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Turkey Hunting The “Run and Gun” Method By Gary Howey

No matter what type of outdoor activity you are into, windy, cold, damp days can put an end to most activities before they start!
This especially true when it comes to a spring turkey hunt, making a hunter thinking more about the nice warm bed he’s in than chasing turkeys in the rain!
Calling spring turkey when it is cold and damp is a tough job, but do not think all turkeys hole up during these types of weather conditions. There are always a few toms out there looking around for a receptive hen!
This is when we revert to what we refer to as aggressive turkey hunting tactics. This is something not talked about a lot as it involves more work than other turkey hunting tactics.
You’ve more than likely seen TV shows or videos where the hunter makes a few calls, sets down in one spot for a couple of minutes and then the bird magically appears!
These hunters on these programs do not need to look around a whole lot to locate the birds because they are in an area that they have been in before or he is hunting next to a feeder in his own backyard.
If you spend a lot of time in an area and spend a lot of that time looking for the birds, you are going to know exactly where they are!
Because we are filming in different locations, in areas we may have never seen before, we arrive the day before the hunt, scouting as time allows, but there are times when our schedule puts us into an area after dark and scouting just does not happen.
This is where we revert to my aggressive turkey calling.
On opening morning, we are in the field well before daybreak, not a half hour, I mean when it is pitch dark as turkeys may not have the best night vision, they still can detect movement in low light conditions.
If the area looks like it would hold turkeys, we like to use a locator call to get a response from the Toms.
We start our hunt by jumping from one ridge line to another calling with our owl, crow or predator calls trying to get an old gobbler to shock gobble
Don’t travel along the top of the ridges: as a turkey’s keen eyes will pick you out against the skyline and your hunt will be over before it begins.
Travel just below the ridge line, high enough to be able to see and hear what is going on below you, but not high enough to be silhouetted against the skyline.
If there is no answer, we will break out our binoculars and glance along the ridges, trying to spot the birds as they come down from the roost.

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Tips to Tip the Impossible Tom

Natural turkey biology can make turkey hunting seem difficult. Then throw in the mistakes we make and the sour hands Mother Nature can deal every so often and harvesting a springtime tom can seem near impossible. Persistence, patience, and hunter’s savvy are valuable qualities when it comes to hunting turkeys, and save heart, there are ways to combat our errors, Mother Nature and even a stuck-up tom.

It’s good to be the king
It’s dark when you sneak into your morning set up and you’re waiting for the horizon to brighten. You commence calling with a few soft tree-yelps and he hammers your offering. Then you hear live hens beginning to sound off around you. I don’t care if you were born with a diaphragm call in your mouth – it’s difficult to compete against live hens. If you’ve done your scouting, the birds may have a pattern from day to day. Try to set up in the direction you believe they’ll travel once they fly down.

If all you have is a good guess there are several tactics you might try. One, is to sound like the “hottest,” sexiest hen in the woods. Give him your best stuff. When turkeys want to get together with other turkeys they make noise. You’ve heard the story about the “squeaky wheel.” Often I’ll use two calls at once, a diaphragm and either a slate or box call. Try to fire-up the gobbler until he HAS TO come to you.

If the gobblers are already with the hens and you cannot change locations your best tactic will probably be to pick out the most vocal hen in the flock and imitate whatever she does. Mimic her every sound and call over the top of her vocalizations if you can. Make her curious or make her mad. This can work to call the entire flock your way, or irritate the dominate hen so she’s compelled to investigate. I may suggest using two calls at once or several hunters all calling.

If either of these tactics fails there are two additional things you can attempt. You can try to wait him out. Hopefully he’ll finish with the hens and be back to check on you. It’s amazing the way they can pinpoint and remember exactly where sounds were coming from. But if you’re impatient, as I often am, you’ll have to go after him. DON’T go directly to him. Always back off a bit, and try to circle to head him off. If you have no luck doing this you can go back to your original setup. More often than I care to admit I’ve returned to the original spot and right where I had my decoys is a fanned-out “strutter.”

