For a lot of hunters turkey season is already open and for the hunters in states where season hasn't come in, they are scouting and anticipating that opening day. As I sit here in a turkey camp in Georgia I started thinking about setups and strategies that have helped me harvest turkeys over the years, as well as the other hunters I have worked with in the field. I learned a long time ago that when it comes to turkeys there is no magic bullet or sure thing, but there are a lot of things that you can do to put the odds in your favor and can help you fill that tag. This week I would like to talk about a few of things that might help you this spring in the turkey woods.
I believe that one of the biggest things you can do to up your odds is scouting. I like knowing where the turkeys are, where they are roosting, where they are flying down to, where they are going to feed, what areas the gobblers like to strut in and what route they like to use in the afternoons. Knowing all these things allows you to put the pieces of the puzzle together and figure out the best setups. A typical scouting day for me is listening early in the morning for gobblers on the roost, then after they fly down I try to get a read on what areas they are headed to and from. If the area I am hunting is pretty open I look for a high spot where I can glass a lot of territory to try to pinpoint what the turkeys are doing. Late in the afternoon I try to use the same tactic, glassing the areas that I think the turkeys are using before they head to roost.
A little homework can make a huge difference on your hunt. Once you have the turkeys movement figured out it's time to find the best setups. Many times a topo map or applications like Google Earth can be invaluable in helping you pick out those areas, places the turkeys are flying down to or working their way through in the mornings. In the afternoons I like to setup in areas where I think the turkeys will be feeding and moving back through headed to the roost.
Another tool that can make a big difference are decoys and what, where and how you set them up can affect how the turkeys react to them. In a typical spread I like to use a jake decoy and two hens. I like to set them up with the jake following the hens with an 8-10-foot gap in between. The distance that I try to set them from my location can vary, but typically for a gun hunt I like to put them in that 20 yard range. If I get that gobbler to come in and he decides to skirt the decoys he is usually still in gun range. They are far enough from me to allow me to move that gun while his attention is on the decoys. When it comes to archery hunting I am a believer that closer is better, I usually set my decoys at 7-12 yards, allowing me to put that shot right where I want it.
Another tool that I use and believe in for archery and gun hunts is portable ground blinds and there are several reasons why. One, it allows you to set up in places with little or no cover, areas you would normally not be able to hunt, such as the middle of a wide open field. Two, for archery hunts they allow you to get away with a lot more movement, such as drawing your bow or running your box or pan calls. Three, they are perfect for taking kids hunting. Four, they allow you to hunt in weather that would normally keep you in the house and finally, a blind and a comfortable chair makes my hunts more enjoyable and helps me to be more patient.
When it comes to how I set up on turkeys, there is no magic formula that I rely on. Each turkey is different and can react differently to the location the calling is coming from, as well as the call being used. I rely on either getting as close as I can to a roosted gobbler or I set up in the area I think he is going to go. As far as the calling I try to feel the gobbler out, see which calls he likes the best, see if he likes a little or a lot of calling, whatever it takes to get him headed my way. Hopefully some of these tips will help you be more successful in the turkey woods this spring. Good luck, hunt hard and be safe!