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Article Contributed by Field Staff Writer S. West.
Be sure to read last week’s Gearing Up for Spring Gobbler: Essential Equipment for SuccessÂ to know what gear you need to be successful for the upcoming Spring Gobbler season.Â
There’s more to turkey hunting than just having the right gear.Â Like any outdoor pursuit, the more time you put into your preparation, the greater the chance for success.Â Knowing where the birds are and how to get them within range are important factors when spring gobbler hunting, so scouting and practicing calling are key steps in the preparation process.
Even more important than knowing where the birds are is knowing the lay of the land you are going to be hunting. It is the truest statement of turkey hunting that a person who puts in the time scouting birds, locating roost sites, and patterning a gobblerâ€™s movements and haunts will stand a better chance of putting their boot on a gobblerâ€™s neck when the season opens. You can achieve this by simply driving around and observing the birds, but when it comes to knowing the area you hunt, there is no substitute for having boots on the ground in the preseason as well. Find a couple of good trees to lean against, locate a nice spot for a blind, and identify any changes in the area that may impede or conversely, help out, a gobbler approaching you. Did the landowner build a fence that was not there last spring? Did a favorite roost tree blow over in a winter storm? Maybe a small creek on the property is now a shin-deep swamp. That last example comes from personal experience.
It also helps to talk to landowners about any turkey activity they have been seeing and find out if any other hunters have gotten permission to be on the property. In 2012, while hunting private land that I was certain only my family had permission to be on, I rounded a bend in a trail to find two other turkey hunters approaching me. They likewise had landowner permission, and also had no idea that they were going to be sharing the property on that morning in early-May. All was well that ended well in that case, but in the interest of courtesy and safety, it is likely a pretty good decision to know if there are going to be other hunters in the vicinity.
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Practice Your Calls
This is the part of the turkey hunting experience that never ends for me. I have various and sundry turkey calls, ranging from nearly a dozen different mouth diaphragms, a handful of different friction calls ranging from box calls & pot calls (and the attendant variety of strikers) right down to push pin calls and scratch boxes. I have gobble calls, crow calls, owl calls, and coyote calls all packed into my vest as well.
And I practice them. Constantly. My wife and children deserve your pity for the constant racket that emanates from my basement.
Of course, not all these calls are necessary and I know many hunters who have had sickening levels of success with just a simple box call. I would also add that a box call is the first call every novice turkey hunter should start out using. If you are new to the tradition, I also highly recommend getting a how-to CD or DVD from an established turkey caller and practicing the basic sounds of yelping, clucking, purring, and cutting. Even more important than just the sounds, following along to a DVD or CD can teach you the proper cadence of turkey calling, which is arguably even more important than the actual sounds you generate.
If you are not interested in buying media, YouTube has hundreds and hundreds of videos of live turkeys and established callers demonstrating how it is done. Be selective and listen to many sources as you can though; from there certain quality patterns will emerge. Be aware because there are some very, very good examples to be found on the internet, but also some very, very terrible callers masquerading as â€˜expertsâ€™. In addition to our videos, other quality names on YouTube that you can trust are Matt van Cise, Shane Hendershot, Scott Ellis, and Sadler McGraw. These are all hunters with multiple calling contest wins, and are all, in my estimation solid teachers of the sounds and cadences essential to hunting turkeys.
Get out there, know the area you plan to hunt, become proficient at calling, and your chances of getting a shot at Ol’ Tom improve dramatically.
Read more from S. West
Unexpected Success: Hunting Canada Geese
Hunting Versus Buying Meat: Tasting the Clean Stuff
Maple-Smoked Venison Caldo Verde
The Food Chain: Reflections on Wild Game & the Modern Food Chain