Turkey Hunting Tips

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Turkey Hunting Tips for Taking Your Spring Gobbler
by Jim Bennett

Wild turkey hunting is just around the corner and if you are like most turkey hunters I know you have been keeping an eye open for gobblers every time you take drive your car. I find myself taking different roads when I go shopping or out on appointments that I would never take any other time of the year. It’s winter and with snow on the ground the birds are visible if you keep your eye open.

Winter in Wisconsin and most other turkey states that get snow give us a great opportunity to see where the birds are and how many we really have in different areas. I’ve been seeing winter flocks on my routes that have amazed me this winter. I recently drove a road along a pretty populated area. Major highways were less than a mile away but there they were just over the hill away from prying eyes. I’d guess more than 200 birds on one end of a picked corn field! Smaller groups were scattered on the edges. I wondered how many more might be just over the rise not visible from the narrow back road I was on?

What can you learn from these sightings. Some of those answers are obvious but there is more you can learn just by watching. You’ll see major family groups with all of the hens and last years young. And then you’ll see the gobblers. Dressed all in black with beards hanging down they too are out in the open for all to see. I saw one group recently of about 20 gobblers and I would swear that all of them had beards nearly a foot long or better!

I’ve been watching one group in particular next to a combination of public and private land. Around these parts you can almost always get permission to hunt turkey. Try for deer and you’ll more than likely get laughed right out the door! But no one cares about having enough turkey to hunt or that the ones on your property might need protection. Usually the response is you bet you can hunt them and tell your friends they can hunt them too!

The one group I’ve been watching has amazed me with their predictability. Every morning and afternoon they are out feeding in the same areas. They seem to make their rounds through a large cornfield and woodland area and then back the way they came. As afternoon comes they work their way back near the same spot on a back road, cross and disappear into the woods. They repeat this same pattern every day. I know they call this woods home and roost there now.

That is a major key. I don’t care if you are bass fishing, deer hunting or trekking Tom’s! If you can establish a pattern you are going to be successful. Right now the turkeys in this area are as predictable as the clock on the wall. I can almost time them to the minute as to when they are going to approach the woods where they roost. What a place to set up and call come spring. But will they follow the same patterns in the spring? The answer is yes and no.

We all know that things will change in the spring. When the mating season begins and the gobblers start to sound off there will be more changes in routines.

A lot of those hen turkeys will wonder off looking for new food sources while others go in search for nesting areas. Many will want to establish new areas for their family groups and find spring and summer feeding grounds. But many of the older birds who have used this area for years will not leave. Those are the ones that you will have established a pattern for.

With gobblers it’s more of a hit and miss situation although all turkeys have a home range and areas they like roost in. Sure the lesser gobblers and Jakes might be pushed out and have to find their own new territories. Natural expansion is one of the reason we have so many turkey in Wisconsin and all the states they call home. It’s a natural process. Once they find a good area they too will wander less and become much more predictable.

Finding those areas this time of year will make your spring scouting much more profitable. Sure we all know that turkey are nomadic and some will wander a long ways and maybe walk right out of an area for various reasons. But others will stay in the areas you are finding them now! The more in that wintering area the better that spot is for the rest of the year.

If wild turkeys have food, water, cover and a roosting area they will be there year round. All you have to do is head out and find those winter locations and establish patterns. If you do will be way ahead of the competition come spring. Then if spring patterns s change you’ll still be ahead of those looking for birds who haven’t’ started scouting yet with the hunting season is just weeks away. Plus you can be the first to get permission to hunt on these spots too.

So do your homework now. If you do then you’ll be the guy with the biggest smile on their face holding that giant bird on the Bragging Board!!!

Jim Bennett is an outdoor writer and former guide. He has been hunting wild turkey in Wisconsin since the birds were first reestablished in the Badger State in 1976. Bennett has won numerous writing awards and was recently awarded the “First Award” for his outdoor columns by the Wisconsin Newspaper Association for 2005.

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