How to Hunt Spring Thunder on a Time Crunch
Life is busy. Between work, family obligations, social gatherings, a seemingly endless barrage of technological “advances” that lure you into more and more daily screen time and just sleeping – time to just be, in the woods, in the silence of the Spring is as rare and precious as it can get. And that’s what this article is about. Hunting turkeys, for people on limited time, going to places you haven’t been before, or for the traveling DIY turkey hunters looking to add some more tricks to their quiver.
This is the most important aspect of turkey hunting, and it’s something that no one ever truly “masters”. Whether you hunt exclusively public or private, the fact remains the same: turkeys move. What adds complexity to this is that so do other hunters and predators. Add in the fact that uncontrollable environmental conditions like floods and burns change the available landscape for turkeys to inhabit, and just like that, you have entered the most difficult, sleepless game of Marco-Polo available to consume your turkey month. And it’s all worth it.
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Tip #1: Set up camp in an area where you can hear birds.
If you’re on the road for turkeys, try to find areas such as State Forests, National Forests or Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) that allow for dispersal camping. Setting up your base camp at ideal elevations that allow for hearing birds in valleys, adjacent plateaus or ridges will provide you with ample opportunity to “hunt” while having lunch, taking that mid-day turkey nap or just while food prepping. It also gives you insight to if you’re in a section of the woods that birds inhabit.
Tip #2: Set a cap on how much time you give an area.
Two mornings, with good weather (low wind, no rain – generally, conditions amenable to gobbling birds on the roost) and a full turkey morning golden hour (30 minutes before and after legal sunrise, are the maximum amount of time I would give to an area I haven’t ever had an encounter with a turkey in. If traveling or hunting on a tighter timetable of less than 3 days, that dwindles to one morning. If I have heard gobblers, started working a bird or have historical turkey knowledge in a place, I tend to be flexible with this number. However, I would generally say that after 3 “golden mornings” in a place that had once been good and hasn’t panned out, explore new areas.
Tip #3: Use the landscape + terrain to your advantage.
Use the high points of the terrain that you are in to call from – and make sure that your call volume and intensity matches the terrain. Whenever you’re in hills, mountains, valleys or any topography that could potentially block your calls from traveling across the landscape, they likely will. Using high points and a loud enough call is important when trying to locate birds. While crystal and glass slates can provide ample volume, a loud, raspy box call is often a mandatory for windy days or when topography presents challenging conditions.
Tip #1: Know which game you want to play: run and gun or sit and get.
When chasing birds on heavily pressured public land, especially in the late season, once you have found birds, it’s important to identify how you want to hunt them. If you’re on a small parcel, sitting down and waiting strategically on a path that is frequently used by the birds, either to a roost or to a feed, may be the most productive method. However, if you have found more than one tom and have the acreage, setting up in between the birds and creating competition, using running gun techniques, would be better suited for this situation. Either way, determining how you want to hunt for that day or area is fundamental to your success and enjoyment.
Tip #2: Know the efficacy of your hunting implement & practice judging ranges.
With the advancements in ammunition technology, such as tungsten, extremely constricted choke tubes, and an everlasting array of shot sizes, there is no reason to not know the upper limits of what your implement’s lethal range is. With that, most people do not take a rangefinder into the turkey woods, and even if you did, it would likely not be able to be used in the moments before the shot. Given this, being confident in your abilities to execute ethical and clean shots, especially when yardage is not certain, is crucially important. Practice your in-the-field range estimations. Next time you’re scouting or even when you’re at home, guess how far an object is from you and check it with a rangefinder. In the field, 40 yards can look very different when sitting at the base of a tree in low light conditions with your adrenaline skyrocketing. By practicing, you can improve this skill which will help you not only in the spring turkey woods but across all your hunting pursuits, and we owe it to the bird.
Tip #3: Make a game plan with your hunting partners beforehand.
Clear communication with everyone you are hunting with is critical. It can be the difference between not taking a shot at a bird that was well within range because you were expecting someone else to shoot, setting up with a blindspot that a turkey inevitably walks into between you and your hunting partner, and overall safety of your group. It happens to us all. Communication to establish shooting windows and nonverbal signals help ameliorate some of these issues. It also helps you become a better teammate when group hunting, because when one person in the team succeeds, we all do.
I hope these tips come in handy for the rest of your turkey, season and mini in the future. Bird or no bird, there’s no better time to be in the woods, searching for spring thunder.
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