No matter what state you live in what day is the first day of your spring turkey season? Or even a youth season? The opening day isn't the first day you carry your shotgun or bow into the woods. No Sir, you better have had been huntingâ for several days or even weeks before hand. In saying hunting, I mean preparing.
Prepping equipment, calls, decoys, camouflage clothing, gloves, masks, or face paint. Cleaning your shot gun that has been in the gun cabinet since your last outing regardless, of whether it was for turkeys, quail, pheasants, ducks, geese or even rabbits or squirrels, check your chokes make sure you haven't misplaced your super tight turkey choke and have to head out opening morning with your factory full choke, or the last one you screwed into you gun, unless that's what you use, but do double check what is in the barrel. Break everything out and make sure everything is accounted for and present.
Also in working condition this may require touch up paint jobs on a decoy or two or even purchasing new strikers for your slate calls because you forgot you had broken you favorite one last spring. Going through your mouth calls and discarding those that are worn, cracked, have reeds stuck together or any other problems. Account for ammunition, are you going to shoot the same load and choke as last year? Do you have enough rounds for your bag limit plus patterning your gun?
You ARE going to pattern your gun right? It doesn't matter if old Betsy has shot the same load and choke, for fifteen years. It still needs to be patterned. As we age so do our eyes and guns; things change from season to season that is not only a statement but a fact. There is nothing worse than on the first legal hunting day to have a long beard fly off the roost into your lap and, for the last fifteen years it would have been dead but for once it didn't happen, your three dollar and seventy-five cent 3 Â½ inch shell didn't touch a feather on his body much less his head. It (your gun) still needs to be patterned every year. And I repeat as we age so do our eyes and guns things change from season to season that is a fact. There is nothing worse than on the first legal hunting day to have a long beard fly off the roost into your lap and miss out on your opportunity. You owe it to yourself and the bird to spend at least some time putting hard hitting pellets into a sheet of paper to understand how your gun performs at different distances.
Without going into much detail I myself assumed last season that my little brother a very fine clay target shooter was familiar with his gun and its pattern. However on his first Rio Grande turkey hunt he managed to shoot nine times at four different birds throughout the day without putting his tag on any of them. On the 2 hour truck ride home I asked him how his gun had patterned at the various distances he had shot he slowly lowered his eyes to the floor board and said he hadn't patterned his gun. He had one 1st place in a division clay tournament the weekend before and assume he was good to goâ. But we all know an orange clay disk is nothing like a gobbling, spitting, drumming wild turkey. Not to brag but I did put my turkey in the ice chest that day.
Beyond checking your gear and practicing. You should be familiar with the areas the birds you plan to hunt are using you cannot assume the birds will be roosted on the same tree line they did last year. There are too many variables. The property I cut my teeth on turkey hunting is a good example. For years the turkeys roosted on the same corner of a gas line right away; they would fly down pick around and head to the same strutting and breeding grounds ..that was until last year. About a half a mile away five huge natural gas dyersâ had been placed on a pad. If you have never seen one of these incredible machines you should put that on your to do listâ they are used to remove the natural moisture found within the natural gas by using giant turbine driven fans. When these thing start up its almost as loud as a Boeing 747 just imagine five of them at once. It would rumble the woods and mute even the loudest yelps my aluminum slate could produce. And as Murphy's Law dictates these would fire up right about fly down every morning and of course the birds didn't like this much either. The machines had just been activated that month so any preseason scouting couldn't have helped me avoid this situation. The birds relocated roosting sites to as far away from the new noise as they could get which luckily for me was still on the 700 acre property, however they were roosting on a fence line. And flying down into a property I did not have access to. Murphy's Law once again reared its head anything bad that can happen will happen. That particular land owner loved to watch the wild life from his kitchen window and had several feeders in his back yard as well as a grape vineyard. The birds were drawn to the food source and they abandoned their traditional strutting and nesting areas for much of the season. But my luck soon changed the owner didn't like the turkeys raiding the premature grapes in his vineyard or the scat they left littering his yard. His idea was to buy a couple of dog to keep the new guestâ at bay. And slowly the birds transitioned back to their usual haunts still not roosting in the old reliable spot but in a much better place for my hunting adventures. Soon my good friend and hunting buddy Nathan Coulter downed his first bird a double bearded Jake. And I soon trumped him with a hefty triple bearded 3-4 year old tom; that is still my best bird to date.
The moral of the story is scout, be prepared for anything and just cherish your time hunting it doesn't get any better than sitting in a mossy oak swamp bottom hearing an old hoot owl callingâ, as the song goes. Then a gobble about 75 yards to your right and coming your way quick, that is what we are all looking for opening day. If you have planed and practiced that first bird in range is roasted. But having said that last statement always remember roosted ain't roasted.â