There is a time each year when the snow disappears, the grass begins to green up, and the dogwoods begin blooming. To a hunter this means one thing, turkey season is coming. This is the time to pick out your vacation days and plan the trips that are going to make the spring unforgettable. For me, it mean putting lots of miles on my old rusty truck trying to be the first one of my buddies to see the first Tom strutting or hear that first gobble. This spring turned out to be a little different in that department. I didn’t have much time to scout and when I did turkey sightings were rare. I didn’t even hear my first gobble until a week before the Indiana opener. To say I was a little bit worried was an understatement.
Phone calls were made and plans were put in place for opening day. I planned to run a camera for a buddy of mine. When I arrived at his house on that morning I was greeted with a steady rain, not the ideal turkey hunting conditions. Nevertheless we took off across a pasture carrying decoys and camera gear and settled into our blind right before daylight. My friend had decided that he was going to try and take a bird with his crossbow while I filmed. I did though bring along my trusty old 870 just in case the opportunity for a double presented itself. As daylight broke gobbles were few and far between. About an hour into the hunt I looked to our left out of the blind window and there stood two longbeards within 30 yards. Isn’t it amazing how they appear out of nowhere sometimes? The shuffle was on. As you can imagine, it is pretty tough to get a camera turned on, aimed, and focused when two longbeards are staring at you 30 yards away. Somehow I managed to get them in focus just as they turned to walk away. I heard the safety of the crossbow click off and the arrow was on its way. To our dismay we watched that arrow fly right over the bird’s back.
We were surprised when the longbeards jumped at the shot and then stood looking around wondering what in the heck just happened. The second shuffle was on. Instead of trying to stealthily focus a camera, I was reaching for my shotgun in an attempt to get the safety off and the gun aimed as quickly as possible. I pointed the barrel out of the blind window, lined up the sights and pulled the trigger. This time there were no misses. I find it pretty ironic that I went into this opening day wondering where I was going to find a Tom for myself, and end up tagged out by eight o’clock. I guess this is part of the beauty of turkey hunting, you really never know. Oh, and yes, I bought my buddy’s lunch.
There are not too many things that can get a hunters blood pumping more than hearing a turkey gobble in the predawn morning. That thundering sound coming from the treetops is what drives us to get up well before sunrise and climb the hills and hollers in search of a longbeard. Here in Indiana the turkeys start gobbling good in March and we have almost a month and a half to wait until we can get after em. In the weeks leading up to the 2014 spring season my morning were spent on field edges and along country roads scouting and listening for roost spots and strut zones. The week before the season I had located multiple birds and did my best to pattern their movements. The only thing left to do was to secure some vacation time and tune up my calls in the hope that I would have a big longbeard in the decoys opening morning.
It’s February, 24, 2014. That means only 8 weeks until Ohio’s spring turkey season opens! Now if you follow me on Twitter or read my past blogs, you’ll know turkey season is by far my favorite past time. There’s nothing better than hearing a gobbler sound off on a crisp, cool morning. But since I have 8 weeks before I head into the woods after some hard-headed gobblers, I need to do some preparing.
Here are just a few steps that I take when preparing for spring turkey season.
- Dust off those calls-I break out my calls in February. Sometimes I think my fiancée starts to get irritated by all the yelping, clucking & purring, but she understands this is a passion! One of the best tips I could give is to take your mouth calls with you on car rides and throw them in while you’re driving. You won’t irritate anyone and you’ll be able to fine tune your skills.
- Gear Inventory-Now’s the perfect time to go through all of your gear. I like to sit down and make a list of all the turkey hunting stuff I have and will need for the season. I take this time to go through and make sure my decoys are good to go, along with make sure I have enough shells to make it through the season.
- Pattern your gun-I always spend some time on the range before season. I like to know just how far my gun is effective at. Now I don’t spend a ridiculous amount of money on shells, so I know I’m confident to about 40 yards. Some like to know their guns are capable of shooting a turkey at 60 plus yards, but I’m not spending $40 for a box of shells. My $20 box will do just fine!
- Scout, scout, scout-About 4 weeks before season, I like to get out and walk the woods to see where the turkeys are hanging out. Because I generally hunt the same few properties each year, I have a pretty good idea. But the time I don’t scout will be the time the turkeys change their spring patterns. It’s also good to drive around in the evenings and listen to where the birds are roosting at night. I know the old saying of “Roosted Ain’t Roasted,” but I’d much rather know where he’s sleeping and try to kill him off the roost than to go in blind.
