Mating season for turkeys starts sometime between February and April, which also happens to be the best time to hunt them. Turkeys are second only to deer as the most popular big game species pursued by American hunters, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Spring gobbler hunting has become so popular that outdoor sports retailer Cabela’s now offers the Turkey Roost, an online collection of turkey hunting tips, tactics and videos, while the World Turkey Hunting Championship in La Cygne, Kansas, continues to grow in popularity.
Many outdoorsmen use the spring months for fishing, golfing (in warmer climates) and other pastimes. But here are three reasons turkey hunting should be added to your spring diversion list.
All deer hunters strive to be the Chris Kyle of the wild — taking down giant bucks with perfectly-placed kill shots, just like the American sniper did to terrorists. Spring turkey hunting not only provides a new experience for some, but one that can make you a better deer hunter in the process.
Turkeys have a very small kill zone. The perfect (and most humane) shot, of course, is to the head and neck area. It’s already a small target to begin with and is made even more difficult due to the excitement that comes with luring toms close enough to get a shot off. First-timers are typically overcome with an adrenaline rush that will cause the shot to go awry.
Bowhunters should aim for the spine if the bird is standing erect with its back toward you. Ideally you don’t want to take the shot when the tom is facing you. But if it’s the best chance presented, aim slightly below where the beard attaches to the body. Aim for the anal cavity when gobblers are strutting away from you.
Art of Calling
The kill shot is the highlight of turkey hunting for most. But the odds of putting yourself in position for it drop significantly if you don’t perfect calls.
Turkey calls mimic hen sounds, causing jakes and toms to believe a female wants to mate with them. Yelping, for instance, is the most basic vocalization hens use for communication. Wing bone calls are best for reproducing this sound. Most beginning turkey hunters use push-button box calls for yelps, purrs and clucks.
There’s also the trial-and-error element of setting up decoys properly. The story a Maine hunter told the Portland Press Herald epitomizes these challenges. He placed his electric call several yards away from the decoys, and the jakes migrated more toward the call location than the fake birds. He said he’ll place the call box somewhere within the decoy flock on future hunts.
Mount the Fan
Your trophy deer and bear heads are great conversation starters for visitors to your home. Adding a turkey fan expands your showcase and preserves a piece of your personal hunting history.
The taxidermy process always starts in the field. While making every effort to keep the feathers blood-free, cut the fan off at the point where all the feathers connect. There is a small, triangular-shaped piece of flesh that holds them all together. Wash off any blood and mud that remains with dish washing soap and water. Of course, you can take the fan to a taxidermist and have it professionally mounted. But you can save a few bucks by using a mounting kit available at many outdoor retailers.
Lastly, spring turkey hunting provides the opportunity for a Thanksgiving-like meal in April. Once you’ve eaten fresh turkey, you’ll never want to buy a frozen one again.