Hunters eagerly await turkey season
Many hunters have spent the past few weeks scouting for turkeys and planning their strategy for opening week. If you haven’t, you should make time this weekend or in the days to follow to try and locate birds as well as pattern them for your early season hunting.
Remember that birds are usually not where you saw them in February or March. Despite the snow earlier this week, at this time of year the hens will be concerned with the nesting areas which are usually pastures of woods with lots of undergrowth for cover. The turkeys will be frequently roosted in tall trees along a hillside where they can easily fly down to open areas directly from the roost. Somewhere in the vicinity there is probably an open area used as a strutting ground for the tom to impress the hens.
Since a turkey’s primary defense in its great eyesight, the gobblers like to strut in open areas. This may include a secluded field, an old pasture surrounded by brush or even a clearcut or woods roads in forested areas. If you are in the woods and fields, keep an eye out for these areas and signs like tracks, droppings or feathers. Be sure to wear camo and move slowly, using cover whenever possible. Use your binoculars to scout from a distance and avoid spooking birds. Avoid temptation and leave your calls at home.
Let’s assume you have located a gobbler’s roosting area and have identified likely strutting zones and morning feeding patterns. Give some serious thought where you want to set up near the roost or along the morning travel route. Too many of us head out to the woods and make a call or two, and when the gobbler answers we try to find a place to set up.
Locate likely spots where the birds will come within range with some subtle calling. Do you have an area where you can have good vision of birds coming in to your decoys or set up? You do not want too much brush or obstacles in your way. Have a large tree to rest your back against for both comfort and safety.
Are there obstacles that will cause a gobbler to hang up or not come in close to your calling area? In addition to obvious things like swamps, there are things like stonewalls, fences or small creeks that many a gobbler will refuse to cross when you are calling. Sure, they could cross them easily but remember that you are dealing with a bird that has a brain smaller than a walnut.
Take some time and pattern your gun. If you have not done so before, try different loads to see which pattern works best in your gun. Use a turkey head target to see if the gun is centering the pattern at the point of aim. Not all guns and loads will do this. Most hunters prefer size 5 or 6 shot, which should put about a dozen pellets in the area of neck and head.
Check your patterns to see which give you a tight pattern of pellets in the vital neck and head area, and also check to see the effective range of this tight pattern. The most popular gun is a 12 gauge, three inch chamber, and full turkey choke. The effective limit of this gun is about 40 yards, although many hunters limit themselves to 25 yards. Sure, the gun will reach out beyond the 40 yards, but there are too many holes in the pattern at those distances to be effective.
Check out all your camo clothing and have it ready for whatever the weather may be on May 1. Some people make a big deal out of having matching pants and shirt or jacket, as well as matching the habitat. But other veteran hunters say that as long as your camo breaks up your outline and roughly matches the type of cover in the area it will work just fine.
Take time to test and chalk your box calls or sandpaper your slate and pencil calls. Practice your diaphragm calls and make sure to rinse them with Listerine and store them in the refrigerator until time to use them. Practice your calls so you can make the sounds you desire easily when the time comes.
You need to be able to make a variety of sounds and have the volume or cadence that the situation calls for. Don’t worry too much about matching the exact sound on practice video. Many real hens make some awful sounds. Line up all your accessories like camo gloves, seats, etc. and get your turkey vest or jacket organized and ready to go. Be sure to get out the insect repellent since bugs will likely be out and searching for prey by opening week or shortly after. Next week we will pass along tips from various hunters, often learned from their mistakes!
Future Anglers Outreach: Once again this year the Future Anglers Outreach will hold its fishing clinic for youngsters and parents or guardians. This year the event will be Saturday, April 26 from 8 a.m. to noon at Marion Manor Marina. This year, due to construction, the group will be limited in size. There are a limited number of spaces still available. If you are interested, call Leo Maloney at 363-3896 by Friday, April 18.
This is not a derby or contest. It is a clinic designed to give youngsters and parents a basic introduction to fishing skills and information to help them be successful. It is designed for those families who have little experience or knowledge of fishing. Youngsters who are chosen will receive a free rod and reel to keep.
Youngsters must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. They should bring any snacks or drinks and be prepared for the weather that morning. Anyone interested in helping as a volunteer instructor should e-mail TDobs2@gmail as soon as possible.
Crossbow Regulations Coming: The DEC will be preparing guidelines to implement the new crossbow seasons. These should be ready and made public sometime in May. There will not be any meetings or forums but comments can be sent by e-mail or letter.
The DEC will utilize all aspects of the legislation passed in the budget round. They are bound by law so they cannot increase the season length, lower the age limit, modify restrictions of draw weight and size or open the entire season for seniors and those with disabilities.
Hunters will not need an archery license to hunt big game with a crossbow during the early archery season but will need a muzzleloader to hunt with a crossbow at that time. Yes, this does sound dumb, but that is what was negotiated during the budget. And keep in mind that even the common sense proposals favored by the majority of sportsmen were almost defeated by legislators who were listening to NYBow, Inc and animal rights fanatics.
Hunters will be allowed to use a crossbow to hunt small game during those seasons, but not this spring (2014) turkey season since the regulations will not be in place yet.
Hall of Fame Banquet – Last Call: The NYS Outdoorsmen hall of Fame Banquet will be held Saturday, April 26 at the Rusty Rail in Canastota. Social hour will begin at 5 p.m. with dinner served at 6 p.m. Call 363-3896 or 829-3588 by Friday, April 18 for reservations. Meet with sportsmen and organizations from all around the state and help honor local sportsmen Paul Miller, George Franke, Tom Lenweaver, Fran Verdoliva and Rick McDermott among others being inducted into the Hall of Fame that evening.
O.L.A. Meeting: The annual Oneida Lake Associaton Meeting will be held at Cicero-North Syracuse High School on Wednesday, April 30. There will be exhibits, a brief business meeting, reports on topics of interest to people involved with Oneida Lake, and door prizes. See the website www.oneidalakeassociation.org for more information.