Turkey Hunting III
As the spring turkey season is getting closer, I am getting more excited to try to harvest a Tom. Opening day is April 13th, I haven’t decided yet if I am going to go that first week or wait until a little later in the season since it goes until May 26th. Some people believe later in the season is better because some of the hens will be on nests, and that will mean less hens in the field for the toms to chase, so they have to look harder, this is when decoys and good calling are very effective. As this picture to left indicates, male turkeys can become quite aggressive when they feel that their territory is threatened.
Hunting spring turkeys is quite a unique sport. While you can stalk the birds, that is not very safe or productive. A more challenging approach is you don’t chase after the birds, instead you find where they are likely to be and then call them in to you. This requires a great amount of stealth in the woods, which includes camouflage from head to toe, including your face, and preferably your gun or bow. For this reason, I want to point out a few safety tips:
- Wear a blaze orange hat when walking to or from your hunting spot.
- If you are sitting in your spot and see another hunter approaching, be sure to let him or her know of your presence by announcing yourself in a calm, low voice, not by whistling. Remain still until the other hunter sees you and hears you.
- Never shoot at rustling in the brush or sounds – this applies to any form of hunting, and it amazes me that anyone would ever do this, but they do. Always be 100% sure of what you are shooting at.
- Since concealment and covertness are key parts of turkey hunting, you may not see other hunters, even when they may be very close to you. For this reason, always be sure of what lies behind your target before you pull the trigger.
- Always protect your back by sitting against a tree or a large boulder.
- You can see other safety tips from a previous article by clicking here.
Just like any hunting, turkey hunting requires preparation. Don’t think you can read a few articles, buy some gear, and go out and harvest a turkey. To start with you have to know where to go, and for me I always start with the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission who have a wealth of resources available for all types of hunting, they are a huge help to me. While doing some research on where to go, I started with where I want to go, and then checked a really cool map the CPW has on their website that shows the typical turkey distributions throughout the state. Sure enough, the area I want to hunt has good populations of turkeys in the spring.
Once I have selected my hunting area, I scout that area as often as possible before the season starts. Not only am I looking for signs of the birds, I am also trying to learn the land. I use a topo map that I study long before I even get to the area, and many times before I return to the area. Between the map and the scouting I get to know the land as well as I can. This is important for a few reasons. First, obviously you need to be able to find your way around and find your way back at the end of the day. When you are hunting, you will be going out in the dark, so you can’t see what things look like in the daylight, making your return trip a completely new sight to you, unless you have done your scouting. Secondly, knowing the land and its features is important for this sport because you are trying to call the bird to you. If you hear a gobbler coming from a specific direction towards your calls, and you know that there is a large pile up of blown down trees between the bird and you, you know he will have to change his course to get to you. Finally, as I mentioned you will be going out in the dark, so you need to know where you are going. This is very similar to waterfowl hunting when you can’t see what is around you, so it is good to be able to recognize land features, like streams, fence lines, blow downs, or whatever else catches your eye in the daylight.
The next part of preparation is understanding the birds you are hunting. It is critical to know the habits and behaviors at the time of the year you are hunting any animal, all animals change their behavior with the seasons. One thing I like about turkey hunting is that in many ways it is like elk hunting during the primitive weapon season, their behavior is markedly different than at any other time of the year. Knowing how a bird will behave will help you anticipate its movements, where it will want to go at various times of the day, and what types of your behavior will draw the bird to you, or repel it.
Finally you must have the proper gear and bring the right things with you on a hunt. Here are the basics:
- Make sure you have the right gun and load, and that you can consistently put out a good shot pattern. A good pattern for your gun should be 100 pellets within a 10” circle at 40 yards. You can read more details about this by clicking here.
- Camouflage is critical for turkey hunting success. Depending on where you live your need for warmth this time of year will vary. For me, it will be pretty cold at 4:00 in the morning, but it will likely warm up during the day, but not always. In southern states you might have comfortable weather and not need to worry about staying warm.
- As with all hunting, good boots are a must! You need the support of a strong boot when hunting in the mountains, and you also need good traction, durability, and boots that will match the weather.
- Some hunters use a turkey vest, and some use a back pack, I prefer a small back pack. In the pack I carry my decoys, a pad to sit on, food and water for the day, survival gear, binoculars, calls, a map, GPS, camera, flashlights, extra batteries, and a game bag (it’s not a good idea to carry your turkey out of the woods over your shoulder as you see in so many pictures, that’s a good way to get shot).
- I’m sure there are more little odds and ends that I put in my pack, but you get the idea.
You can read more about turkey hunting in one of my other articles by clicking here.
I will be heading out Saturday to do some more scouting of the area I am going to hunt, it’s supposed to be a fairly nice day; 55 degrees with some rain. I’m looking forward to spending a day in the woods and explore this area in greater detail than I did a few weeks ago. Hopefully some of the snow will have melted, but I never know until I get there. I’ll let you know how the scouting goes.