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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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Let’s Talk Turkey By Gary Howey

Gobblers in the spring re busy, strutting, doing their best to impress the ladies, fighting off other Toms who try to cut into their action and to doing all the other things turkeys do.

This is the time of the year, before the season opens that you need to get out and figure them out. Find a good observation point, and use your binoculars to figure out where they roost, strut, feed and their travel lanes.

Since the states I hunt in allow hunting a half-hour before sunrise, you will want to head out early. Because turkeys don’t see well in the dark, I’m not saying they won’t see you or a predator sneaking in on them, because they are up in a tree, they can see for a long ways, they don’t see a coyote or hunter, they see a dark form coming in.  This spooks them: where they shut up and will fly down as far away from the thing that disturbed them.

The hunter, especially an archery hunter needs to get as close to the roost as possible, set up decoy, then hunker down, and wait for the bird to pitch out of the tree. This is going to take time and getting into the field an hour before sunrise is not a bad plan.

If you haven’t done your scouting in the spring, you may find that the roost area they used in the winter isn’t the same roost they are using in the spring. There are several reason this happens, one is their food source may have changed or something might have spooked them out of the area. You’ll want to locate their spring roost or you may be calling to an empty tree on opening day.

Once you have, their roost tree located, it’s not a bad idea to get your gear out into the woods a few days earlier, especially if you are hunting out of a blind or some other type of camouflage hide. If you get it out several days ahead of the opener, the birds will become familiar with it and it won’t spook them. [Read more…]