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The Best Time To Call For Turkeys: Making Gobblers respond

Timing is important in so many things we do, from a musical beat to hitting a baseball to timing the stock market. The better you can anticipate the pulse, peak or sweet spot the better you’ll do. This holds true in turkey hunting, possibly more so than when hunting other game. From knowing when the gobblers will respond the best to your tactics, to knowing when to call on a specific hunt, as they say, “timing is everything.”

The Changing Seasons

Just as the fall hunting season catches whitetails during the rut, spring is breeding season for turkeys. While the decreasing amount of daylight induces whitetails to rut, the increasing photoperiod indicates it’s time for turkeys to begin the rituals and process of propagation. Depending on the region of the United States that you plan to hunt, certain parts of the season are better than others. Knowing approximately when the different stages of breeding will happen can help you know which season to apply for, when to take your hunting vacation or which tactics to use for the time you’re given to hunt.

Gobblers may vocalize early during the spring, especially during warming trends. However, just because toms are gobbling doesn’t mean breeding has begun. They may gobble at times all year long. We typically will require more evidence than sparse gobbling to guess when breeding has actually begun, like strutting toms and increased vocalizations from the rest of the flock.

Going Against Mother Nature

As most of you know, toms gobble to tell hens where to find them. By calling to them and expecting them to come to us, we’re kind of going against Mother Nature. They also add the visual appeal of strutting for the ladies – so it’s kind of backwards to the way humans do it.

When the tom breeds the hen, sperm is stored in the hen’s oviduct and fertilized eggs may be laid up to four weeks after mating. One mating is typically adequate to fertilize an entire clutch, but hens may be bred over and over again.

Hens begin to lay eggs as spring begins and she will lay an egg nearly every day until her nest contains anywhere from about eight to as many as 16 eggs. Normally, you’ll find an average of about a dozen and you’ll see smaller clutches from younger hens. Hens nest on the ground, so thick cover is a must. You’ll often find nests near food and water sources so hatching poults will have bugs, plants and seeds to eat when hatched. Hens will begin sitting on the eggs after they’re all laid and incubation will take about 25 to 30 days.

From my experience, it’s easiest to call in a tom when the real hens aren’t cooperating very well. So taking in the big picture of the entire season, your best luck should come before breeding actually gets going heavy or later in the season when the hens are sitting on their eggs.

Hunting Pressure

Pressure can also come into play. Early during the season it may be easier to call in a tom, because they haven’t been called to yet by other hunters who might suck at the craft. I’ve heard people say that gobblers get “call shy.” I don’t believe turkeys get call shy, I believe they become “stupid hunter shy.” When turkeys want to get together with other turkeys, they make noise, no matter when it is during the season.

In some states, turkeys might not start nesting until the last few days of the season. In other states the birds are already nesting when season opens, but the best hunting, or should I say one of the easiest times to call a gobbler to you, is when the hens are nesting. The problem is that this time will probably come later in the season, and it’s possible ten other hillbillies may have buggered the birds before your turn. So just because they should come to the call doesn’t mean they will, so pressure may also play a big role in how easy it is to draw a bird into your set-up. [Read more…]

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My First 2018 Spring Gobbler, “It was Self Defense” By Gary Howey

  Our calls echoed through the thick cedars, nothing, not a sound, no response, we called again and the Tom which was not very far away gobbled. Then a hen appeared along the brush filled fence line moving east away from us with the gobbler following close behind.

  I had no shot, as Larry was off to my right, with several clumps of brush along the fence line in the direction the gobbler headed, where I had no shot. A decision had to be made and made quickly as soon, the birds would be out of sight.

  I had been in the area earlier, but when no gobbler responded to my calls, I gave up on those birds and headed back to town to pick up good friend and fellow hunter Larry Myhre, Sioux City, Iowa from the Cobblestone Motel in Hartington.

  The wind this season had been our nemesis, as the wind wanted to blow almost every day, making it hard to call and locate the gobblers.

  We needed to find a place out of the wind, as we knew that more than likely that would be where the turkeys were, as they did not like wind either.

  A friend of mine knew of a location with an abundance of cedars in a shelterbelt that the birds had used and our plan was to see if we could find a gobbler there.

  It had been a tough spring turkey seasons for me, as several weeks into the season on my first hunt of this spring, my grandson Dylan Kneifl , Pilger and I were out to see if we could bag his first gobbler.  The birds we located would not gobble and those locations where we saw birds strutting earlier, the birds had vanished.

