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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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Tips For Patterning Your Turkey Gun

Have you ever patterned your shotgun? I mean really put it through the paces with several different manufacturers’ loads and shot sizes to determine what shoots the best through your gun? I can tell you that each gun is a bit different and something is going to perform best. Don’t just shoot what your local sporting goods store has on sale. Take an hour, some butcher paper or targets, cardboard boxes, maybe a realty sign, a sharpie and go somewhere safe to shoot. 

Shooting Distance

Check out how your gun performs at 25, 35 and 45 yards. I know you’ll want to try 55 to 60 yards, but please think twice before ever shooting at a turkey at this distance. These new loads and chokes have hunters thinking they can regularly do this now, but please use caution. You don’t want to cripple an old bird. They deserve more than that.

Choke Tubes and Shells

I’ve been pleased with the Browning Full Strut Turkey choke that came with my Browning A5, but it took several different tests to decide that it liked the Winchester Extended Range #5’s the best. I have an old single shot 20 gauge that loves a “Jebs” choke. There are a number of aftermarket choke tube companies that you can experiment with to find what works for you, along with plenty of shell manufacturers and loads. Don’t leave this to chance and don’t assume your gun shoots just like your friend’s. They all are a bit different.

By knowing what your gun shoots best, you can have confidence when the moment of truth comes and you squeeze the trigger. [Read more…]

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Getting the Jump on Spring Turkeys By Gary Howey & Josh Anderson

  Turkey hunters like us are already thinking about our Spring Gobbler hunt, and it is not very long before the spring turkey season will be upon us. If you are like many of us die-hard turkey hunters like me, you probably are counting the days.

  Spring turkey hunting can be one of the most exciting sports known to man or it can be one of the most frustrating walks in the woods that you can imagine.

  A successful spring hunt requires some pre-season preparation in order to get the jump on the birds and have a plan before you head for the field.

  The first thing you are going to need to do is to know where the birds are because traipsing around in the hills, hoping to stumble across a turkey is not what turkey hunting is all about.

  If you think you know where the birds are today, because you saw them this winter, then you could be in for a truly rude awaking.

  In the winter, turkeys, much like other wild animals will head towards their food source, herding up in certain areas because of the abundance of food found there.

  Just because you saw them in the winter, I would not count on them being in that spot when the sun rises on opening day.

  They maybe in the general area, within a half to one mile away, but that is a huge area to cover when you are trying to set up on them opening morning.

  As the weather warms, these large flocks will start to break up and as the hens move out, the Toms will follow.

  The dominant Toms will start to show their authority, whipping the feathers off the younger birds, showing them whose boss and their place in the pecking order.

  This is the time of the year that you need to grab your binoculars and head for the woods to try to locate the birds.

  Once a Tom has established his territory, he will fight to keep it and found in that area through out the breeding season unless something catastrophic happens to force them out.

  Now that you have your big Gobbler spotted, you will need to figure out his routine, to make a mental map of where he roosts, travels, struts, feeds and likes to hangs out.

   Like all of us, wild critters seem to do much of the same things day in and day out, sleeping, traveling and eating in a certain place.

  By observing where they roost, fly down and eat, you can set up between these areas and get a shot at them as they go about their everyday routine.

  If the birds fly down on the east side of the trees and then wander off to feed in a field in the same direction, you are not going to get them to come to the west, no matter how good you are at calling.

  Pattern them, set up along their travel route and your success rate will increase 

  Ok, so you have got the birds figured out, know where they are heading, your decoys are set out and your calling is impeccable but the Tom still does not come within range, then what? [Read more…]