By: Monte Perron
First, let’s cover some of the actions that will empower a hunter in the turkey woods.
First Action - Acquiring Access to Turkey Land
Restocking efforts by state wildlife agencies and The National Wild Turkey Federation have been tremendously successful, providing turkeys in huntable numbers throughout the contiguous 48 states and in Hawaii and parts of Canada.
These restocking efforts have made it easier to find land with turkeys on it, but I still hear hunters complain of limited or no access to “good” hunting land. The definition of “good” is subjective, but I always encourage them to try hunting on public ground. I have had many super hunts on public ground because I am willing to improve my situation by separating myself from the masses. I do that by walking farther, staying longer, or showing up in the middle of the day when most folks have gone home. Honestly, I have experienced more isolation on public ground than any hunt club I have ever been a part of.
Acquiring access to private land can be done many different ways. The simplest way is to join a hunt club. Another possibility is to ask different landowners until you get a yes. The secret here is to be polite, present a good first impression, and do not be offended if you are turned down. The landowner of one of my favorite places turned me down the first time I asked.
Once you have permission be respectful of the land and try to cultivate a friendship if they are receptive. Many of my best friends are people I did not know until I asked them for permission to hunt.
Second Action – Scouting
Once you have found a place you will need to become familiar with the lay of the land and the local flock. The best place to start getting familiar with the property is on your computer using Google Earth. Once you have checked the aerial view you can use what you learned to get familiar with the birds on the land. On new ground I tailor my approach to the time of year. If it is winter, and we are several months away from spring turkey season, I will walk the land extensively and evaluate both the turkey sightings and sign I see. If turkey season is coming soon I will use a less intrusive approach where I listen for gobbling birds and evaluate where they go after fly-down. Prior to opening day I probably will not penetrate the property if I hear gobbling. In fact, when I hear a bird, I will often head out for other areas to see what else I might hear.
Third Action – Calling Practice
Becoming a proficient caller can be accomplished by anyone who is willing to practice. There are many different types of calls and most will work if you develop the skills needed to use them properly. Practicing with mouth diaphragms while driving to and from work provides a great opportunity to hone calling skills while not annoying anyone. My wife really appreciates me using this opportunity to practice.
Friction calls, such as slates and box calls, really work and can be mastered with effort. My own calling strategies involve the use of many different types of calls. I have killed turkeys using almost every type of call made.
Fourth Action – Find a Mentor
This action is completely optional, but it is probably the best thing one can do to compress the timeframes required to make it through the turkey hunting learning curve. Sure, you can learn it on your own. In fact, I believe that it is not knowledge until you have personally experienced it in the woods. That is when it becomes yours. That is when you know it in your knower. Nevertheless, until you get to the point it is smart to get a little kick start.
My first mentor, Richard Fox, Jr, gave me a good start and I have learned from others along the way. He knew his craft and was willing to share. I would have been a fool not to take advantage of his assistance.
Even if you do not have access to a personal mentor you can learn through videos, magazines, books, seminars, and the world wide web! Whenever I am in the presence of a proven turkey hunter I do twice as much listening as talking. Many times the smallest bits of information have created tremendous improvements in the field.
To be continued:
“Get After Em!”