  The day before,  the weather man had predicted a nice day with light winds, Larry came over to hunt with me and  even with the “Light” 35 mile per hour winds the weatherman predicted, we were able to tag his bird, but that a story for a another  time.

  Because we glassed our hunting locations and saw no birds Thursday, we were not sure where to set up on Friday.

  I went out early that morning northwest of Coleridge to the area where we saw birds earlier, to set up and see what I could do. I had one bird gobble twice and then shut up, as he must have had a hen close by and gobbled as he followed her.

  This was not looking good and after picking up Larry, we headed north of Bow Valley to check out a bottom where I saw a gobbler earlier that week. It was a futile attempt as we saw no turkeys and if they were there, they refused to answer our calls.

  We decided to work our way back south to glass several of the areas I had scouted before season, locations that gobblers were using, but once again, nothing appeared and not one gobbler wanted to talk with us.

  Our first stop would be to talk with some friends who were working near the cedar shelterbelt to see if the birds in the area were talking. 

  They indicated that a Tom gobbled earlier that morning north of the place, so we worked our way north, hoping not to sneak into the cedars without spooking the birds. [Read more…]

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TURKEY HUNTING TIPS: USING FUNNELS

 

It’s often discussed in deer hunting forums about how hunters can use diversions to direct or funnel deer toward particular areas. Turkeys can be directed in the same fashion. If you are hunting along a food plot, you can use brush piles along the perimeter to create entrance and exit points.

It doesn’t take a lot of money, but it takes time and effort to place brush as barriers along the edges of the plot. Hinge cutting small trees and allowing part of the tree to remain intact with the stump will allow the leaves to continue on living and actually create a living barrier. Turkeys will get hung up along something as simple as a fence and certainly have no desire to pass through a thicket if there is a clear alternate route. Like most critter’s out there, they take the path of least resistance.

As planting, felling trees and arranging brush piles can restrict movement, we can also make it easier for their travel by mowing, or cutting trails by other means. It’s probably best if somehow you enhance a route where the birds already prefer to travel rather than attempting to force them in a particular direction. It’s pretty simple; the easiest route will usually be taken.

Remember, hunting is referred to as a sport because it is competitive and many times your success is relative to your preparation. Fortunately, some of the ways that a gamekeeper can enhance turkey habitat are actually low-cost, but they can have an immediate and lasting impact on your property’s appeal for wild turkeys. 

For more tips to help you in the spring woods, read “Holding Wild Turkeys: The Missing Link”.  Some gamekeepers have roost trees, a water source, mast crop, food plots and bugging areas all going for them, yet wonder why they don’t have turkeys but their neighbors do. The answer is probably “grit.

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Preventing Snake Bites

Of all the dangers we face in the outdoors, there are few that instill more pure dread and abject fear than the limbless serpents. Fortunately, the odds of encountering one are as slim as the reptiles themselves, and the chances of being bitten are slimmer still. However, it’s always a good idea to hedge your bets by becoming more familiar with snakes, learning how to avoid them and what to do should the unthinkable happen.

There are four groups of venomous snakes in the U.S.: rattlesnakes, copperheads, cottonmouths/water moccasins and coral snakes. First let’s learn a little bit about them.

Rattlesnakes

Rattlesnakes are the largest and the largest group of venomous snakes, comprised of approximately 14 species. They also have the widest distribution, ranging from coast to coast and nearly border to border, though individual species have smaller ranges.

They belong to a subfamily known as pit vipers, referring to a set of heat-sensing organs or “pits” on their faces that are used to sense heat radiation and locate prey. Their most redeeming quality, from which their name is derived, is a set of rattles at the tip of their tail, which they sometimes, though not always, use as a warning when threatened.

It’s a warning that should be heeded. Rattlesnakes can accurately strike at a distance up to one-third their body length. The venom of all rattlesnakes contains a hemotoxin that destroys tissue and causes swelling, internal bleeding and intense pain. The venom of some species, like the tiger and the Mojave rattlesnake also contains a neurotoxin that can cause paralysis and other damage to the nervous system.

Most rattlers tend to avoid interactions with large mammals, including humans, as it wastes valuable energy expending toxins on non-prey species. However, some like the prairie and eastern diamondback have a reputation for being fairly aggressive. Regardless, it’s best just to avoid all species. [Read more…]

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For Better Fishing Fish Water Releases Gary Howey

  When I was a guide and tournament angler, I needed to use everything I could to help me catch fish when fishing was tough.

  There were numerous things affecting the bite, shutting the bite down or making it extremely hard to get a bite. 