Written by Pro-Staffer Brad Tansey
I’m as guilty as anyone else when turkey hunting. I sometimes get anxious and want to move around when I’m not hearing any gobbles. It sometimes can get frustrating when you’re getting up at 3 a.m., drive 2 hours to hunt and don’t hear any gobbles. I learned my lesson about three weeks ago turkey hunting with my dad.
We have a large private property we hunt in northern Ohio where the turkeys are definitely plentiful. One of our buddies has been covered up in longbeards, so we decided to head in there and try for a double (something I’ve always wanted to do). We get in there about 5:20 a.m., which is about 40 minutes before daylight. Plenty of time, right? I’m waiting to hear a gobbler sound off and let me know he’s in the area. As the sun comes up, no gobbles. We heard a few hens in the distance, but to our surprise, not even a courtesy gobble.
My first thought would be to give it until around 8 a.m., then get up and go find a hard gobbling turkey who will work to a call. Well, my dad is the opposite. He believes in waiting the turkeys out because a lot of times they come in silent.
Well, he talked me into waiting until about 10 a.m. before we moved to another spot and finished up at noon, which is Ohio’s quitting time the first two weeks of season. A hen walked into our decoys about 9 a.m., but with no gobblers trailing. As she walked off, I started to get ready to head out. As I scanned the field from left to right, I caught movement in the field. A red head. Two red heads. Three red heads. We had 2 longbeards and a jake standing about 75 yards away in the cut corn field. I gave a couple soft yelps on my mouth call, and here they came.
The gobblers made their way to the decoys about 20 yards away. Now I was on the left and my Dad was on the right. Our deal was to whisper “1,2 shoot!” As the gobblers made their way in, I clicked the safety off my Mossberg 535 and put it on the longbeard’s head. We whispered those magic words “1,2 SHOOT!” The shots almost sounded like one single shot! 2 birds flopping a mere 20 yards away. I finally was a part of a double. We celebrated, attached temporary tags and headed to the truck. My turkey ended up at 19 pounds with a 9 1/2″ beard and 3/4″ spurs. Dad’s was 22 pounds with a 10 1/2″ beard and 7/8″ spurs.
The moral of this story is sometimes it pays to wait the turkeys out. It might be difficult, but it does pay off. This is a perfect example of knowing your property and having faith in your scouting. If we would have done it the way I wanted, we would have never killed those birds. From now on, I am going to have more patience. The old saying that patience pays off couldn’t be more true.
Do you have a favorite hunting memory? Share your experience with us in the comments!
Pro Staff Member Matt Aarstad helping a young man learn the how to’s of archery! Aarstad is a member of the East River Strutters Chapter of the NWTF located in Bon Homme Co, SD and the Chapter began hosting a youth archery program for the youth in the area, thus far the program has been a hit with both young and old!
Written by Pro-Staff Team Member Matt Truesdale
On Thursday, April 7, I had the opportunity to continue a tradition started by my hunting buddies and me - the tradition of attending the Pittsburgh Pirates home opener. This is the 3rd consecutive year that we have been to the home opener, and regardless of whether the Buccos win or lose, it is still an extremely enjoyable time. Nothing can compare to a full day of tailgating in the parking lot with the American and Jolly Roger flags flying high, supporting our favorite ball club at one of the best ball parks in the country and throwing down a Primanti’s sandwich with an IC Light.
As the game rolled into the bottom half of the 7th and we sang “take me out to the ball game” I began to wonder what are the year’s best season openers? Here at Collegiate Camo, we not only get pumped up for the start of hunting and fishing seasons, but for athletic seasons as well! Because of the bonded love affair of outdoorsman sports and athletic sports being a common trend that we all share, I have put together what I consider to be the most anticipated opening seasons of each year from the least popular to most popular.
12) NHL and NBA: I understand that these two sports are completely different, especially during playoffs in the post season. Heck, the playoffs for both of these leagues are an entirely new season and a different more exciting game. Even though I am a fan of the NHL I just cannot get as excited for the first game of the year like I can other sports. I’ll just wait for the start of the playoffs…
11) Small Game: Have you ever felt that heart pounding, nervous, exciting feeling as a big fox squirrel slowly comes down the path toward you? Yeah, neither have I. Although I do enjoy small game hunting and the camaraderie with my friends, small game is more of a thrown together afternoon activity than anything else. Even grouse and pheasant are more annoying and frustrating than they are enjoyable to hunt. But seriously, have you ever heard of “squirrel drives”? Exactly.
10) College Basketball: How long is it until March? This year VCU proved that the college basketball regular season does not matter and the big tournament is the only excitement worth watching. Yes, the end of the season tournament may possibly be one of the most exciting post seasons in any sport, but the opening game is just a tease until all the madness.
