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USE GPS TO GET THAT TURKEY   Leave a comment

MO Turkey 0007

Turkey hunters have a great tool at their disposal in the GPS.   Their maps and programs can help the hunter plan his hunt as well as navigate to and from hunting areas.

A GPS can aid hunters in remembering all of the major scouting points (waypoints) in the woods and make locating them easier.  It is possible to find a blind or planned ambush point in the dark easier than playing a video game.

GPS stands for Global Positioning System, a system of satellites far above the earth.  It measures your distance from the satellites with radio signals, and then shows you where you are.  All the high tech stuff is handy in a small hand held receiver.  All you have to do is turn it on, tell it where you want to go and follow its lead.

How do hunters overcome the natural defenses of turkeys?  They use an intimate knowledge of the turkey’s habits, woodsmanship, stealth and calling ability.  Most importantly is hunting in an area inhabited by the big birds.

Pre-season scouting is the best way of finding the spots in a given area most often used by turkeys.  Scouting with the assistance of GPS is one way to develop a plan of attack.  Take a walk through the woods at dawn or dusk and listen for the birds to sound off.  You can also drive the back roads stopping periodically to use a call.  In both situations, watch for sign and birds.

GPS will not overcome the major defenses of turkeys.  The birds are agile and can instantly take-off vertically.  Once airborne, they are capable of speeds up to 42 miles per hour.  They present a formidable target.

Perhaps a Turkey’s best defense is his eyesight.  Just how keen is their eyesight can be the subject of considerable debate.  But, they do pick up color, movement, contrast and detail very quickly and accurately.  Turkeys perceive, analyze and react to what they see quicker than man or other animals.  Turkeys also have better hearing than man.

The fact that all of these defenses are in one bird creates more problems for the hunter when one considers that they travel in flocks.  A half-dozen or more pair of eyes and ears presents a formidable challenge for most hunters.

Once a tom is located, you add waypoint to your GPS.  If it is late in the day, you can put him to roost.  He will gobble often and make following easy.  Once you find the roosting sight it too can be marked as a waypoint.

If you find only tracks and droppings, they examine them carefully.  If a tom is among the flock, his dropping will be long and J-shaped while the hens will be in a small roundish pile.  Areas with mud or sand are good for seeing tracks.  Larger ones in the range of 4 ½ to 5 inches wide between the outer toes will be from a gobbler.  Add another waypoint to the GPS.

Turkeys, like other birds, have problems with parasites.  To rid themselves of these pesky critters, they take a dust bath.  Find an area of loose dirt (dust) with turkey tracks and feathers.  It most probably is a dusting area.  Mark it as a waypoint on your GPS.  Birds will visit it regularly.

Soon you have formed a plan of attack for the turkey season.  By looking at all the waypoints one can see a pattern develop as to the activity of the birds in the area.

Use other waypoints to chart a course from a parked vehicle to and from the planned hunting area.  Your present position appears as a symbol on the screen and any stored waypoints within the program are on display.  As you move, the present position symbol tracks your movement and leaves a solid, dark line behind it that shows where you have been.

In the dark pre-dawn and in heavy fog, this hand held receiver is a great tool for not getting lost.  Sold under a variety of brand names like Lowrance and Magellan, the GPS receiver is about the size of a TV remote control.  It can be stored in a pocket or daypack when not in use.  They are available at sporting goods stores and through mail order catalogs like Cabela’s or Bass Pro Shops.

GPS is a fast, simple and easy way to pattern the birds in your hunting area.  It can get you on birds and make sure you make it safely back to your vehicle regardless of the weather.


Photo and story courtsey PRADCO fishing and Lawrence Taylor

Once Midwestern lakes freeze Ted Takasaki turns his focus to panfish, and he uses a high level of skill and experience to achieve consistent success on the ice.

Whether talking about perch, crappie or bluegills, the key to catching panfish through the ice is finding the fish.  If you locate schools of panfish and discern what you are seeing on your electronics, you can experiment with jigs or spoons and different types of bait to figure out how to make the fish bite. If you can’t find them you can’t catch them.

For Takasaki, the search process begins during late fall, just before the ice begins forming. If possible he always scouts the lakes where he intends to ice fish. Being mobile in his boat allows him to cover more water.

Ted begins by exploring major bays known to hold bluegills, perch or crappie.  If they have aquatic grass growing, he looks along break lines both with his eyes and with his graph. Ted is not necessarily looking for fish.  Although making mental notes about where the fish are most concentrated is never a bad thing. Instead, he looks at the weeds themselves because weeds typically produce the best panfish action during the first part of the ice season.

“What I’m looking for are weed edges,” says Takasaki, “and for weeds that are still green late in the year. Along those edges I look for places where the weedline shifts – maybe a little point or a pocket – and I create waypoints for those places, which I put into a handheld GPS that I bring out on the ice with me.”

Lacking the opportunity to visit a lake before the formation of the ice, Takasaki gets the Lakemaster chip for his GPS or finds the best available map and studies the contour lines. He looks for break lines within bays if early in the season because the weed growth tends to taper along depth breaks. Depending on the lake and the type of vegetation, the weed edge can be quite shallow – only a few feet – or it might be 10 feet deep. On the ice he follows those breaks drilling a lot of holes, and looks for weeds and the same green edges.

In either case Takasaki always begins by drilling a number of holes.  Usually he does a fair amount of looking with his Humminbird Ice 55 before he ever starts fishing. He wants to find holes that are just outside of the weed edge.  He is not actually fishing in the weeds but he is close enough that fish using the weeds can ambush his baits. He noted that sometimes you see fish right in the weeds, and give those fish a shot.

Once he’s located a weed edge, Takasaki drills holes along that edge and begins to focus on finding fish. Early in the day he does a lot of hole hopping, sometimes just looking with his electronics and fishing other holes briefly to see how many fish are down there.

My favorite jig for panfish is a Lindy Frostee,” Takasaki says. “It’s a jig that I can use to really pound the bottom and stir up some sediment to get the fish’s attention. I’ll usually pound it pretty aggressively and then bring it up off the bottom and shake it a little, or maybe just let it sit.”

Takasaki likes the smallest size for panfish and normally tips his hooks with one or two waxworms or spikes. If specifically targeting crappie or perch, he begins with a minnow head or entire small minnow hooked through the tail so it fights against the jig.

Takasaki’s favorite time to ice fish is early in the season. For the first few weeks of good ice, he normally finds plenty of panfish along shallow weed lines and rarely strays out of the bays. As winter progresses, he moves his search onto tapering points at the edges of the same bays, and eventually to deeper flats.

Later in the winter, he moves from the weeds to the deeper mud flats.  The mud has more aquatic insect larvae provides panfish with food later in the winter.

While the location changes with the season, the basic strategy does not. Anytime on the ice fishing for panfish, be drilling a bunch of holes, move frequently.

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