Can you feel it? Spring is in the air! This is the time where every turkey hunter starts to really buckle down and get prepared for the upcoming turkey season. We prepare for weeks. Scouting, patterning shotguns, sighting in bows, driving our significant others nuts practicing our turkey calls, and reading topographical maps for the lay of the land planning our attack. For a turkey, love is in the air, because this is when their minds switch from winter feeding patterns to spring mating patterns. The toms will spilt from their flocks and become solo warriors of the woods in search of the hen that he will intend to breed with. The spring gobbler will become love sick for just about any hen calling to him.
To begin your turkey hunting success this spring you will want to start when the turkeys start. The wild turkey in Pa usually start getting amped up around mid March. This will be a time when gobblers will still be heard grouped together. It can be a good time to figure out how many gobblers are on or around your intended hunting grounds. The best way to figure this out is to get up early and go outside and listen. Go to your favorite hunting areas, sit and listen for gobbles. Once you have heard a few you can start marking them down on your map, or nowadays your cell phone GPS. By doing this it will allow you to gather two important pieces of information, Roosting locations and a rough estimate of how many birds you will be able to pursue this spring. Turkeys will usually roost in the same areas year after year. They will roost just about anywhere, but key locations will be on side hills and ridges. It allows the turkey to come on and off roost easily. If you can find a ridge or a side hill near a known feeding area, you might have found the golden ticket. Pre season scouting these areas will help you a lot when the season opens. Some things to look for mostly if you’re walking these areas for sign, would be turkey droppings, tracks and their feathers. If you find a lot of turkey droppings under a tree, there is a good chance that turkeys have been roosting there on multiple occasions. Male turkey dropping usually are formed in a straight line about 3 inches long or shaped like a J. Hen droppings are more condensed and packed together in a round form or pile. Male turkey tracks will be significantly larger then the female, it shouldn’t be to hard to differentiate between the two. During this time of the year it will also be a good idea to go for a ride and scout from your vehicle. Drive around open fields and on back roads taking notes on what birds you see in the process. Try and stop without disturbing them and just simply watch what they do. You will be surprised how much you can learn by simply watching this amazing animal. Taking an evening drive around might also tell you nearby roosting sites. Remember these areas because once we are allowed to hit the woods running it can be a great starting point to laying the hammer down on a mature bird this season!
During your scouting missions in your vehicle, this can serve as an excellent time to begin your turkey calling skills. There are all types of different calls out there so choosing the one that works best for you is just a matter of preference. A lot of people love to use diaphragm calls (mouth calls). They sound very realistic and cut down on movement immensely. Mouth calls are also the hardest to use, this is why practicing in the vehicle will help the sanity of your significant other and probably help you to live to see another turkey hunting day! Friction calls are an old pastime and have been around for years. One of the easiest calls used to produce a desperate hen call. Box calls, slate calls, and push button calls are ones that you can easily go to your local sporting good store, pick one of these bad boys up and become a pro turkey caller in a few hours. Its important to read the directions on any call that you buy it will also help you learn the call if you are a beginner. You don’t have to be a pro turkey caller to go out in the woods and be successful. As long as you sound like a turkey, then the wild turkey will think you are the love of his life. There are a lot of different calling strategies and some work better for others. Being aggressive using cuts, loud yelps and cackling usually gets the ol’ tom fired up! Most avid turkey hunters use this approach not only because its fun but it helps aggravate a competing hen. This will work in your favor if you know that the long beard your after is toting around a few hens, pissing one of them off can be your hook line and sinker for a successful harvest.
You will never want to enter the field in hopes to successfully harvest a wild turkey without patterning your shotguns or sighting in your bow. Your success rate will increase with the proper steps and responsibility. As a turkey hunter you should feel obligated to harvest the bird as quickly and cleanly as possible. Most of us already know which turkey loads or broad heads we will be using year after year due to preparations we have made in the past. Don’t let this fool you, be sure to get out there and take a few shots before pursuing your game this spring. Practice makes perfect! Hunt safe and most importantly remember it is not always about killing, it is about the time we get to spend in the field with family and friends! Good Luck this Spring and GOD bless.