Last fall I went on my first deer hunt and killed two deer in about three hours. This spring, I got to go on my first turkey hunt with some of the guys from Outdoor Life and learned something very valuable: my first deer hunt was pure luck.
The most recent gobbler kill in my turkey hunting circle of friends went down this past weekend.
Reports from around the country where spring turkey seasons remain open indicate birds are still gobbling hard and getting grilled on outdoor decks. Personally, I’m still out there too, carrying my second Maine tag as a bonus ticket to the show after killing a longbeard back on the opener.
Nebraska, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont and New Hampshire spring turkey seasons end May 31. Maine doesn’t close until noon on Saturday, June 2. Some of us want to make it last.
As tough and frustrating as turkey hunting can be with a shotgun, some hunters choose to add even more stress and frustration to their lives by trying to take down a gobbler with stick and string. Those who have to be politically correct might say that such a hunter strives to pursue the sport at the most demanding and purest levels. Others might describe such a hunter as insane, a fool, or crazy.
One such hunter who is “crazy” about hunting, fishing or anything outdoors related is Ryan Ruef of Massachusetts. A couple of years ago Ryan, 13, and his brother Andrew, 11, started accompanying their dad, Gary, on deer, pheasant and turkey hunts in Massachusetts and Connecticut. These adventures were great experiences for the boys, but after three years of tagging along with dad, they came to realize that hunters go home with unfilled tags more often than they do with a trophy.
Ohio hunters killed more than 17,000 bearded turkeys during the state's four-week spring season. One hunter, Josh Grossenbacher of Zink Calls, took a special longbeard during the final week of the season — the bird had two spurs on each leg.
It can happen fast. You hear footsteps in the leaves. It might be that gobbling turkey you raised checking out your position silently, looking for the hen you pretended to be. Key on the sound of footsteps while also being safe — turkeys and hunters walking make similar noises at times.
Always identify your target. Listen for these other sounds to lock in on a gobbler that might have you in his sights rather than the other way around: Clucking: It might just be a single cluck: pock. Still if you hear it, you’ll be ready for that turkey to appear. Or you can cluck back. And you can reposition if the gobbler clucked and moved off.
Spring turkey seasons continue until the end of the month in many northern locations. Maine’s, the latest option in the country, runs until noon on Saturday, June 2. Try these tactics to kill a gobbler up north this season.
Mid-Season Toms Some nesting may have started; some gobblers may have been killed. Flock configurations are shifting. Some gobblers are still on the move, looking for company. Be there when they are. Scouting to see shifts in breeding ranges is important throughout the season.
Sure a gobbler’s weight will get your attention and beard length is something we all check, but spurs seal the deal.
My buddy Mike Jordan of Atsko, the Sno-Seal people, killed the Oklahoma longbeard wearing the spurs in this photo. One measured 1 and 9/16 inches and the other taped in at 1 and 3/8s. I was hunting the other side of the Croton Creek Ranch property last month when I heard the shot. Good bird, eh?
The National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) keeps records on this sort of thing for those of us who care, and we do. For hunters who register their birds, it's a way to share trophy statistics about the gobblers we love to hunt. What are the longest registered spurs for each of the four prominent stateside subspecies?
Are spring gobblers less vocal with cloud cover? Do they gobble less the day after a rain?
If you’re turkey hunting the Northeast and elsewhere these days where the spring gobbler seasons are still underway, cloud cover, showers and rain have been hunting factors lately. The Missouri Department of Conservation study says yes to both, and listed results on their website which include:
—Turkeys are more likely to gobble on days with clear skies, according to the statewide Missouri study conducted in 2010.
You’ve got the decoys in your truck. Mixing up the way you stake them can make all the difference. Check out these three set ups that have worked for me over the years.
Jake with a Harem: A longbeard and a jake fly down, walk to a nearby pasture, looking for turkeys. Mr. Tom is about to strut, but . . . There stands another jake about to breed a belly-down hen, with other hens looking and feeding around it. They’re all fake but the live gobblers don’t know that and come to crash Mr. Shortbeard’s party. That’s when things go suddenly dark for the longbeard.