We’ve been disconnected
If a gobbler stops answering your calls, several things may have happened. Staying right where you are is probably the best advice. He may be silently on his way to you or he may have found real hens (referred to as “henned-up”). Once they finish with the hens, they often remember where your yelps were coming from earlier. If you think you’re in a good spot you can stick it out for an hour or more. Aside from the tom you originally set-up on, you’re giving other gobblers a chance to get to you.

Much of the decision should depend upon the size of the property. On a small property I’d almost certainly stay put so as not to bump the birds across a fence where I don’t have permission. However, on a large property I may choose to find a more responsive bird. [Read more…]

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Springtime is trophy northern pike time By Larry Myhre

Myhre-Pike

Springtime is the time for big northern pike. They are spawned out, and feeding big in shallow water in very predictable areas. Now is your best chance for a trophy.

The sun was beating down on this small, northern Ontario lake. But that was a good thing. It was only a few days after ice-out, and a warming sun often prompts big northern pike to put on the food bag.
My friend and I had booked a two-week trip into a fly-in lake even farther north and our intent was to fish the big shallow bays for monster northern pike.
Problem was, the ice just wouldn’t leave this year.
In order to save the two-day drive to get to where we were now, we elected to get on the scene so when the lake opened up we’d already be there. An hour flight would put us in camp.
We had already lost more than a week of our booking, but languishing around our bed and breakfast lodging was not what we liked. So, what about this little lake? Any fish in it?
We were told no. A gold mine up the watershed had polluted the water. The walleyes were gone.
But what about northerns? Maybe, we were told.
So we looked at a lake map. There was a stream flowing in along the northwestern corner. If there were northerns here, they would be there. Right now.
We scrounged up a 16-foot boat and a small motor and off we went.
Using fly rods, we made a drift right in front of the small stream.
And what happened, you would have to see to believe.
If there is a heaven for northern pike fishermen, we had fallen into it.
Fish after fish, most over 40 inches long and pushing 20 pounds fell for the big Lefty’s Deceiver flies I had tied. Our arms were so tired from casting the big rods and fighting the big fish we began trolling. Trolling with a fly rod. I had never done that, but it worked.
Our best fish measured 43 inches. We were confident there were even bigger ones there and began working our way up the creek.
Then the cell phone rang. Part of the lake had opened up at the camp we had booked. The float plane would leave as soon as we could get back to shore. We would have the rest of this day and two more on that lake before the flight out.
So much for our two-week booking.
But the point of all this is that ice-out pike fishing can be fantastic. And you don’t have to go to Canada to get in on it. Any of our lakes in northern Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota or Minnesota, will offer great pike fishing right now.
So how do you find them.
Two things. Shallow bays. Current.
Northerns move into shallow bays to spawn. They are there before the ice leaves the lake, and they will stick around for at least two weeks. Later they will move out into the main lake, and once summer arrives they will go deep and most likely never see a fisherman’s lure.
Current is also a draw.
Northerns often ascend small creeks to spawn. I remember seeing northerns in the little creek at our South Dakota farm in the spring. That creek was a tributary of another, larger creek which eventually dumped into the Big Sioux River over 12 miles away. [Read more…]

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Turkey Decoys By Gary Howey

When I started, hunting turkeys back in the 70’s it was a new sport in this part of the country and we learned as we went along.

Hunting turkeys with decoys was the furthest thing from our minds.

A friend of mine from Crofton, NE. heard about hunters down south using decoys to draw gobblers into shotgun range and since none was available in our area, he made one. Using an old Styrofoam Canada goose decoy, he whittled on it and then painted it to resemble a turkey, well, kind-o- sort of! It looked like a deformed, mostly black Canada goose that had gotten in a fight and LOST. It was bulky, made a lot of nose when going through the woods, but it worked.

If I was going to be serious about turkey hunting, I had to have one and when the first plastic expandable hen decoys came out, I got me one. They folded flat, and could be spread out, bulking them up by using the T-handle stake, making them appear larger. I could easily carry the folded up decoy in the game pouch of my turkey-hunting vest. Since they were hard plastic, they too made a lot of noise when walking through the trees.

These first decoys were upright, because of the stake they were on, stuck up in the air quite a ways with the decoys head in the alert position, the way turkeys hold their head when they are alerted, looking around.

