Controlling Your Springtime Obsession
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, April 18, 2009.)
I know a lady who wanted to take her grandson hunting. She asked someone what they should hunt if she wanted to get addicted to hunting. The reply was swift and certain -- hunt spring gobblers. She did, and she was hooked her first time out.
Taking shots at marginal ranges is
the point where obsession gets out of control.
Hunting turkeys is an annual obsession that heats up all across the country, wherever any of the four subspecies of wild turkeys live. The Rio Grande, at home in the southwest, loves an open landscape. The Merriam’s finds habitat in the western plains and mountains. The sleek Osceola with its long legs and sharp spurs calls Florida’s swamps its home. And the widespread Eastern might be the most frustrating to hunt.
The obsession officially began with Alabama’s season opener in March, but it actually started well before that when turkey hunters across the nation began their scouting excursions into the turkey woods to hear the lusty gobbles of tom turkeys looking for friendly hens.
As the obsession heats up, hunters begin investigating the year’s newest call designs, and restocking their turkey vests.
What goes into a turkey vest? Not necessarily much. Some hunters are minimalists, and buy very little. They’ve learned that strategies and techniques rule the day, not the latest gadgets. On the other hand, other hunters seem to have a big budget for new gear.
But new gear catches the eyes of even the minimalists. After all, even minimalists need a new suit of camouflage once in a while -- and there is plenty to choose from.
We occasionally still see the tried and true military camo, but the “calls” that lure turkey hunters with spare dollars are the high definition patterns with photographic realism. They don’t have much visibility to gobblers, but obsessed hunters sure do notice them.
Innovative calls also hit the market every year. All of them use the “new and improved” angle in their marketing, and capitalize on the still-vivid memory of the gobbler that beat you last season. But some have more going for them than just marketing.
One new call that I look forward to trying is the “Ring Zone” call by Hunter’s Specialties. LINK: HS Ring Zone™ Calls. It’s a pot call that comes with a slate, ceramic or crystal surface, and it has a couple of features that promise a more realistic sound.
Then there are decoys. Pretty Boy, B-Mobile, King Strut… the names appeal to hunters, not turkeys, and most hunters know that decoys can hurt as much as help because they stand motionless and make the gobbler suspicious.
One new decoy I’ll be trying is called the “Jake Intimidator” by Countrymen Innovations. LINK: Jake Intimidator. It’s a strutting jake that’s compact, easy to carry, quick to set up, and offers the advantage of motion. It works in tandem with any hen deke to fool adult gobblers into thinking that a young interloper is “hooking up” with his hens.
Plenty of other gear fills the pockets of the hunter’s vest, but the gear that kills a turkey is the shotgun and its payload. Some specialized shotguns and loads can kill a gobbler at distances beyond 50 and even 60 yards.
If your shotgun can kill gobblers reliably at extended ranges, that’s fine. But the game is about calling the big bird to within shotgun range. You owe it to yourself and the gobbler to know what your shotgun’s range is. Shoot when you know you can kill the bird, not when you think you can.
Taking shots at marginal ranges -- or worse, at ranges beyond the known capability of your shotgun -- is the point where obsession gets out of control. Remember, turkey hunting isn’t only about killing a gobbler, but when you pull the trigger, make absolutely sure that’s what you do.