Springtime is almost here! With the snow starting to melt and the daylight hours growing, our spring fever is at its peak. We have an intense urge to spend more time outside and rekindle the hunting lifestyle we packed away months ago for the winter ahead. Fortunately for us hunters, most states provide spring turkey hunting opportunities for anyone craving the chase of these elusive birds. In preparation for the season, we’ve highlighted some key areas of the turkey hunt that you can attend to before the hunt begins.
Where to Hunt
Most states offer an early season draw hunt and over-the-counter (OTC) hunt options. Whichever one you qualify for, it’s important to scout your intended areas before the hunt. If you are hunting in a place with a lot of private property, it’s in your best interest to get a plat book or download GPS property apps such as onX Hunt Maps. This will help you identify who owns the land and give you direction for asking for access permission.
Once you’ve found these areas, it’s about patterning the birds. The use of trail cameras is an essential tool for scouting your area. Set these up in key areas of traffic for a couple reasons. First, to assure you that there are actually birds in the area to hunt and secondly, learn their pattern. Trail cams will provide time stamps when the birds walk-by, which gives you valuable insight for when you should be sitting in your blind.When looking for ideal areas for turkeys, keep in mind what they like. They prefer large trees for roosting – oaks in the Midwest and East, and cottonwoods or pines in the West. They need access to food and water – they love bugs, acorns, and crops. A location where there is easy access to openness and cover without traveling a long distance is ideal territory for turkeys.
You’ve been practicing all winter and are now a turkey calling pro, right? If so, I’m impressed – but for everyone else, including myself, it’s time to dusk off the calls and start practicing. Whether you prefer slate calls, diaphragm calls, box calls, or something else, there is a vast resource of videos and tutorials online to learn the different noises turkeys make. I recommend practicing around the house in your spare time – do not call around the area you plan to hunt, because it might educate the birds.
The use of decoys is personal preference, but if you lean the way of decoys, it’s worth getting them out of storage and ready in advance of the season. Turkeys have great awareness for body language. The way a turkey decoy is presented will give off subtle cues to an approaching tom. You want it to convey a relaxed environment, by appearing to feed or squat – both comforting positions to bring toms in. If it looks upright, on alert, or misshapen, it gives a tom cause to avoid the situation and not come close for the shot.
Take the decoys out of storage and clean them off – just water and cloth should do the trick. If they were packed away for the offseason in a way that caused a crease in the body, pack the creased area with newspaper to bring back the shape and heat it with a hair dryer – the crease should disappear. If the creased area is too small (head or neck) and doesn’t reform from the hair dryer, inject the area with foam insulation. Once this hardens, the original shape should be restored.
Once your decoys are clean and formed to how they were intended, they will be ready to attract that big, loud thunder chicken from his roost.
Load Up On Camo
Turkeys are not known for their sense of smell, but they do have very keen eyesight. They can see in color and can see three times better than humans with a wider range of peripherals. If you prefer to hunt outside of a ground blind, head to toe camo is recommended, including a face mask, gloves, hat, and even face paint. Try and keep movement and noise to a minimum as well. Paired with decoys to divert their attention, proper camo concealment gives you a higher probability of blending in undetected.
Do you have any preseason tips or advice we didn’t cover? Leave it in the comments for the other hunters looking to improve their turkey game this year!