  Some of these things were cold fronts, heavy winds, no wind, cold-water temperatures, angler pressure and bright sunny days with high daily temperatures.

  In order to allow me to be one-step ahead of the competition, I was always looking for the thing that could give me the edge over other anglers when it came to catching fish.

  Before heading for the river or lake, there was always one thing I made sure to check out and that was to look in the local newspaper to see what the water levels were and discharges coming into the the body of water I was fishing.

  When a release was scheduled, especially a major release, I wanted to be on the water.

 It sure bet when a release was scheduled or a change of water coming down the river, baring any natural disaster, the fishing would start to pick up and the next week or so could be some of the best fishing of the season.

  The heavier the release the better the fishing, but even the smallest change in the discharge could trigger the fish.

  I wish I had figured this out years before as it would have saved me a lot of time and made many of my trips much more successful.

  You do not need to be a NASA scientist to figure it out as has to do with common sense, one thing that others and I sometime did not use enough.

  Water releases can and will trigger fish, especially below a dam or spillway.

  Look at the overall picture and you will see why fishing would pick up below these areas.

  First, you have a huge volume of deep water held back behind the dam or spillway and that deep water is holding and hiding fish of all sizes and species as well as other aquatic life.

 When the gates opened up, there are thousand of gallons of water drawn forcibly through the turbines or gates, bringing with it, the fish and other aquatic life that were above the dam, flushing them downstream.

  The influx of water through the turbines and through the gates brings the gamefish, baitfish and other aquatic life from the lake into the river below, pushing heavy current downstream.

  With the water release, it is the ringing of the dinner bell to those fish living downstream and to those carried with the water from the lake, as they will quickly move up, taking advantage of the injured and wounded critters coming through the dam. [Read more…]

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Archery Honors Up for Grabs at 2018 GFP-NASP 3D Tournament

Pierre, S.D. – Young people from across South Dakota will show off their skills at the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) State 3D Tournament May 4 and 5. The 3D Tournament uses life-size game animals as targets.

The 3D Target Tournament will be held at the NFAA/Easton Archery Facility in Yankton. Shooting begins at 5 p.m. on Friday and continues at 9 a.m. on Saturday.

The tournament is sponsored by South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (GFP) and will host hundreds of young archers competing for individual and team honors in three age divisions. The top three individual and team winners in each division will receive trophies. All participants receive a free tournament t-shirt.

Students who participate in NASP within their schools or home-school programs are eligible for the competition.

“The GFP-NASP 3D Tournament is a unique event for South Dakota school age youth,” said Pat Klotzbach, NASP coordinator for GFP. “3D shooting not only provides young people with a safe shooting sports experience, it also educates archers on where to aim at game animals when they go hunting.”

There is no charge to attend the tournaments, and the public is welcome. Individuals who wish to volunteer with the tournament may contact outdoorprogramming@gmail.com or call 605.220.2130.

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Walleyes throughout the Season By Gary Howey

  Open water anglers have been not so patiently waiting for the ice to come off the Missouri River reservoirs, and once it does, a mass migration towards the river begins as vehicles pulling boats head out to take advantage of the “Pre-Spawn” bite and the first open water.

  The bite prior to pre-spawn on the reservoirs was slow as the fish were in their, “neither moving, nor eating much” winter mode.  

  Those who ventured out onto the ice of the reservoirs caught some good fish, using small jigs, jigging spoons and live bait rigs suspended just off the bottom all tipped with minnows.

    With the fall of the water temperatures, these fish moved into deeper water where both the males and females prepared for the spawn with the females finishing the development of their egg sacks.

  As the daytime temperatures warmed the water, with longer days and more sunlight, the ice started to disappear the walleyes begin to become more active and to feed more. 

  Walleye and sauger in our lakes and reservoirs moved up from the deeper water, into water adjacent to their spawning areas. During pre-spawn, fish feed very little, while they hold off the points and gravel bars, waiting for the spawning conditions to be right.

  This time, there will be some fish will bite, but one needs a ton of patience to catch these fish as we found out two weeks ago on a  walleye fishing excursion to Lake Francis Case.      

   Water temperatures were just above freezing at thirty-four degrees, with a slight breeze that came and went, as the wind died, the little open water we had went glass smooth, the fish became inactive and the bite died.

  The fish we caught were big, we caught them slowly jigging quarter ounce or smaller jigs tipped with larger minnows and live bait rigs worked along the bottom.

  We marked numerous fish on the points and gravel bars, loosing several we hooked when they threw the hook before we could get them to the boat.