To keep my decoy from being positioned too high in the air and to get it out of the alert position, I shortened up the stake, lowering it closer to the ground, tilting it forward into more of a feeding position.

Then there were the foam decoys, allowing me to carry several of these decoys in my game pouch. This is when Ii started experimenting with putting the hen decoy in the breeding position. I’d place my hen decoy flat on the ground with the Tom positioned a short distance away looking in her direction. This worked well until the wind came up when the foam decoys would jump around, working its way out of the ground, and flying off across the field with me in hot pursuit.

Since then, I have used any number of decoys, some in groups of two, on up to a whole flock, experimenting with silhouette, full bodies, stuffed birds and inflatable decoys.

Today, turkey hunters have a wide variety of turkey decoys they can use. If you are just getting into turkey hunting, it can be confusing as there are so many decoy postures. There’s the

feeding, breeding, submissive, alert, strutting and so on and so forth.

There are several things I look for when I choose a decoy or decoys that I plan to use in the spring. The time of the season and how the Toms are putting together their harems re a few of the things you want to consider before heading out into the woods.

When putting out turkey decoys, you want to use a decoy or decoys that aren’t going to alert the birds, a position like the feeding hen, as it is the most natural position in nature.

Almost all turkey flocks have some feeding hens, which are followed closely by strutting Toms, and it doesn’t get more realistic or relaxed than that. The other position that works in a flock situation is the breeding (hen on the ground) position. Since the breeding position puts the hen on the ground, they are hard for the Tom to see so you need an upright decoy to get the gobbler’s attention.

I use a basic, realistic decoy set up, which is a feeding hen, strutting gobbler and an alert (lookout) hen. The number of decoys, how they will be set up depends on the terrain I’m hunting in. [Read more…]

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Lack Of Snowfall Benefits Iowa Pheasants

BOONE – Based on the positive comments that filled Todd Bogenschutz’s email and voicemail, Iowa pheasant hunters saw more birds last fall and after last winter’s below normal snowfall that good vibe should continue this season.

Bogenschutz, the upland wildlife biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, uses winter snowfall and spring rain totals along with historic trends to predict pheasant population swings. For five years in a row, heavy winter snow followed by cool wet springs sent Iowa pheasant numbers into a free fall bottoming out in 2011.

But after more favorable winter/nesting seasons, including most recently in back to back years, things are looking up for ringnecks.

“We had a good winter and should have had good pheasant and quail survival. Every region in the state was below normal for snowfall, except the east central region and it was only one-inch above normal so we should be poised for an increase in bird numbers as long as we have a good nesting season,” Bogenschutz said. “It will be interesting to see the August roadside survey results.”

The two year reprieve to more normal winter snowfall is encouraging and there are steps landowners can take to help ensure the trend continues – plant shelterbelts and food plots.

Virtually all of Iowa’s winter mortality is attributed to persistent snows or blizzards with the birds dying of exposure, to predators or from the weather. Well designed shelterbelts provide important cover and food plots an additional food source to help pheasants, quail and other wildlife survive periods of prolonged or heavy snow.

A food plot associated with a shelterbelt likely improves survival because food plots provide additional winter habitat as well as food. Pheasants can get a meal quickly and limit their exposure to predators, maximizing their energy reserves. “If hens have good fat supplies coming out of the winter, they are more likely to nest successfully,” said Bogenschutz. [Read more…]

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IT’S SPRING TIME, TO GET YOUR MINERAL LICKS STARTED!

M.O.-Game Keepers (1)A very simple but favorite management chore of mine in the spring is establishing new mineral sites. The anticipation of what might show up that year as the antlers begin to develop is always super high. I have even found myself in the past few years putting out mineral rocks and supplements in urban landscapes and backyard woodlots just to see what deer frequent the area even though I have no intention of hunting there. Creating new mineral sites can be especially exciting when you have a new piece of ground to investigate and see what deer are living there and what the potential of the area is. Refreshing old mineral sites or creating new ones is also a good family and kid friendly management activity. It doesn’t require any heavy equipment or long hours, and can be a great way to help teach kids some woodsmanship along the way and why whitetails use mineral licks.

