HUNTING AMERICA’S BIRD   Leave a comment

Pursuit of the wild turkey probably began as soon as the pilgrims landed.  Suffice it to say that throughout recorded history in America, this bird has provided food and sport for hunters.  In the South it is one of the most popular game animals available.  Much is said about its intelligence.  That is probably more due to instinct than to actual intellect.  The turkey is not a super bird.  He can be taken if one does his homework and pays attention to detail in the woods. 

Turkey hunters learn the habits and habitat of the quarry in order to be successful.  Some hunters each year are successful without preparation.  They are not the ones who take birds year after year.  

Most birds are taken during the spring hunts even though some are harvested in fall hunts.  In spring, the male or gobbler has love on his mind and is less aware of other things in the woods, such as hunters.  This is not to say that he will ignore a hunter that he spots.  Quite the contrary, he will be long gone if he sees a hunter or hunter’s movement. 

Each spring, the hen mates with a gobbler every day until she conceives.  She then begins to lay one egg per day for 10 to 15 days.  Once she has her eggs, the hen will stop breeding with the male.  The result is that each gobbler has fewer hens to mate with as the season wears on.  Late in the season, gobblers are more vulnerable as they seek hens with which to mate and find fewer available. 

Generally gobblers are solitary animals.  Sometimes two males will be found together.  These are usually brothers.  They travel together but their functions are different.  One will be a strutter and a lover while the other is a fighter, warding off other gobblers in the area. 

In order to overcome the instinctive defense mechanisms of the wild turkey, a hunter must pick an area with birds in which to hunt.  That sounds obvious but it requires some pre-season field work.  Equipment for the job at hand must also be prepared.

The first work is divided between scouting and practice with the weapon to be used in the hunt.  One should scout for an area to hunt.  Talk to locals about birds they might have seen.  Topographic and other maps are handy for marking where one has seen birds as well as sign of their presence.  Binoculars are good for use from a roadway.  One can drive a lot of roads and scout without having to actually walk all over the countryside.

 During scouting look for birds, or their droppings, feathers and tracks.  Turkeys will often respond to a Barred Owl call.  Turkeys hate Barred Owls and will often gobble in response to hearing their call. 

Pre‑season practice with a shotgun should include patterning the gun.  Remember the smaller the shot the more pellets in the load.  The idea is to get most of the shot in a 30 inch circle at 40 yards.  Most hunters are comfortable with number 4 or number 6 shot.  Two ounces of shot per load is recommended.  Experiment with different loads, size of shot, and ammunition fro different manufacturers. 

Full camouflage of both the hunter and gun are vital.  Once in the woods it is a good idea to sit against a tree wider than your shoulders.  This helps to conceal your outline and also is a protection from shots made by another hunter from behind you.  

Hunt defensively.  Never stalk a turkey.  Someone may be concealed from you and about to shoot in the direction of the bird.  Never wear the colors of red, white or blue in the woods during turkey season.  All of these could mean turkey to another hunter.  It is best to set up on a side hill and make the bird come to you.  One can set up 75 to 125 yards from the bird and then call him into range. 

There are six basic types of mechanical calls on the market.  They are the box call, diaphragm, corn cob‑slate call, push button, wing bone, and tube call or snuff box call.  Each has its advantage and disadvantage.  You should try each and make up your mind as to which works best for you.  Box calls are probably the easiest to master and are thus the most popular.  Diaphragm calls are popular because their use frees up your hands for use of the weapon.  Calls take much practice.  All of them will bring in birds. 

Turkeys will respond to seven or eight basic calls from a hunter.  They are the Yelp, mating call, assembly call, cluck, purr, cackle, cutting call, and the fighting gobbler.  The latter is a combination of purr, cluck, and broken gobble that is made by using two push button calls at the same time.  It is a two man operation to be used in mid to late morning. 

Another call the turkey hunter carrys with him is the Barred Owl call mentioned earlier.  It is used at first light.  The call is a “who cooks for you, who cooks for you all”.  Gobblers in the area will often gobble in response to this call giving away their location.  A crow call used later in the morning will sometimes elicit the same response. 

Turkey hunting is an interesting sport.  We have huntable flocks throughout the country.   Study the sport, study the calls and practice the calls and with the weapons.  If you do your homework chances are good for a safe and successful hunt.


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