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Saturday, May 15, 2010

What does it take to tag a late season gobbler?

by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, May 15, 2010.)

All that gear won’t do it for you.
When it comes to turkeys and hunters, the turkey usually wins. No, he doesn’t shoot the hunter, but neither does he get shot.

Even though the modern hunter has plenty of advantages, turkey hunting is a low percentage game. We have specialized shotguns today with custom choke tubes and ammunition that will push the ethical limits of a shot to 50, even 60 yards.

We have turkey calls in a variety of styles that make incredibly realistic turkey sounds. We have foolproof camouflage which hides us in plain sight, and decoys to fool the wariest gobbler.

We have access to the best information, with programs on television, videos lessons from expert hunters, scientific research on turkey habits and habitat, magazines dedicated to the sport, and seminars that reveal the secrets of the best hunters.

We have maps, aerial photos, and GPS receivers that help us get to that honey-hole deep in the woods. We have raingear that keeps us dry in a downpour. We have seats that keep us comfortable while the gobbler takes his sweet time approaching our set-up, or not. Usually, despite all the advantages the turkey hunter has, it’s “or not.”

We also have the most specialized hunting gear ever, right down to the knives we carry. Who would have thought this simplest of technologies had so much room for improvement?

Even turkey hunters can get their own multi-tool, which helps minimize the gear we carry. It combines all the essential tools the turkey hunter needs, knife blade, saw blade, ruler, shotgun choke wrench, retractable ruler for measuring the gobbler’s beard and spurs, a pin punch, all in one compact unit wrapped in a sheath that transforms into a safety orange turkey tote with a carrying hook. Avid design (www.AvidDesignCo.com) makes it possible.

Now all we have to do is get that gobbler. The hunter’s big advantage is that the springtime gobbler or “Tom” turkey often announces exactly where he is before morning breaks. That enables the hunter, assuming he has a pretty good idea how far away the turkey is, to approach the turkey under cover of darkness and set up to call the turkey after he flies down from his roost tree at daybreak. Close the distance to 100 yards, or 75 yards, or even closer, and you increase the odds of the turkey coming to your sweet calls.

That’s the classic turkey hunt, but it seldom works out that way. In fact, by the middle of the season the odds have swung dramatically toward the turkey (though they never really were in the hunter’s favor.) If you still have tag today, you’re likely to have it when the season ends.

This year’s unusually warm days in March and April seem to have set the clock way ahead. Normally, our dogwood blossoms show up around May 10, but I saw many in bloom as early as April 24. Spring sprung almost overnight, turning winter’s white to spring’s green.

We’re already in late-season mode. The hens have been bred, many are on the nest, a few have already hatched their poults, and gobblers are transitioning to their summer mood.

Gobblers might spend hours with hens without ever breaking into strut. They just follow the girls around. But they still might respond to calling, so it’s still possible to get one. It will take a lot of persistence and a little serendipity, too.

So, don’t let the rain, the temperatures, the hunting pressure, or the late season challenges stop you. There are plenty of gobblers out there that you can still give a ride in your pickup truck, and transform into mouthwatering table fare. And all that gear you bought won’t help you if you don’t get out there and do it.


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