For the last 10 years Ive been able to enjoy something that gets me through the period which starts at the end of hunting season and ends at the start of fishing season. Although I shed hunt a few times during this period, the real fun starts for me when spring gobbler season comes around.
If you haven't tried it yet or are considering it, please do. Turkey hunting can be fun. It provides the opportunity for plenty of exercise and an opportunity to hunt with family or friends. Where I hunt in Maryland we can only hunt the spring gobbler season. In other parts of the Maryland and the country there are fall turkey seasons that provide additional opportunities that sometime include hunting hens.
It's fairly inexpensive to get started turkey hunting. Youll need camouflage clothing, boots, shotgun, shells, and calls (locator, box or mouth calls). Don't get me wrong, you can spend a ton of money but you only need the basics to get started. A good turkey vest is a must. You need a vest with plenty of pockets. Also a drop-down pad for sitting on wet or rocky ground would be nice. Be sure to spend time practicing with the call(s) youve selected. Learn yelps, clucks, purrs and cackles made by hen turkeys. The easiest calls for a beginner to use are box calls, push-button calls and slate calls. The most difficult calls to master in my opinion are diaphragm mouth calls.
For those of you who may be just starting out, getting familiar with turkey terminology is a must. The turkeys beard is actually feathers that look like bristles on a paint brush that sprout from the chest of male turkeys and on occasion a few females. Normally the length of the beard represents the maturity of the bird. On occasion you will see a mature bird with a beard that has been broken off. I actually had an opportunity to look at a female turkey with beard that my cousin bagged a few years back. It was interesting to say the least.
A jake is a young male turkey that usually travels in a group with other jakes. Sometimes their beards are so short they extend straight out of the center of their chest. Their tail feathers are not fully developed and display an uneven fan. The first few years I hunted turkeys these jakes were the only birds I was able to bag. A tom is fully mature at 2 years old, and all the feathers on his fan are about the same length. His beard usually displays his maturity as well.
Turkeys have spurs that grow on a turkey's legs just above its ankles. These spurs are used for fighting and grow slowly throughout the turkey's life. The length of the spurs is also another indication of maturity. Any spur longer than an inch is considered good, and spurs longer than 1 Â½ inches are excellent.
A male turkey is considered to be henned up when accompanied by hens. These birds are hard to call away from the hens. When I find this to be the case I usually set up along a known travel route or use soft hen calls to attract the hens. Where the hens go, the gobblers will follow.
One of the most beautiful things to see in my opinion is a male turkey strutting. They strut to impress hens and discourage subordinate gobblers. A strutting gobbler puffs his feathers out and spreads his fan to make himself appear as big as possible. His head is liable to turn red, white, and blue all at the same time. I remember the very first morning of the first turkey hunt I went on. This tom was following a hen and put on a show I will never forget. The hen walked by me out of sight. Apparently he lost sight of her as well. Out of no where he turned from a normal sized turkey to what I perceived to be a black Volkswagen Super Beetleâ making its way through the woods. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes. Needless to say he is just a memory, I wasn't fortunate enough to get a shot at the Super beetleâ.
One of the most enjoyable parts of turkey hunting for me is putting and/or trying to put a turkey to roost or bed. When a male turkey flies up to his roost at dusk, he will often gobble on the roost, just to let nearby hens know where he's spending the night. You can use locator calls at dusk to pin point where the gobbler is roosting. This will give you the advantage of where to start the next morning. This is important because turkeys usually fly down from the roost as soon as it is light enough. You want to get as close as possible to the roosting gobbler as early as possible, no later than 30 minutes before daylight.
After it's all said and done, turkey hunting is my second favorite form of hunting. Whitetail deer hunting is my favorite. Don't miss out on one of Americas favorite past times. Do some research, talk to friends but by all means give turkey hunting a try. I think youll be pleasantly surprised.