March 14, 2009
Back when NFL wide receiver Chris Carter was traded to the Minnesota Vikings, his former coach, who was apparently glad to see Chris gone, said sarcastically, ďAll he can do is catch touchdowns.Ē†
Not long after that quote entered the public domain, some outdoor product representatives and I were having a late evening discussion at a writers conference when the subject turned to the art and science of turkey hunting.†
One of them, a gentleman who had known me for years, looked across the table at me and smirked.† ďYou know,Ē he said, ďGeraldís the Chris Carter of turkey hunters.† All he knows how to do is kill turkeys.Ē
After chasing North Americaís only feathered big game animal† for 31 years, I know a lot more about turkeys than simply how to kill them.†
If you seldom fill one tag† let alone both of them ó that puts you in the majority of the stateís turkey hunters ó trying my approach to the sport might get you closer to the day when someone will point at you and say, ďAll he or she knows how to do is kill turkeys.Ē
First, donít fall into the more-is-more trap regarding shotguns.
My perfect turkey shotgun is a 12-gauge Remington 870 pump with a 2.75-inch chamber and a 26-inch barrel equipped with a standard screw-in full choke.†
Two years ago, in deference to my failing eyesight, I added a red dot sight.
There is no upside to using a shotgun with a 3-inch, let alone a 3.5-inch, chamber-equipped with an after-market super-tight turkey choke.†
Hitting a turkey in the recommended 5- to 20-yard ranges can be embarrassingly difficult when the pattern is less than a foot across.†
At the other end of the spectrum, while the extra shot in a 3.5-inch load is more apt to deliver an eventually fatal wound at 50 yards than is a lighter load, a larger load is no more apt to drop a gobbler instantly.†
Portable ground blinds are the second-most important reason that I havenít failed to fill both of my spring turkey tags in years and why my success rate as a guide is so high.†
The days ó good or bad ó when covering miles of timber to find a receptive gobbler were necessary are long gone.
Nowadays, gobblers are everywhere, but so are hens.
This fact makes staying invisible both difficult and essential.
Thereís more to using a blind than merely being inside one. The secret to remaining invisible while inside a portable blind is to keep the blindís interior as dark as possible.†
I accomplish this by opening only the one window that provides the best shot at an in-range turkey. I keep the blindís inner camo screen window closed except for room to extend a shotgun barrel a safe distance beyond the blindís flammable material.
A blind is worthless unless itís placed where a gobbler would be willing to come within shotgun range.† By far, the best way to do that is to put the blind where the gobbler you hope to kill intends to be.†
If you hunt the same area every year, you already know where your blind should be, because, absent any dramatic habitat alteration, gobblers strut their stuff in the same field edges, ridge lines and forest openings year after year.†
If youíll be hunting someplace new this spring, spend as much time on the property as possible between now and opening day. Observe where the turkeys prefer to be and plan your strategy accordingly.
Using various types of turkey calls is part of the fun of the sport and calling can help seal the deal.†
I couldnít get into a turkey-calling contest without buying a ticket, but neither could any live hen Iíve ever heard.†
Fortunately, being a competition caller isnít necessary to pull a wary gobbler right into your lap. The only essential ingredient in a hunting turkey call is rhythm.†
The best way to learn the rhythm patterns used by† turkeys is to spend time in the woods listening to them.† If thatís not possible, buy a cassette tape of real turkey calls.
The only other secret to calling turkeys during hunting season is to let the turkey be the judge of what it wants to hear on that particular day.†
Try a variety of sounds and calling devices until you find the one that elicits the most excited response and then stick with it.
Thatís about it. The truth is, spring turkey huntingís pretty simple, unless the hunter does something that makes it difficult.