Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Hunting Turkeys before the "rut"

My boys and I felt like we were hunting deer before the rut. All the conditions that make spring turkey hunting easier had not started yet. Cold weather, rain, snow, and wind made conditions really tough. The birds stayed in highly sheltered wooded areas where they were harder to find, and they would not come to our calling. In addition, many of the birds seemed to still be in big winter flocks or family groups. We had one tom split off of to our calling, but he stopped fifty yards from Chad and Andy's strutting decoy to do his own strutting for twenty minutes without committing. He then just walked off.

We did find birds very vocal and located them that way. The hens were yakking away and the toms would sound off once in a while. We get our share of birds but I would not necessarily say we are expert turkey hunters. I just don't know how to call in turkeys when conditions are like this. We experimented with different calling sequences to at least try and learn something, but couldn't find the right noise to entice the toms to us. When conditions are easier, we usually get plenty of toms to split off from a flock, or call a more lonely bird near to check us out.

The tactics we did find effective were just basic "hunting" techniques. We would locate a big flock of birds (mostly by listening or using our binos) and move with them, unseen from a distance. When we finally got to the right terrain features, we would really book it to get around and in front of them, then set up in some kind of a funnel or dead end. We would do some calling and though it didn't get any toms running in, it seemed to give the hens and toms some confidence and they would continue our way . This hit and miss tactic did work to get us some shots. Dan must have missed a tom’s neck by width of the skin on a turkey’s teeth (with his Magnus Bullhead) and Tommy had the lowzies. I ended up taking one out of a flock of jakes that unexpectedly ran in from the other direction.

The one thing that I do know is that it was still worth being out there. I got a couple of precious few days out of the shop to hunt with my sons and got to visit by nephew Chad, his wife Katie and play with their two beautiful sons Cole and Brody. I got to spend some time with Andy (big bird) and trade a little teasing with all of them. And by adapting to the conditions given, we still gave ourselves a chance to harvest a bird and learned a little in the meantime. The cold conditions put a small damper on the normal level of enjoyment, and a big damper on the bird behavior, but I have a turkey dinner to show for our efforts.
I killed this turkey with a Hawk recurve made by Mike Beckwith and a Muzzy Phantom 4 blade broadhead. I hit him quarted away right above the thigh and exited through his far breast. My broadhead severed this turkey's heart and resulted in an immediate death. The turkey did not even run two steps.
You can see my thoughts on turkey shot placement in my next blog post.

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