9) Waterfowl: I will hand it to the waterfowl hunters. I have yet to get fully enveloped into the sport, but these guys are crazy. Blinds, decoys, boats, face paint, calls, you name it. This season requires a lot of attention to detail, equipment, management and site location which could only lead to excitement on the opening day. Seasons in, migration’s cancelled.
8 ) White Tail Deer, Archery: Why did I separate archery and rifle? If you have to ask this question, than you must only hunt deer with a rifle. There are not many feelings that come close to having a deer walk within yards from you, and the practice and preparation needed in order to slay a buck with a broad head. Unfortunately, the first day of archery cannot quite contend with the first day of rifle. Be sure to bring enough scent eliminator as the first of archery always seems to be too hot, sticky, and muggy.
7) NFL: The NFL opener is similar to a family reunion. Every year there is a reunion, you generally see the same people, there is usually something or someone new that brings interest and then there is something or someone that embarrasses you. The majority of NFL fans already know what they have regarding their teams. The NFL opener is exciting, but the NFL opener lacks some of the glamour and anticipation of other season openers.
6) NASCAR: Yes, NASCAR. I know you are all wondering how and why NASCAR is as high as it is on this list. The answer is that the “Super Bowl” of NASCAR is the Daytona 500, the season opener. You can disagree all you want, but you cannot argue the fact that Daytona 500 is a hugely popular event full of everything needed for a great opening day.
5) Turkey: The elusive thunder chicken is by far one of the most frustrating and fun species to hunt. Combine this birds characteristics with the preparation it takes to bag a bird and 2 opening seasons throughout the year, you can’t beat turkey hunting. No other species or sport has 2 openers in a year, and doubling proves this sport aint no turkey.
4) MLB: Our nation’s pastime. The spring weather. Smells of popcorn, hot dogs and beer. 9 innings of excitement and a packed house. The MLB season opener matches and exceeds the excitement, anticipation, and popularity of any sport. Yes, the 162 game season is long, but every game counts in the attempt of achieving one of the few post seasons spots. The fact that the MLB opener does not just bring baseball back, but also brings back the warm weather and the thought of summer heralds the MLB opener high in this list.
3) Trout: The opening day of trout season may be different for many people throughout the country. But where I come from, the trout season opener is a right of passage for children and a day long family fun event. Everyone, literally everyone comes out to the streams for the first day of trout, which does have a drawback. Although some lines may get tangled between those fishing, the trout opener continues to be a spectacle year in and year out. Each cast of the line holds suspense of the possibilities of pulling back a 24 inch brownie, or just a 8 inch rainbow.
2) College Football: Do I honestly have to make an argument for this one? College football is simply American and brings an eruption of pent in anticipation into each fall from the past season. Every year is different in college football. Unlike professional sports, lineups and rosters change on a routine basis, keeping the game fresh and new. But most importantly, with the college football comes the tailgating. Other sports have their loyal and crazy fan base that do provide a spectacle of amazement when showcasing tailgates, but college football fans do it best and on a larger scale. Every school has their traditions, their massive tailgates and their crazy fans. Walk around any college stadium on any home Saturday afternoon and you will find the most die hard and loyal fans of any sport. The fans and tailgaters could only relate to college football as having the best season opener of any athletic sport.
1) White Tail Deer, Rife: I should not have to explain why. There is no more popular, exciting, anticipated day for any outdoorsman than the first day of rifle season for deer. There is nothing more important for an outdoorsman than bringing home the venison and bragging about the previous days hunt over the water cooler at work. The first day of rifle for deer is essentially a national holiday in most areas. No other season opener is built into work and school schedules, allowing individuals the day off to continue the American tradition and to spend time with family members at camp.
Spring turkey season is just around the corner for most states. I love eating a gobbler. They are low in fat, high in protein and if you find the right chef, can be converted into awesome jerky. They are one of my favorite foods, usually smoked or roasted, sometimes on a bun with some zesty or sweet barbeque sauce. Or sometimes turkey acts as the “bread” in a mashed potato, gravy and turkey sandwich.On rare occasion, even deep fried in peanut oil. This totally voids the “healthy” factor, but I still feel less guilty eating a deep fried turkey than I do eating a chicken fried steak or a anything with copious amounts of bacon.
I am curious if I am the only person who finds it ironic that turkey season is not always open at our favorite turkey eating holiday of Thanksgiving? I mean, I guess we can clear out some room in the deep freeze for this big bird until November 24, well let’s say November 22 with the amount of time it takes to thaw. But there are many ways to fix our favorite gobbling fowl. I suppose the long wait of 5 months gives us plenty of time to think of how to dress our bird and make it delicious for family and ourselves.