By Indrek Kongats
It’s turkey time once again as the regular season is about to start on Monday, May 1 and run until the end of the month Wednesday, May 31. The youth turkey season will kick off this weekend Saturday, April 22 – Sunday April 23.
The spring youth season allows you to get out in the field early if you are between the ages of 12 and 15. This is an excellent opportunity to learn the proper techniques to hunt turkey while accompanied by an experienced adult hunter.
The adult hunter must be at least 21 years of age to assist a hunter 12-13 years old and at least 18 for hunters 14-15 years of age. The adult hunter must have a current hunting license and turkey permit, but cannot carry a weapon or attempt to take a turkey. The adult can help call in a turkey. The bag limit is one bearded turkey for this special spring youth hunt, but if successful, it will count toward the regular season limit of two bearded birds.
Spring turkey season is an exciting time, especially after a cold and long drawn out winter. Important tips to keep in mind are not to stalk turkeys during this season. Try to find an area where turkeys frequent, whether it’s a field or some roosting trees, usually on the side of a slope with heavy cover nearby. Place yourself down at the base of a large tree with a good 180 degree unobstructed view in front.
A good safety trick to alert other hunters to your location is to tie some orange marker ribbon on the tree above you. Camo clothing is a big help in disguising your presence, but make sure to cover your face and hands. Movement is the number one tell tale that any animal will key in on, so be as still as possible.
One of the greatest debates concerning turkey hunting is what gun and what shot to use. I have experimented with various firearms, but nothing seems to beat my long time favorite the model, 870 Remington Wing Master pump action 12 gauge.
This versatile shotgun has interchangeable barrels that allow you to use the same gun for goose, ducks, grouse, deer and, of course, turkeys. Most turkey hunters like a full choke to throw the maximum pellets into a tight pattern at 30 – 40 yards. Sometimes a turkey or extra full choke is preferred depending on the length of the barrel, shell length and shot size.
My favorite ammo has been the brand Hevi-Shot in a 3-inch shell with number 4 shot size. This very dense shot has incredible stopping power even if your aim is slightly off on a moving bird and only a few pellets find their mark.
While attending the Houghton College Outdoor Expo last fall, I had the opportunity to talk with a hunter that made his own turkey calls. I asked him what is the biggest mistake a hunter can make when using a call. His answer was a surprising one. He told me that a turkey can hear the slightest whisper, so if you are calling too loud the turkey knows something is a foul. He proceeded to demonstrate by calling so quietly that I was blown away.
Many years ago when I was first introduced to turkey hunting by my wife’s grandfather, a superb hunter who successfully hunted into his 90s, used only a box call. He had so many turkeys to his credit that I never questioned the ability of the box call to call in any turkey at anytime and to this day is the only call that I carry with me and use. He had his favorite though and not all calls make the same sound. Most store bought box calls vary enough that you have to have a trained ear to pick out one that will actually call in a bird for you.
I was so fascinated with his box call that I carefully took down the dimensions and began to make my own. Fortunately before he passed away, I was able to have him listen to some of the calls that I had made to tell me which were just OK and which was the one I should use. There is nothing more satisfying than to call in a gobbler with a call that you had made yourself—it’s like icing on the cake or in this case, a turkey in the oven!