Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

Sports

February 1, 2013

Reese: Three tips to turkey heaven

Corsicana — All that remains of deer season in our neck of the woods is memories and our waterfowl season is close on its heels. That said, we are fortunate to live in a place teeming with year round cast-and-blast outdoor adventures. Whether you’re on the water or higher ground, hunting opportunities exist for everyone but some pursuits, for some hunters just down have that meat-in-the-freezer appeal. So, how do those hunters scratch that cabin-fever itch? The answer is simple. Much like we begin tackling deer hunting prep during summer months, this is the perfect time to begin preparing for turkey season.

Turkeys are tough! It’s a turkey’s “eagle” eyes, courage and fighting ability that prompted Benjamin Franklin to suggest the wild turkey as our national bird over the bald eagle; unfortunately for Franklin, a turkey just wasn’t the image our forefathers were looking for.

Most hunters agree, if turkeys possessed a keen sense of smell to match that eyesight, they would be next to impossible to hunt! Much like aligning the planets, a number of variables are essential to harvesting the tom of a lifetime. Getting it right accounts for some of the greatest adrenaline rushes imaginable while getting it wrong can drive a hunter to tears. So, here are some tips to make sure you’re ready on opening day.

Setups: Like real estate, location is everything! Scouting is critical. NOW is the time to look for signs such as tracks, scat, feathers and roosting areas. If you find a roosting area slip back to around within 100 yards or so at dusk and scan the trees to pinpoint roosts. Consider posting trail cameras to pattern the birds. SpyPoint makes a phenomenal camera, the Tiny-W2. The Tiny W-2 allows you to check your camera via a remote box up to 80 yards away – a perfect way to track movement without disturbing an area. Once you establish roosting areas and patterns of movement, try to setup your hunting spot 100 – 150 yards from the roost in the direction of most active movement.

In the woods – Never walk through a roosting area during early morning hours or late afternoon. Whether hunting in the morning or afternoon, pick a spot that allows you to be concealed by shadows, with the sun at your back. Many disagree, especially in morning hours, because turkeys love to wander the edges of a field basking in the sunlight; however, I find my movements better cloaked by shade and I can call them in from across the field. Sit against a tree trunk, rock or blow down tree that is wider than your shoulders and taller that your head. If you’re bowhunting from a ground blind, never open all the windows; open the front and perhaps one side window; opening more than that allows turkeys to catch your silhouette. Sit as far back in a ground blind as possible. Decoys should be placed 8 – 15 yards in front of your position.

Blend In: Let’s face it, trying to win a cat and mouse game with a bird that can see you blink at 50 yards is tough work! Worse, these birds see color! Camouflage is critical when turkey hunting. Pick a pattern that best matches your surroundings and put it on. Breaking up your silhouette is the name of the game here. Camouflage boots, gloves, face masks, shirts, pants and coats are essential. Never wear red, white or blue, those are colors turkeys associate with other turkeys and are the first colors they zero in on. Trust me; you don’t want that kind of attention. In ground blinds, black is the most effective camouflage. Turkeys also pick out shiny objects. Leave your jewelry at home unless you’re wearing gloves. Idea - use wax on the wire frame of your glasses to dull the finish.

In the woods – Even with all that cover and concealment preparation hunters are easily spotted with movement. I’ve been busted countless times by turning my head, moving my leg or stepping out from behind a tree. The best camouflage is to STOP MOVING! When all else fails, freeze!

Calling: Now is the time to get busy with your turkey calls. I prefer mouth calls but am quite proficient with pot calls and mildly dangerous with box calls. Regardless of the call I get interact with birds without getting busted. Why? Because I practice! When I’m driving, ALONE, I practice my mouth calls. At home, I leave my pot and box calls out and often pick them up when no one is home to practice while I’m watching TV. The point is that I practice often.

In the woods - Early in the morning, while turkeys are still on the roost, begin calling with soft, slow, hollow yelps. How would you sound if you were just waking up? Hens use this first yelp series to locate other turkeys in the roost. Toms listen for yelps that give a hen’s location. When toms fly down they head for those soft yelps. As morning progresses, change your calling to regular hen yelps – slow and louder. Soon after beginning your regular yelping, transition into excited yelping. This type of yelping is faster, a bit longer, and a bit louder than normal yelps. If you’ve watched hunting on T.V., 90% of the time what you hear is excited yelping. Feel free to add some clucks and cutting in your yelping runs. The most common error in calling turkeys is over calling. Yelping runs are best if kept between 4-7 yelps and performed perhaps every 10 – 15 minutes. Every 5 minutes is too often. The greatest tip I can offer about calling is simply that later in the season toms normally stop vocalizing. That doesn’t mean they aren’t coming. Luck is the sum of preparation and diligence.

Following these tips won’t guarantee you that boss tom but they’ll certainly increase your chances. As a last note, most of the turkeys I’ve harvested have been around 9:30 a.m. or even later. When you think it’s time to end the morning hunt, give it another half hour. Turkeys have been known to spend most of the day milling around – makes lunch a bit harder to swallow doesn’t it?

Hunt hard and hunt often.

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