Turkey season is just around the corner for most hunters. Are you ready for the opener? Your excitement indicates your readiness to jump into the turkey fray, but have you honestly done any preparation to back up the enthusiasm factor? The following preseason steps have the capacity to bring you one step closer to opening day success. Pause turkey YouTube and start the process of tagging out in the opening hours of the season.
SCOUT … DUH!
Scouting seems like a no brainer, but scouting with a meticulous, targeted fashion differs than merely spotting a flock of turkeys from your truck window as you zoom down a country road. You need to scout with precision. That simple sentence means you need to discover where turkeys prefer to roost, where they are spending most days feeding and where they loaf, especially if inclement weather pops up on your HuntStand hunting app weather forecast.
Depending on your dialect drawl, turkeys may roost sporadically across a property. Even so, oftentimes, they have preferences for certain ridges, east-facing slopes and particular species of trees. Scouting can help you determine these variances. Further west, turkeys, particularly Merriam’s, oftentimes stake claim to a favorite tree for repeated roost refuge. What a Godsend!
The same is true of food sources. A flock may vary its feeding pattern depending on temperatures and possibly in avoidance of predators, but they have favorites just like your preference to Five Guys’ burgers. Monitor food plots, agricultural fields, acorn hollows and other nutrition sources. Finally, locate any areas turkeys prefer to lounge. Field edges on sunny mornings and valleys when the weather turns irate should be on your radar. Get trail cameras out and operating, or moved to turkey locations for the best in digital teamwork.
SCOUT THE COMPETITION
Few of you have properties all to yourself unless you hold the deed to a farm. Like you, I do most of my turkey hunting on properties where I need to ask for permission. If you received permission, others likely have as well and of course it is a given that any public property will see headlights arriving in the predawn before the opener.
Now is the time to scout the competition to assess hunting pressure and tactical deviations to avoid the crowd. First, visit with landowners and land managers to assess hunting pressure. Not only should you ask how many others will be hunting, but whether the landowner and family could be taking to the field. It is amazing how many shoestring relatives show up out of thin air when hunting seasons near. In addition to a count and amount, attempt to pin down the days they will be hunting. You may want to postpone an opener hunt if there is a family reunion planned.
Moving on to public land, it can be more difficult to evaluate hunting pressure. Drives past trailhead parking lots to review activity prior to the season and hikes into the interior a parcel can give you some clues. Talk with others at the site to gain an idea of their hunting intentions and freely share your plans. Mutual disclosures could benefit you as much as other hunters. Regardless of your public finds, always prepare to hunt the farthest from the trailhead parking area.
PREP AMBUSH SITES
Your turkey encounter could take place anywhere on a property, but if your scouting is successful, you have a few locations in mind for a showdown. Prep those sites. Whether you find consistency at a roost, on a field edge or on a farm trail, preseason is a good time to stake a ground blind in preparation for the opener. This allows turkeys to warm to the new object in the woods. Although turkeys do not show the same shyness as whitetails to a new object, why take the gamble. The blind will give you cover concealment to veil the very moves a cautious turkey notices, plus the portable studio apartment acts as a weather shelter in case immediate climate change hits your area.
On some private property and on most public lands, you may not be able to set up a blind and leave it. In that case, use Mother Nature’s building blocks to prep a site. You can arrange downed trees, limbs and branches to create a makeshift blind that blends better than anything available at a local sporting goods store. If legal, use a pruner to add leafy foliage to the skeleton frame of the timber to provide it with even more concealment power. If not legal, merely carry a lightweight length of camouflage netting or cloth to drape over the limbs. This blocking power is ideal when you need to shift for a shot on a tom that is flanking your position.
PRACTICE THE ART OF CONVERSATION
Warning: The practicing of turkey calls inside a residence is a leading cause of divorce. All kidding aside, you need to get those calls out and practice. If you have never mastered a diaphragm call, now is the time. Instead of trying to blow air across it and gagging in unison, just place it in your mouth for extended periods of time. This allows you to overcome the gag reflex and perfect the art of moving it around for placement when you do not need it.
After getting comfortable, start forcing air over the call to create sound. The ideal environment to practice mouth calls is in the solitude of your vehicle as you commute to work or make your way out scouting. Do not try this with friction calls as you are required to keep two hands on the wheel at ten and two positionings.
Like mouth calls, it is a good idea to practice in an environment that does not bother the rest of the family or neighbors. That noted, I do not advise practicing at your favorite hunting location and firing turkeys up. Turkeys will receive enough conversation arousal during the season and from some nimrods who do find it funny to practice on their target flock before season.
In addition to learning basic yelps, familiarize yourself with other turkey conversation, including cutting, putts, clucks, cackles and purrs. When season arrives, you will be able to converse masterfully to an animal that has a peanut-sized brain.
The season is sneaking up on you like a young mountain lion stalking a California jogger. Keep these gear preparations in mind as your anticipation grows. First, pattern your shotgun. All turkey loads and chokes do not shoot the same. For instance, Hornady Heavy Magnum Turkey loads are designed to not require a specialized turkey choke. They may perform better with traditional chokes determined by your testing. Shoot several shots at varying ranges you expect in the field and stick to those distances for guaranteed success.
Next, go through your turkey vest like a mother checking her elementary school child’s backpack for homework assignments. Remove any garbage from the previous season and stash head nets, gloves, toilet paper, first aid, insect repellent, sunscreen and your call collection in the various pockets. Vests, like the ALPS OutdoorZ NWTF Grand Slam Turkey Vest, have ample storage for all the above and shotgun shell holders. Add in other items per your personal needs, such as navigation devices, flashlight, binocular and even a garbage bag to hold your turkey for blood minimization.
Now is the time to set aside YouTube or Netflix subscriptions, and prepare for the turkey opener. Scrambling the night before is no way to pave the road for a turkey dinner. Those are your marching orders. Gobble, gobble!
For more about Mark Kayser and ways to follow him on social media, visit www.markkayser.com.