I would like to say the Youth Shotgun opener went off without a bang but that would not be true. For my daughter and I, it actually did include a bang. We hunted Saturday morning for a few hours before a big Tom (the kind that has jakes drag his beard for him) came into view after talking to us for an hour. He came across a corn field and vanished. Kate and I were doing the whisper thing, trying to locate him again, when all of a sudden Kate whispers “don’t move…he is right in front of us…!” After a few more seductive purrs the tom with within range, although Kate wanted him to come a bit closer. Finally, at the 25 yard mark, Kate sends off her first warning shot of her turkey career. Now understand Kate has killed several turkeys in past years but up until this point…she has never missed. God we had a great time!
This weekend should be a great opener for the rest of us. Cooler weather and awesome bird numbers should provide for much success. Unfortunately for me…I broke my foot on Easter (man those kids can be tough when hunting for eggs) and my turkey plans have changed a bit!
Ever since our Turkey Hunting Workshops in March, we have been receiving emails or phone calls with questions about strategy, hunting, etc. Here are a few of those questions and our responses:
Q. “Does it work to go out during the day and set up a ground blind and decoys or do you have to be set up before dawn even if you are going to hunt later in the day?”
A. From Aaron Hershberger (Hershy)
I have used portable, ground blinds for several years now for archery hunting, hunting with my entire (4-person) family, hunting birds in open fields and as a way to avoid sitting at home while it rains. Blinds are an impressive tool in the right situation & and when used correctly. Once set the blinds are for the most part ignored by turkeys as long as these simpler rules are followed:
* Avoid facing open windows into the sun – this hi-lights movement in the blind as well as the people inside
* Use stakes in the corners - turkeys do spook when the blind blows away. (as many as needed)
* Wear black in the blind - matches the interior of the blind and creates a black hole effect
* Follow the 180 degrees Rule – never open more than 180 degrees of windows (or turkeys will see you/movement)
If I am going to hunt the early a.m. in a blind I prefer to set it up the day before - preferably a few hours before the time birds roost. I then sneak in well before first light, set out decoys and I am ready to go.
If hunting most other times of the day I will set up the blind, toss out the decoys and start hunting. I just don’t want the birds seeing me as they will scatter long before I am ready to start calling. My thought is that birds on the ground cannot see as far as those sitting in trees. Also, the regular nature-noises that are taking place during daylight help cover up the sound of me popping up my blind – the quiet of the pre-morning dark seem to make my work louder and more obtrusive.
Q. “How many decoys do you use, what type (jake, hen), how far away from the blind, and placement (facing away from the blind)?”
I will generally use 1-3 hen decoys and many times just the one. As a rule, I have the decoy facing toward the blind or away from the direction I expect the Tom to come from. The reason is that turkeys key in on body language as do most wild animals. If that hen is looking right at him, he knows it and is more apt to hang up and strut. Remember, the way nature designed this thing to work is to have the hens come running to the Toms. By now, most Toms understand this. If however she is not facing him, he can get a bit frustrated when strutting and will often keep moving closer toward the decoy to get her attention. I have seen this played out so many times by big Toms (again this last weekend). Jake or Tom decoys on the other hand can sit there and stare directly at the Tom which is a sign of aggression that can also bring the Tom in closer out of anger.
Later in the season, I curtail decoy use as the Toms are now used to having hens ignore them because these hens have been bred and are losing interest. The Tom is generally focusing his attention in late May on those very receptive hens so decoys can actually work against you at this time. One thing I have learned though…as soon as you develop a rule…some turkey will come along and break it!
Q. “What are your favorite turkey call sounds?”
Hershy and I both agree here that we like clucks and purrs as the main confidence sounds that can really grab a Tom and bring him in. Too much yelping is just not natural and can often spook turkeys if they too are not feeling aggressive. I like to use yelps sparingly to “contact” Toms and let them know I am there. I then spend considerable time with soft clucks and purrs, just like a hen walking along a field looking for bugs. If the Tom really fires up when he hears a particular sound, that becomes my favorite noise for the moment. Just don’t forget the subtle sounds of clucks, purrs, flapping a hat to imitate wings flapping, etc. as these sounds can absolutely convince that wise old Tom that tonight is date night in the bean field!
Be safe, make sure of your target and what lies beyond! Remember the woods are full of camo clad hunters, mushroom pickers and the like. Enjoy a great season and…uh…don’t break a leg?
Get Em’ Out There