In Pursuit of the Gobble
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Tips and Tricks for Targeting Spring Turkey
Spring turkey season is underway in most parts of the country, captivating the minds of many hunters. Turkeys are one of the few species that “talk back” to hunters. There’s nothing like hearing a gobbler sound off close to you. The rush, the thrill, the excitement – there’s no feeling in the world like it.
Similar to deer hunting, there are many ways to hunt turkey. Whether you’re a run and gun type of hunter, or a sit and wait type, spring turkey season is truly one of the more exciting hunts out there.
Here in the mountains of Pennsylvania, we hold out until May to begin our turkey season. Many states begin much earlier, some, like Florida, in March. Pennsylvania has had issues with wild turkey populations declining and moving the season forward was an effort to ensure breeding season went un-interrupted.
Most hens will have laid their eggs by May ensuring successful breeding season in the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s eyes. Having my wildlife degree and being an avid hunter allows me to see both sides of the coin. While most hunters would like to hunt the “rut” for turkey, the science says we should do otherwise to help conserve the population for future generations. I’d prefer to push the season forward than find myself telling stories to my grandchildren about hunting wild birds that no longer exist.
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Hunting birds in the Pennsylvania mountains can prove to be challenging. These aren’t your farm field or small-tract birds that you find in more populated areas of the country. These birds are stubborn, spread out, and are often hard to find. If a flock is found close to a common hunting area, even the best callers won’t be able to bring them in. These birds get tons of pressure and are wise to the fact that humans are doing the calling.
Since that’s the case, what are some tips and tricks to find these birds and call them in? Turkeys generally travel a lot; however, they tend to consistently visit the same areas. Turkeys, like any other animal, need three things to survive: food, shelter, and water. Here in the mountains, those aren’t hard to find. If you hunt an area with just one of these factors, your chances of bagging a turkey dwindle significantly. I like to e-scout and find areas that have all three relatively close to each other. Personally, I limit mine to a 300-yard radius. After that, I’ll pick land features within the middle of all three that I personally like and pin those on the map to check out later. Doing this, I’ve been able to find turkey sign when scouting more times than not.
Sign doesn’t necessarily mean the birds will be there when you arrive. This is when you need to employ some other techniques to help locate them. I personally use a locator call first. I use an owl call that the toms and jakes will shock-gobble to if they’re within hearing distance of it. I’ll give it a couple tries every 15 minutes for about 30-45 minutes. If that fails, I’ll use a turkey call to throw out some calls, mainly yelps, to see if I can get a gobble in response. During breeding season for turkeys, if one doesn’t gobble to either of those calling methods, they generally aren’t in the area.
I like to use a variety of mouth calls ranging from loose to tight stretches on the latex. I’ve even kept two in my mouth at the same time to be able to switch up sounds quickly with minimal movement. I will tell you, practice, practice, practice! I start practicing in February for our May opener. While the wife isn’t the biggest fan, it pays off in the end. Yes, you have those old timers that say all you need is a yelp, but I practice every call I can so I know I can do it if the situation calls for it.
Spring turkey season is one of the highlights of spring for many hunters out there. Many hunters even prefer targeting turkey over any other species. Wild turkey is also a great addition to your freezer and will diversify your stash of wild game. Some of my favorite recipes include a rosemary ranch marinade to grill, as well as orange turkey that I fry and coat in a delicious orange sauce. Let us know how you like to prepare these fantastic birds!
Looking for a great turkey recipe? Why not try out this delicious Wild Turkey Po’Boy?