By Bob and Ginny Riege
The spring time in many parts of the country are transition periods when it might be too early to get the boat out yet or the fishing opener is a month away, there is lawn work to do and the dreaded "honey do's " associated with spring cleaning. To others it is a flurry of activities associated with turkey season. There are spots and zones to consider, there are the new calls and camouflage on the market and the latest decoy for those strutting toms. Springtime is turkey-hunting time. Just like the sap that rises in the trees so to the call of mating and the biological urge for nesting is in the turkey woods. This is also the time that the turkey hunter starts to hone his skills in calling and camouflage. The time to test pattern the turkey gun and to do some pre-season scouting.
In the spring the hunter should do some scouting ahead of the season to see where turkeys have moved over the winter and where they will be for courtship and nesting. A hunter doesn't want to over scout an area. The turkey can get well educated about the habits of a hunter if they are over scouted. The other reason to practice in a variety of locations is to develop the ease of handling the calls and learn under specific conditions what the calls will sound like. If you are sitting at the base of an oak tree on that cool April morning, does the gobble you make sound like you are in your basement or does it resemble the sounds from the shower? Turkeys are smart and when they feel that something isn't right they don't investigate, they simply leave the area as soon as possible. The next question is, what do you sound like? Maybe to you, you sound like the best audio turkey tape around, but to others you might sound more like fingernails on a chalkboard.
Again, it is essential for the hunter to set up in a concealed area and use camouflage, we prefer to use Mossy Oak, Obsession or Break- Up Infinity camouflage. The hunter then should use Hunter’s Specialty box call or Rasp pack mouth calls. The first call the hunter should master is the plain yelp of the hen. The gobbler should call back by gobbling. If the hunter hears a whirling sound coupled with the putt sound, get ready the tom is very close. If the gobbler stops, and doesn't want to come any closer be patient and keep calling. Remember the gobbler has just one thing on his mind at that time of the year, that is to be next to hens.
Practice, Practice, Practice and when you are tired of practice, practice some more. These are the words of Ron Gehrke who owns and operates the Spurs of Wisconsin guide service out of LaCrosse, Wis. I have hunted with Ron on two occasions and each time he has put me on some of the best land and provided me with two trophy turkeys. He urges all turkey hunters to practice all the time not only with a variety of calls, but also a variety of locations.
Therefore, practice with a tape recorder. Listen to audio and videotapes with the sounds that turkeys make be able to distinguish between a purr, putt, gobble or a kee-kee sound. Then record your own practice session. Try to prefect or duplicate the sounds from the professionals. One thing that I like to do is to use a video camera. The reason I like a video camera it allows me to listen and visualize the sounds. I can see where I am placing my hands to make various sounds and I can work on this as well. The camera also allows me to see how much movement that I am making to master a call. If there is one part of turkey hunting that is essential it is lack of movement. If you raise your hand in the slightest manner to make a call you will probably spook the turkey into the next county, so the camera gives me an uninterrupted view of my calling. The camera also enables me see how well I am concealed from view with my Mossy Oak camouflage. The spring gobbler announces his position vociferously just before fly down and a hunter should approach the position of a turkey quickly and quietly.
The selection of a good turkey gun is essential for downing the spring turkey. Many of the "gobbler stoppers" come from a variety of manufacturers and are of different types. There are single shots, side-by sides, over/unders, semiautomatics, and pump varieties. The gauge of many of these ranges from 20 gauge to 10 gauge. The gauge by choice of many a hunter is the 12 gauge. The other consideration is the choke. If you are serious about bagging a spring gobbler you will have to have at least a modified of full choke. Many new guns come with an extra full choke for even high pattern density at 40 or 50 yards. Test pattern your gun and ammo. Believe me they are not all created equal; don't rely on the markings on the gun or the ammo. Tungsten based loads like Hevi-Shot and Remington HD are great. These loads can and do produce more accuracy than lead shot and they have more knock down power. Combine this with a Remington Model 11-87 Sportsman ShurShot® Super Magnum Turkey gun and you have an excellent “gobbler stopper”. This gun has a new ShurShot pistol grip and a 23" barrel fully adjustable TruGlo® rifle sights and accepts Rem™ Chokes (Wingmaster HD Turkey Choke included).
After coming up with a gun, choke, sights and loads take the time to test pattern your shotgun with a good turkey head and neck target. Birchwood Casey makes a splat type target that is outstanding. At 40 yards you want a nice coverage in the neck and head area of the bird. This might be as many as 30, 40, or 50 hits in center of the turkey target. If you are getting results like this you can rest assured that when that gobbler is in range you will have an ethical kill.
It has been a very long winter and I can only hope that soon spring will come and I can start looking for those springtime toms. Ginny is telling me that spring can't come soon enough for her, because my turkey calling is adding to her cabin fever.