Where have all the turkeys been? No doubt, hanging out on a limb, roosting above the snow and ice and patiently awaiting this warmer weather that will allow them to scratch and peck for some much-needed food. There were pretty slim pickings over these tougher than usual winter months, but now the turkeys are showing up and covering a lot of ground as they fill their crops with grasses, seeds and any other morsels they can scratch up. Groups of gobblers and flocks of hens and gobblers have been spotted throughout the county and are a welcome sight to avid spring gobbler hunters. That means that the hunting season is right around the corner – with the Youth Hunt being April 24 and the statewide season running from May 1-31 this year.
It is time to put the snow shovel and ice pick away and start prepping for the upcoming spring gobbler season! The more time you spend now in scouting for and observing turkeys, the greater your chance of success when you enter the woods to hunt. Make mental or written notes of where you are spotting the birds, the time of day, weather conditions and establish their travel patterns and what their food sources are throughout the day. If your time is limited now, focus your scouting time from daybreak until noon, since the Youth Hunt and first half of the regular season allows hunting from one-half hour before sunrise until noon. Once the season begins, you will have time to do some afternoon scouting in preparation for May 17 to 31, when all-day hunting is permitted from one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset.
It is well worth the time now to determine if your turkey shotgun is still shooting where you are expecting it to. It only takes a couple of shots on a patterning board placed out at 35-40 yards to verify that your gun is still shooting properly and hitting where you are aiming. If you haven’t done so before, try a few different loads to see where they are hitting on the pattern board and what the actual pattern looks like. You may very well discover that you have better results with some of the newer shells that shoot tungsten shot instead of the older lead shot. Most turkey hunters are finding that the old number 4 and 5 lead shot is just not as desirable as the new tungsten shot that comes in much smaller number 7, 8 and 9 sizes. The tungsten is much denser than lead, thus allowing greater penetration, with the smaller shot size allowing greater numbers of pellets in the pattern. Yes, tungsten shells are pricier than the older lead shells, but you are not dove hunting where you may shoot several boxes on a day’s hunt, but instead will, no doubt, only shoot one or two shells throughout the spring season.
Are you a member of the NWTF (National Wild Turkey Federation)? If not, you certainly should be. In fact, you really do have an obligation to join and support the conservation organization that is responsible for the reestablishment of the wild turkey population all across the United States. Today, the once dwindling numbers of these magnificent birds exist in such numbers that allow them to be hunted in all 48 continental states and Hawaii. Being a member of NWTF not only allows you to support the ongoing efforts of wild turkey management but enables you to meet and learn from other turkey hunters in your area, throughout the state and across all or the United States. Lasting friendships and an untold number of hunting memories await you through such membership and participation.
Yes, the birds are back. In fact, just yesterday I received word from a fellow turkey hunter that he had just observed a gobbler breeding a hen in a farm field at — oops! Sorry, I am not allowed to reveal the exact location!