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How To/Pro-Tips

Turkey Scouting

Many Pros do much of my deer season scouting in the late winter and early spring at the same time they are scouting for turkey season. However, turkey season is up first and pre-season scouting and early success go hand in hand. First, find the turkeys in general. Most hens and many adult gobblers are still in flocks until just before the season. Their group scratchings in the leaves are hard to miss. However, scratchings two to three feet in diameter away from the main flock's feeding area are signs that the gobblers are starting to break up. Turkeys like to walk in the clear. Look for tracks on logging roads and sand bars. Gobbler tracks are usually about four inches long and gobbler droppings are tight and well-formed, often with a J-hook. Thus, by keeping an eye on the logging roads, you will know how much travel they get and what's doing the traveling. Early bird scouting is the best bet for an early bird.

Shed Search

Late winter deer scouting can be the most productive scouting of the year. First, vegetation is at a minimum, making any deer sign easily seen. Second, you can locate and really investigate potential hotspots without having to hold back for fear that you will spook a trophy buck out of the area just before season. Major deer trails stand out like interstate highways and even well-hidden buck trails are easier to pick up. With most foliage gone, you can get a good look at buck core/sanctuary areas, which are usually found in the most forbidding, brush-choked areas available. While there, try to get a handle on the buck's entrance and exit areas. If the sanctuary is too tough to hunt, stake out the "bedroom door" next season. With luck, you can find shed antlers. These tell you that that particular buck survived the season and will likely still be around next year.

Get Ready For Gobblers

It's none too early to break out the turkey calls and start practicing for the hunting season. While there are lots of important factors in turkey hunting besides calling, it never hurts to be as good as you can be. A hunter with confidence in his calling may be more effective than a hunter having absolutely perfect calling skills. It's preferable to practice outside. Besides not getting on the family's nerves, calling in the open lets you hear what calls sound like in the outdoors. Many, particularly the friction calls, sound different at a distance. Set up a tape recorder 20 or 30 feet away and tape your calling. The same goes for the diaphragm. Since it is inside your mouth, you don't hear it exactly the same way it sounds some distance away. For basic calling instructions, most major call makers offer tapes and videos. The Realtree turkey hunting video series also offers plenty of calling tips and techniques.

Change Your Pattern

Shotguns can be picky about loads, shot sizes and choke combinations, shooting some well and others poorly. The highly specialized and tightly choked modern turkey guns are no exception. If you have acquired a new choke tube, changed brand of shotshell or changed shot size, basically all bets are off on pattern and perhaps point of impact performance. The new combination won't necessarily improve things; it may even perform more poorly than your previous setup. You need to re-verify that your turkey gun is up to par with a trip to the pattern board. Use full-size patterning paper large enough to catch all of your load. Those small 8 1/2 x 10 inch gobbler head targets may not tell you the whole story. Modern super-full turkey chokes are capable of shooting a very small pattern out to 30 yards and farther, so it is also important to know exactly where your point of impact is. Remember to aim where the neck meets the body, not at the head. This will reduce misses and losses tremendously.

Turkey Gear Get-Together

It's the eve before opening day. Do you know where your decoys are? Hopefully most turkey hunters will have their stuff together long before the night prior to opening day. We are talking about the total turkey hunting package, not just the obvious. Sure you have your calls and gun, but what about all the other "essential" gear that can make or break your hunt? Are the batteries in your flashlight fresh? Do you know where your flashlight is? How about the batteries in your camera? Is your turkey vest packed? Besides your turkey calls, how about locator calls? How about chalk for your box and/or sandpaper for your slate? The bigger items need to be packed too. How about a rain parka or suit? Then there are those decoys and the blind. Turkey hunting often means a lot of walking. Are your hunting boots well broken in and freshly waterproofed? There's a lot more to gobbler hunting that just calls and guns, make sure you have it with you.

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