  It was a tough bite as the four of us took seven big walleyes in a long day of fishing, not setting the world on fire, but giving us the opportunity to get on the water to escape those cabin fever blues.

  Walleyes living in the reservoirs, fed heavily in the late fall and as water temperatures declined, moved into deeper water where they conserved energy in preparation of the spawn. [Read more…]

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Early Open Water on Lake Francis Case By Gary Howey

  For those anglers in northeastern South Dakota and other parts of the state who have been anxiously waiting for the waters of the Missouri River reservoirs; Lake Oahe, Lake Sharpe, Lake Francis Case and Lewis & Clark to open up, it will not be long.

  As we recently found out on a trip to one of the Missouri River impoundments as the parts of the lakes, the bays and some of the shoreline waters are now fishable.

  As I looked out across the open water onto the ice covering the biggest part of Lake Francis Case, I wondered if perhaps we might have jumped the gun on this our first open water fishing trip on the lake.

  Last year about this time, early April, it had been short sleeve shirt weather, with unbelievable early open water fishing. 

  Not this year as the temperatures were in the mid thirties, with everyone in the boat layered in cold weather gear as the warm part of the day would be in the low forties with wind.

  Team Member Larry Myhre, Sioux City, IA. Gary Kubicek, Firth, NE., representing our sponsor, Country Vet Dog Food, new co-host and camera operator Josh Anderson, Hartington, NE. and I headed north to meet up with Team Member and Missouri Valley Guide Serve owner, Joel Vasek, Geddes, S.D., as we would go after walleyes in the first open water available on the lake.

  Arriving the afternoon before at the Missouri Valley Lodge, we went over the game plan, which included; weather, wind, fishing method, depth of the fish, breakfast meal, departure time and what location we would be launching from.

  There were bays on the lake that were open with some open water running out into the lake along the shoreline. Several of the areas we would be fishing still had a light covering of ice extending out into the main lake. In the spring, as the wind picks up, the light ice will break away from the main ice pack, drifting into the shoreline, covering the water where Joel had located active fish earlier.

  This was no problem as the wakes from the boats three-hundred fifty horse Yamaha motor broke it up, allowing Joel to work through the ice as he searched for active fish.

  The following morning, Joel was on the water before daybreak checking to see if any of the ice had closed off our launching site and to check out the areas that were holding fish.

  We were to head out after one of the Lodge’s filling breakfasts and wait for his call letting us know what boat dock he would be ar.

  Shortly after he was the water while searching for active fish, he landed four good fish from several open water spots holding a good numbers of fish.

   Once we boarded, the plan was to work these areas, with jigs and larger minnows, hoping to temp the walleyes to take our baits.

  All of the four huge GPS/Locators all showed fish with Joel using his bow mount trolling motor worked from the shallower twenty four foot of water on out to fifty foot of water, looking for active fish. [Read more…]

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Creating Wild Turkey hangouts

Gamekeepers need to study the birds and understand the value of effective scouting. Ideally, anticipating the wild turkeys every move means success in the field. Understanding what turkeys want and then what your farm offers (or lacks) will help you discover ways to enhance your turkey habitat. Since turkeys prefer to travel in large numbers during much of the year, creating “social” areas for them to congregate makes sense if such areas don’t already exist.

Dusting Areas

Amidst a turkey’s daily routines is the event of “dusting.” Turkeys love to find areas where the soil is exceptionally loose where they can lie down kick up dust. These areas are hotspots for congregating flocks. Areas along log roads or beneath pine stands are great locations to find a dusting area. You can however create a dusting area with a tractor or ATV.

Simply plowing or disking small strips along natural travel corridors will provide loose soil where the turkeys can then do their dusting. Placing your hunting blinds within shooting range of a dusting site can greatly increase your odds of scoring a tom. Even in times when the toms are locked up with the hens they’ll many times be drawn to the area as they court their dusting dolls.

Turkey Grit

If you’ve ever harvested a wild turkey and examined its crop and gizzard, you likely discovered that they consume gravel and grit to help digest grains and other hard foods. Much like dusting areas, turkeys will typically spend some time each day in an area where they can consume grit.

You can create your own grit or sand area for the turkeys by simply dumping small loads of the material near frequented areas. Obviously, commercial turkey grit used in poultry farming is an easy way to remedy the lack of grit. Otherwise, if you have a river or creek, oftentimes grit can be found along the bank. Grit is an essential need of all turkeys (and other birds). [Read more…]