I used this HEVI-Shot® Magnum Blend load at a turkey camp in Nebraska last week to kill longbeards at 5 and 40 yards. I had a pre-hunt honeymoon with an old-school loaner Remington 870 Wingmaster with a full choke. She and I got along just fine as I have one at home. The turkey target results were devastatingly sweet with the 3-inch, 2-ounce load. Go figure.
Missouri turkey hunting has been the subject of concern with reduced kill numbers during recent years. It looks like maybe better times are ahead.
According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, Missouri hunters shot more turkeys during the first week of the spring hunting season than they did during the same period last year. This is the first increase since 2004.
—This year’s first-week total of 21,765 turkeys represents a 15.8 percent increase from 2011.
Even hunters who are more than happy to belly crawl through 100 yards of cow pasture can struggle hunting turkeys in open country.
Open country longbeards have a distinct advantage over their woodland brothers due to the simple fact that they can see you coming from farther off. Most of the time this means that you don't get to set up as close to the birds before you start calling. On top of that, open country usually means wind. Good luck getting your desperate hen yelps to a gobbler across a windy quarter mile of Oklahoma red dirt.
A few weeks ago I hunted western Oklahoma and got to see Rick White of Hunter's Specialties run a clinic on turkey calling. For the most part, the birds were being cooperative, but we did run into several flocks of henned-up toms.
I can’t stop watching the first 33 seconds of this video. I dare you to view it only once. Watch a guy close the distance on a strutting longbeard by moving a full-fan gobbler decoy in front of him. What happens next might be the coolest, strangest and maybe unexpected filmed turkey sequence you’ve ever seen:
Crawling with a full turkey tail fan or strutter decoy moved in front of you is trending for sure. Why does it work? Real gobblers often challenge what seems to be another gobbler moving into their territory. For the record there’s historical evidence Native Americans used the tail fan tactic too.
Last week I got the chance to chase longbeards in western Oklahoma with Hunter's Specialties pro Rick White. There were birds everywhere, but each day we faced some sort of weather challenge. Fog, rain, and wind were all on the menu (luckily we got out of town before the twisters hit).
We still managed kill some nice toms by calling hard, calling often and covering a lot of ground. See Rick's explanation in the video above.
Everybody in turkey camp has filled their tags on longbeards except one guy. He’s working hard just to find gobblers let alone adult birds. A juvenile jake turkey walks into range. Should he shoot it? Would you?
Biologists around the country are likely to tell you there’s no reason not to take a shortbeard:
—They’re legal in most states but not all (always check your regulations). —They're damn good eating. —They'll sometimes even gobble well, especially late in the season as pecking order continues to shift.
I love calling turkeys. Selective silence can kill gobblers, too, if you know where and when to employ the locked-lips strategy. Roosted birds, strutting toms, and nervous flocks of pressured turkeys are all as likely to turn and flee from your calls as they are to waltz in to shotgun range. Give these birds the silent treatment, and save your noisemaking for the post-kill celebration.
Throughout the 1990s and into 2000, the news for turkey hunters seemed to just get better and better, with skyrocketing turkey populations. But in the last decade, turkey populations in many states have dropped, and with that so have record harvests. Arkansas and Mississippi are off by as much as 40 percent from record years; the wild-turkey mecca of Missouri is down by 30 percent; Ohio, 30 percent; South Carolina, 33 percent; and numerous other states are enduring what appears to be a 10-year decline in population numbers and harvests. The number of problem areas has both biologists and hunters taking note.
Not to jinx any one of us, but sometime this spring turkey season, one of us is going to miss a gobbler. Hunt turkeys long enough and that’s part of the deal. We shotgun hunters might whiff on a longbeard standing right in front of us. Or, like this guy, pull a couple of nice toms into range and wing an arrow harmlessly in their direction.