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The Roving Sportsman… The Top Mistakes of Spring Gobbler Hunting

Unfortunately, every spring, many turkey hunters end the season without success, while a smaller percentage of hunters seem to always come home with a gobbler. It is not as if the unsuccessful hunters are not trying their darndest, but it seems to boil down to a few common mistakes that plague them every season. So, what are the pitfalls that keep them from filling their spring gobbler tags?

Lack of Preparation:

This seems to be a common thread among the unsuccessful spring turkey hunters — the inability to recognize the importance of pre-season planning and preparation. Every fall, hunters arrive in elk camp out west or travel to Alaska in search of Dall sheep, and every hunter doing so realizes the importance of taking a few shots at a target range before heading into the field in search of the animals they are hunting. There is too great a chance that their rifle or scope will not perform as it did the year before (for a whole range of reasons), and a couple of shots on paper will confirm that nothing has occurred to change that. Believe it or not, the very same is true of any shotgun you plan to use in your pursuit of a spring gobbler. Don’t be lulled into thinking that your shotgun of choice is a “scattergun,” and you don’t need to be all that accurate with a shotgun! One or two shots at a target placed 30-40 yards away will confirm that all is OK. Do your research on today’s latest and greatest ammunition for turkey hunting.

Yes, the old lead shot shells will still perform at the appropriate ranges, but today’s shells that use tungsten shot are much more effective at all the ranges that ethical shots can be taken.

Finally, if you are fortunate enough to be able to hunt on private property, take time now, before the opening day, to pay a quick visit to the landowner to reaffirm your appreciation for their permission to hunt. It might be a good idea to show up with a fresh homemade pie!

Fortunately, there is still time to work through all the last-minute preparations before opening day, which is upon us.
Calling Techniques:

Most turkey hunters spend untold hours watching videos and television shows about turkey hunting to pick up a trick or two to up their success in the field. While there is good information to learn by watching these shows, often it can be misleading – especially when it comes to calling techniques. A TV show runs 30 minutes, but commercials usually take up at least 10 of those minutes, leaving the actual hours-long hunt compressed into about 20 minutes. Really?

While watching the show, it seems like there is continual calling until the shot is finally taken and the bird is on the ground. But, in actuality, the majority of time on a real hunt is not spent in calling but listening, moving a setup, or just being patient until a gobbler responds or just shows up silently. Do not be lulled into thinking that constantly working one or more of your calls is the most effective way to call turkeys.

Instead, make a series of 5 or 6 yelps, 3 or 4 purrs, or a couple of gobbles, and then wait for a response. Space the calling out so that you make a series of calls, then wait at least 10 or 15 minutes until you call again. Be alert as you wait since wise old gobblers sometimes have a habit of sneaking into a call without calling back to your call. Do this over a period of an hour or so, and if you decide to move, wait at least 20 minutes to move on in case one of those silent gobblers is coming to your call. After making two or three series of calls, you might try just raking across the dry leaves to imitate a turkey scratching in search of their next meal – you might be pleasantly surprised how effective it may be!

The good news is that with a little over two weeks until the season opener, Saturday, May 4, to be exact, there is still plenty of time to attend to needed preparation and to practice your calling techniques.