Spring turkeys are frustrating—especially in Texas.
The reason I say this is that temperatures can vary so much in that crucial period when the birds decide to get frisky that it can cause an early breeding period or a late one.
I remember hunting with Editor-In-Chief Chester Moore on a big ranch south of San Antonio that was loaded with birds. A few days before we arrived, the birds began doing their thing and then a cold snap came and changed things up.
On top of that, birds are wary. There is a reason Benjamin Franklin wanted to have the wild turkey as the official symbol of America. Yes, it was a bad idea, but the point is turkeys aren’t as dumb as they look.
With that in mind let us look at a few tactics for bagging these prized birds.
First of all, as you can well imagine, I have hunted these birds for more than a few years now, and I have been both amazed and surprised at their behavior. The defenses of the turkey are mainly his eyes and ears. I firmly believe that if these creatures could smell, we would never get a chance to bag one.
So, what so we need to be successful this spring? First, I would make sure I have a portable pop-up blind.
A few years ago, I hunted out west with a friend of mine, Nathan Jones. At the time, he had a television show called Wild Extremes and he invited me out for a bow turkey hunt. I was excited to hear his tales about previous hunts and how his place was infested with birds.
Morning came, and I had no trouble at all jumping out of the sack and headed for the “hot” spot with Nathan. When we arrived, he led me to a field that bordered two woodlots. The blind was already in place, but when I saw it I was a little confused. There we were in a blind in the middle of a field. We were not in a hedgerow or hidden along a ditch. To be honest, I thought the turkeys would spot this thing and never come in. Was I ever wrong. We had so many young birds in front of us that I couldn’t count them all. Then, after a half hour, a nice big tom came into our setup. I went to school on that one. Did I get that tom?
Well…that is another story.
The following season I was hunting a field again. I had my portable blind set up. I also carried five decoys. Too many setups have two hens and a jake. I try to make it more realistic with four hens and a jake or maybe just five hens.
I know that deer and turkeys like to hang together in a field because it gives each a sense of security. I decided to increase my odds and bring along a deer decoy as well. That extra touch was all I needed, and I was soon on my way home with dinner.
When I wore a younger man’s clothes, I tagged along on a turkey hunt with one of my older friends.
First off, we were walking in to our spot, and we were not sure exactly where the birds were roosting. We had a general idea, but they really could be anywhere. As we got closer to our set-up spot, he turned and reminded me to try to be as quiet as possible while walking on the forest floor. We did not want to spook the birds from their roost. He then took a deer grunt call out of his pocket and used it every once in a while to simulate a deer walking in the woods.
Once we settled in and sunrise started to peek over the horizon, we could hear some birds starting to wake up. The soft tree calls, although a little distant, were close enough to get our adrenaline going.
The old geezer I was with mimicked each call he heard. He checked to make sure he could easily see his sights and then took his hat off. I listened as he made a few more soft yelps and then suddenly he frantically beat his hat against his pant leg as he cackled with his mouth call.
My first reaction was to get as far away from this lunatic as I could, but I soon realized it was all part of his charade. It sounded exactly like a bird’s wings as it flew down. It scared the be-Jesus out of me I might add!
Once he slowed the cackle down, he finished his calling with a couple of soft yelps as if to tell the toms…” here I am, and everything is fine.” I thought to myself that this man is a genius. However, he was not done with his trickery yet.
After the “come hither” yelps, he took his hand and scratched away at the leaves on the ground to sound like a hen turkey looking for her breakfast.
That did the trick. It was not long after his performance that I saw a nice tom heading right for us. His shot was true, and it was all over in less than 30 minutes.
My preferred way of bagging spring gobblers is with a bow. It takes the challenge up to a whole new level and having to get so close to an excited gobbler is arguably the most exciting thing a hunter can experience.
The aforementioned pop-up ground blinds are crucial. There is no way you will draw a bow back on a turkey on open ground.
I have used both fixed blades and mechanical blades on my turkey hunts, and I can tell you that without a doubt, the mechanical blades work so much better. Oh, the fixed blades will definitely do the deed, but the problem is they blow right through the bird.
If the turkey flies off mortally wounded, you will have a hard time recovering it. The mechanical blades open on impact. Better still, the amount of energy lost by the blades opening as it slices through the vital organs is enough to keep the arrow in the bird. Consequently, the turkey cannot fly and will only run a short distance. Recovery is always much easier.
These are just a few of the tricks that I know work and work well. However, I must say I love trying new and different ways to fool that wary bird.
Who knows what this season will bring? Whatever happens, as long as the end game is bringing home the turkey dinner, I am all for it.
—story by Lou Marullo