Sat10252014

Last updateThu, 19 Nov 2015 8pm

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Turkey season is right around the corner

Although biologists predict a slimmer season this spring for turkey hunters, there still seems to be an adequate amount of turkey being seen locally. The season opens up for youth hunters April 3. The regular season opens up the Saturday after that.  
Each season presents its challenges. Some of us have great seasons and some of us have tougher seasons. I think this is natural, but interesting.
While many hunters I ran into last spring were complaining about not hearing that many gobblers and having a tough time getting any response from those they did hear, I somehow had the best season I have ever had.
No, I am not that great a turkey caller. I don’t have very good places to hunt. The one place I used to hunt is always busy with other hunters, and I never have any idea where the other guys are so I have steered clear the last few years out of courtesy. The two places I can hunt are very small and don’t hold that many turkey on the norm. I suppose it was just my year or, possibly, I just adapted well and paid attention to what I had gleaned from others over the years.

Here are a few things I did do that likely made my season more successful.
1. I patterned my gun and made sure the pattern was dense. There is no point to go through all the trouble to set up and call a bird in to miss or, worse yet, maim a gobbler.
2. I did scout some to determine where birds were sounding off, but I did not give up on a spot if I did not hear a bird the morning I went over to listen.
3. I carried a variety of calls and learned to use them. I suppose this may have been one of the best things I did last year. I had a few gobblers hang up a few times and instead of pushing the bird with the same call over and over, I had a few tricks up my sleeve.
First, I used a box call to get the bird coming in. Sometimes I changed up to a slate to make it sound different and add a “new hen” to the mix. Then I would change to a mouth call when the bird was really close. Hand movements are not good when a wary tom shows up to look at the prospects of breeding a hen.
4. Finally, the biggest part of my success last season was being patient and determined.
So many years I grew frustrated, and I still grow frustrated when a bird does not answer or does not come right in after an hour of calling. Last year I somehow managed to gain some patience and kept at it. My daughter’s first gobbler was taken last year and we chased that bird four different mornings before we closed the deal on him.
The first morning she blew it by moving at the wrong time and in the wrong manner. The other mornings he just knew better. We finally got him by going “dark” and moving several times. Believe it or not, it can be tougher to go turkey hunt and remain quiet without calling than it is to call.
That last day that my daughter and I hunted together, when she got her bird we moved four times. I felt like we were playing a game of chess and the rules were certainly in the bird’s favor. He would call and start our way and then stop calling and go silent. We had no idea if he was coming or going. Then we would hear a gobble twice as far away. Again, we had no idea if it was the same bird or a new bird joining in. I suspected it was the same bird.
We both suffered from allergies that morning and that alone wore me out. Climbing hills and moving around made things worse. I was worn out after several hours of the chess match. My daughter was very tired of crawling up hills and carrying her new shotgun. I think she had mentally thrown in the towel. I decided at the last location to move much closer to the last gobble and then just sit tight for a half hour. We did just that and never made a sound. In fact, I was almost asleep with a well-deserved nap when I realized I better make a call or two. I yelped softly and was shaken wide-awake by the thunderous reply of a gobbler not a hundred yards away.  
Because the bird had always come in part way and then walked off, I decided to do something quite unusual. I motioned for my daughter to get up and we fast walked along the ridge, 50 yards (as close as I dared) toward the bird, and then set up quickly. We were not even in position when the bird gobbled again. I am sure he heard the leaves crunching and thought the wily hen was finally coming to him. I did not have time to really get situated. I more or less dove behind a hump and yelped twice. The gamble paid off handsomely as he came strutting right into view.
The walk home that morning was joyous for several reasons to include it being the first gobbler my daughter took and the fact we finally outwitted him after several weeks of trying. I won’t forget how it felt to hug my daughter after such an accomplishment. She was proud of herself and rightly so. The tears told it all.
In summary, I think remaining quiet and not calling much has really improved my success. Perhaps if your season starts a bit slow you might try sporadic calling and more listening to get a bird to come in range. Give them plenty of time and don’t be surprised when a bird shows up without making a peep. The same tactic drew in a bird for my wife and another one for my other daughter too.
Youth day for spring gobbler is this Saturday. This is an excellent time to get out and spend time mentoring a kid in the ways of a turkey. If you don’t get one, chalk it up as a great time in the field together. Spring is a beautiful time to be in the woods and there is much activity to behold too.
If your young hunter bags a bird please be sure to e-mail a picture to me so we can run it in the paper — This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Remember; check stations will not be checking spring turkey this year. You must call your bird in or use the Internet. Good hunting.

Mark Fike

 

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