and fences, that might hang a turkey up, so you’ll have a better idea of the turkeys will travel.
In the evening, head to areas where you’ve heard or seen turkeys before. Look for open areas near stands of big branched trees. Listen for turkeys moving in, wing beats and soft calling or gobbling as they fly up. Pay attention to how they approached the roost so you can plan your set up.
You’ve done your scouting research and it’s time to select your setup site. Find a large tree, stump or rock, preferably in the shade, that is taller than your head and wider than your shoulders with a good view of the surroundings. This background will hide your silhouette and movements while calling and help to prevent another hunter from mistaking those movements for a turkey. A great way to increase your chances of bagging that gobbler is to select a spot where you won’t see the bird until he is in range since he won’t see you either. Take advantage of any low vegetation that will further break up your profile and provide extra cover. Remove any sticks and leaves from your sitting area. This will eliminate most of the noise you make when you move.
To call or not to call
Knowing the calls and when to call is critical to successful turkey hunting. In nature, the hens follow the gobblers call and gobblers know this. Getting that tom to come to you goes against its grain; knowing which call to use and when to use it can make or break your hunt.
It’s a good idea to carry variety of locator, diaphragm, box and slate calls. Birds will sometimes respond better one call than another. It’s much easier to learn a box or slate call than a diaphragm, however, the diaphragm call sounds more realistic and allows for hands-free calling. Whatever your choice, be sure you practice, practice, practice. The National Wild Turkey Federation is a great resource to learn wild turkey sounds.
Turkeys are smart and may stop responding when you use the same call over and over. Mix it up by using different strikers on your slate or switching from a double reed diaphragm to a triple reed. Changing up your call can be a key factor especially when that tom stalls nearby.
Deciding how much to call and when to stop depends on a wide assortment of variables, There are some general guidelines that can be relied on but you should always assess the situation and try to determine why a turkey is acting the way it is, in order to formulate your calling strategy. Don’t overcall to a turkey on the roost and if the tom is excited and heading your way, go silent. If he hangs up just out of reach, you can always sweeten the pot with another call.
Keep your sounds realistic and use these strategies to bag that big tom.
Want to attract wild turkeys to your property in the off season?
Most states don’t allow feeding during spring turkey season but if you’re managing your property specifically to provide turkey habitat throughout the year with clear-cutting, prescribed burns and food plots, supplemental feeding can lure them in. There is not an easier or more convenient way to spread corn on your roads and trails than with a Texas Hunter Road Feeder (often called Tailgate Feeders or Bumper Feeders). Simply press the button on the wireless remote control to dispense the feed. Texas Hunter Road Feeders are available in 50 lb. and 100 lb. capacities and are designed to mount on the front or rear of any vehicle with a 2" receiver. It can be powered by connecting to your vehicle or to a 12-volt feeder battery. An optional receiver extension kit is available for use with UTVs and other ranch vehicles. See more Texas Hunter Road Feeder product features at http://www.texashunterproducts.com/road-feeders/