So how do you establish a productive mineral site? It may seem as simple as pouring it in a depression you dig up with your boot or throwing a Bio Rock out on the edge of a food plot. These scenarios will work to a degree, but I like to put a little more thought and effort into my mineral sites and try to get the most out of them in terms of attraction, utilization, and trail camera use for getting an inventory on the deer that are using the area as well as identifying bucks through unique characteristics. [Read more…]

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Prepare now for turkey hunting season by Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal

A little preparation right now can put the odds on your side come turkey hunting season.

And when it comes to hunting these wise, old birds, you need all the help you can get. After all, only one in five hunters fill their tag in Iowa.

It’s been interesting to see how turkey hunting has changed over the years. This will be my 30th straight year in the turkey woods. I’ve shot toms in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota.

When I first began hunting turkeys, everyone was in the woods before the crack of dawn. They’d find roosting toms and then set up as close to them as they dared and begin making quiet hen tones.

By 10 a.m., most of the hunters were on their way home for lunch and maybe watch a game on TV if it were a weekend.

Somewhere along the line, hunters began forgoing the dawn hunt and venturing into the woods at 10 a.m., or later. They learned that their success was greater later in the day when the hens had left the toms and gone to nest.

With the high turkey numbers we have today, there is no shortage of hens. Now hens are roosting with the toms and at fly down, the toms follow the hens, and are reluctant to leave them.

Even though tactics have changed somewhat, it is still important to do that preseason scouting.

There are two things you want to learn. One is where the turkeys are roosting. Two is where they go after fly down. If you are an early morning hunter, you must set up along the path the turkeys take. If you hunt later in the day, you must know where the birds end up at late morning. Once the hens leave them, the toms will remain in that general area for most of the rest of the day.

Turkeys gobble a lot before fly down in the morning and you can locate them that way, or go out just after dark and blow an owl call. They will respond if within ear shot.

The main thing is to do your scouting from afar. You don’t want to spook them because they may change their routine. The more you can learn about them before the hunt the better.

The next important thing before the hunt is to pattern your gun with the loads you have been using. Get some turkey targets and take a shot at 20 yards, 30 yards and 40 yards. Six to ten hits in the spinal cord and head will insure the bird goes down. If you are getting a good target at 40 yards, move out to 50.

The choke in your shotgun is important. At minimum it should be a full choke, but most turkey hunters, myself included, use an extra full turkey choke.

Since the beginning I have used number six buffered and copper plated shot. Other hunters like four or five shot. [Read more…]

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TURKEY TALK: THREE TIPS FOR TAKING A TOM

1) THE IMPORTANCE OF RECONNAISSANCE
Scouting is possibly the most important element of hunting anything, but especially turkeys. Learning roost locations, strutting zones, grit sources, bugging habitat and the lay of the land can mean everything. Now and again you may call a gobbler through a fence or blow-down, or over a creek or road, but don’t count on it happening often. You want to position yourself within an area they have utilized before that’s easy for them to access, and scouting will teach you your best options.
Learning where that bird is going to be at certain times of the day is important. Keep a journal if necessary. If you “take their temperature” while scouting, it can make it easy when it’s time to hunt.
If you scout in advance of the hunt, remember the birds may have different daily routines and possibly inhabit different areas when the season arrives. The most reliable information will be gathered within a week before you actually hunt.

2) THE BEST DEFENSE AGAINST NATURAL TURKEY BIOLOGY
Knowing what to do if a tom “hangs up,” stops gobbling to your calls or is traveling with live hens (as examples) is important if you wish to have consistent success. Natural turkey biology can sometimes make turkey hunting seem difficult. You can read about what to do or watch DVDs on how to handle different situations, but experience is the best teacher. Three attributes that will serve you well regardless; are persistence, patience, and hunter’s savvy.
Not every set-up is going to result in gobblers running into meet you. Persistence is important – trying again and again is how we learn. If you don’t give up, it will happen. Persistence is more important than being a good caller.
A little hunter’s savvy can go a long way. Even if you’re new to turkey hunting, but are a longtime woodsman (or woman), knowing the woods, how other animals act and how to play what Mother Nature deals you can be “a feather in your cap” (pun intended).

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