With almost three months to go, some folks may call me crazy when it comes to the amount of prep work I do prior to turkey hunting season. But ever since I harvested my first tom six years ago, I can't shake the turkey fever which sets in at the end of every January for me. Diaphragm calls have made their way back into my lunch box again and weekend scouting trips become more frequent. I begin to find myself dreaming more and more about the sound of a tom spitting and gobbling during one of those aromatic spring mornings. While the experience of turkey hunting is enough to satisfy my soul, there is just something about the challenge of harvesting a wary old gobbler to me. It takes great skill and patience when pursuing the true King of Spring. Below is a list of four key steps that I have come up with to help you better understand your quarry and give that Thunder Chicken a one way ticket into your freezer.
No matter what type of game you are pursuing, I can never stress scouting enough. Taking the time to find birds in a few different locations. This will give you options when it comes time to fill your tag. I like to have at least three properties on lock-down every year at least two months before season opens. Waiting until the last minute to ask permission results in limited hunting opportunities, as many landowners have probably already given the green light to other hunters.
2) Determine Roost Sites
Determining roost sites can make your life a lot easier when it comes to hunting turkeys. Turkey's here in Wisconsin tend to roost on south facing slopes or down in valleys where they are more protected from the wind. Eastern birds often roost in maple, large oak, pines, elm and cottonwood trees. In western parts of the country, turkeys are known to roost in trees such as fir, spruce, cottonwood and pine. Roosts almost always have a water resource within 400-600 yards and are often times found along the edges of fields/meadows. This allows for the birds to have an open landing zone when flying down from their roosts in the early morning.
3) Patterning Birds
Now that you've scouted out an area and determined a few good roost sites, it's time to pattern the birds in your turkey woods. Often times I will put out my Moultrie trail cameras at least two months prior to my hunting season. This gives me ample time to see where the birds are going, and at what times of the day they are on the move. Trail cameras are placed along edges of fields or under potential roost sites. Often times I will spend 5-6 mornings before my season just sitting in different locations on my properties to film and photography the birds I see. This gives me a better understanding of the flocks in my area and where I will have the best chance at harvesting a mature bird.
Pop up blinds are without a doubt are one of the most popular forms of concealment when it comes to turkey hunting. They are easy to setup, transport and allow for a greater range of motion while going undetected. While I own one myself, I prefer going a more natural route. After patterning birds in my area, I like to create all natural blinds on built out of logs, sticks and brush. These blinds are often usable for 3-4 years and often become better over time as vegetation grows and weaves its way through the material. After I have a few constructed on the property, it is fairly easy for me to move around with only my gun and turkey calls.
Abraham Lincoln said it best, ""I will prepare and some day my chance will come."" Make that day your best chance at putting a Thunder Chicken in the freezer.
Cameron Pauli has been an avid turkey hunter for the past six years of his life, 3 of which he has spent as a prostaffer for Flambeau Outdoors. To learn more about Cameron, you can visit his website at www.campauli.com or follow him on Twitter at @CamPauli