It's Turkey Time! By Dave Coldwell
May 24, 2007 - 11:43:50 AM
Spring has sprung for most of us (even though parts of Minnesota had 8 inches of snow last night) and that means TURKEY TIME! I just love getting out in the spring and hunting those big birds and thumping a big gobbler with a Grim Reaper!
Though most of spring gobblers are taken with the trusty shotgun, hunting them with a bow can be one of the most challenging, and rewarding things you'll ever do. We all know that if turkeys could smell like a whitetail or bear, we'd probably never kill one. But, they can't smell very well, or if they can, foreign smells don't seem to alarm them enough and IF you are patient, with the proper setup, it will happen. Today, the most popular way to kill a monster gobbler with a bow is to set up a pop up blind in an area frequented by birds and set a few decoys out and wait on Mr. Tom to show up.
If you can spend some time the week before season, try to scout areas that you know hold turkeys and watch for them in pastures, feedlots, (they love flipping cow patties and eating the grain and bugs that are underneath) and open areas adjacent to woods, especially close to creeks or waterholes. If you can do all of your scouting from the seat of your pickup truck, you'll spook less birds in the long run, but sometimes you may have to hike on foot a short distance to see all the way into the back corner of a particular pasture. Watch for birds feeding and dusting and make notes where you saw the birds, how many were gobblers, hens and jakes, (yes, don't forget your binoculars or spotting scope when headed out to scout), and especially what time of the day they were there. When scouting, I've found that it's usually not necessary to be out at the crack of dawn as the birds I'm trying to pattern are off the roost and feeding or dusting in the general area that they spend the most of the day.
Once you have some birds patterned, it's best if you can try to "roost" him the night before opening day. Just before dark, about twilight, try to be 300 to 600 yards away from the probable roosting area and hoot like an owl or blow your crow call to see if you can get a response gobble from the roost. If you do, it gives you confidence on opening day that the place you chose to hunt is the best place to be next morning. On opening day, get up at least an hour before you think you need to and head to the "spot". In the darkness, set up your portable blind (tucked into the edge of the woods as much as possible) and put your decoys about 20 yards in front of your blind. One important thing to note is if you are planning to video this hunt, try to set up your blind so that the East is behind you. This way, as the sun rises in the morning, your decoys and your birds that respond to your setup will be well lit and you won't have unusable video because you are looking into the rising sun.
Usually, as the darkness gives way to the morning, I will listen a lot, and call very little. Sometimes, I will try a few tree yelps from inside the blind and see if I can get him fired up on the roost. This is a great method if there are other hunters close by. Your big gobbler isn't pressured yet, but he soon will be if you don't make it happen pretty quickly. In this case, I usually try to start off with a few tree yelps and give it some time for him to fire up his gobbling from the roost. Once the big boy is fired up on the roost, I'll give a fly down cackle and flap my hat on my leg to make it sound more realistic. By now, he should be sounding like his blood pressure is going to make him "pop" and this is just what you want.
Understand that where you set up is where he's been hanging out every day for the last week and he just thinks that everyone has beat him to the field, so he better get going. A word of caution. It's possible for everything to go properly and now he's strutting on the edge of your decoys and it's still too dark to video the hunt. Be patient if you want to capture the hunt on video. You need adequate light for your camera and you need to let your camera tell you if it's time too shoot. There are differing thoughts on blinds with the shoot through mesh. Some people just shoot through and say it has no effect on arrow flight. I have sound the same to be true in the times that I have shot through mesh windows. However, I would rather open the windows on the front of the blind and shoot through an open hole. Personal preference. Just wear a facemask and keep your bow-drawing movements at a very slow pace and you should be ok.
There are quite a few different types of pop-up blinds available and all of them will work, but I'd like to offer a few suggestions. I have been using a Ground Max blind (made by Big Game treestands) for a few years that I like a lot, and this year I get to try out their new Escape DX blind. The advantage of the new Escape DX is that it is 77 inches wide and 75 inches tall! I'm 6'2" tall and I promise that the extra height will be welcome.
These Ground Max blinds are made out of 600 denier polyurethane polyester and won't "flap" in the breeze. They're water resistant and have a dark coating on the inside so they won't show any shadows. These blinds set up in seconds and take down in about the same amount of time and the best thing is that they cost about one half to one third the cost of the "big name" pop-ups. Look them up at www.biggametreestands.com and have your local dealer order you a new Escape DX. You won't be disappointed.
Grim Reaper makes the new Razortip "Extra" and Razorcut "Extra" broadheads that have a huge 1 ¾" cut, but I always shoot the Razortip, 100 grain, 1 3/8" cut and I haven't had any birds get away. Usually, you smack that big gobbler through the center with a Grim Reaper Razortip and you get to "Watch Em Drop"! The decoys in the picture are a combination of Sceery inflatables from Ed Sceery and Renzo's Decoys from Steve Lorenz and usually, I will put the entire "flock" out each time I setup to hunt.
One final thought for you aspiring videographers: Try to setup your blind and don't call much at all until good video light. Then, when the light is good, crawl out of the blind and set your decoys up. If this gobbler has a girlfriend, once he's got her on the nest, he'll be back to join your party! When he sees all the decoys and the fun he's been missing, he'll be running at full tilt to join in the fun. And you'll have a nice surprise for him when he gets there! Good Luck to you this year.
Until next month, remember to keep your eyes on the horizon and there's no substitute for good practice.