Turkey Hunting in Spring

Turkey Hunting in Spring

The alarm rang at 4:30am. I got up, let the dog out and checked the weather. It was a light rain and snow mix.   Yuck. Not what I wanted to be hunting in the first day of the spring turkey season. I ate a quick breakfast, grabbed a mug of coffee, and loaded my gear into the truck. It was a short five minute drive to the farm I had permission to hunt, and I pulled in at about 5am.

A few days earlier I had scouted the property and found an area of pines that turkeys were roosting in each evening. I trimmed some branches and made a small ground blind to hunt in near a location where I thought I had the best chance of intercepting them as they left their roost in the morning. I also created a clear small path to the blind so I could sneak in as quietly as possible each morning. I didn’t want to disturb the birds roosted in the trees and warn them of my presence.

I made my way from the truck to the path and quietly entered the area. The light rain had now changed to almost all wet snow and it was easy to follow my cleared path in the predawn darkness.   I placed my hen decoy about 15 yards away in the small opening and nestled into my blind, with my back against a tree.

My favorite part of spring turkey hunting is hearing the forest wake up around me. As I sat there the sky slowly started to lighten. I heard a male woodcock in the field near the pines beginning his morning mating call and flight. The funny little bird would make all sorts of beeps and noises. Then he would fly up into the air in circles and land at approximately the same spot in hopes of attracting a female suiter. The robins started with their dawn songs soon after. Chickadees and nuthatches followed. One by one, each species of bird began its morning calling.

The gobble of a tom turkey then range out. It overpowered all of the other birds and caused me to jump. He was answered by another just across the field. A third gobbled back in the woodlot farther away. Every few minutes they would gobble, trying to outdo the other in volume. It was time to switch to turkey hunting mode.

After several minutes of the toms gobbling, the hens began to wake up and answer with their clucks, purrs and yelps. Some of them started to fly down from their roosts and flock up on the ground around me. They softly called to each other and began to scratch around as they slowly made their way toward the field edge.   I sat motionless as they moved by so they wouldn’t notice me.  

The gobbling toms were moving closer to meet up with the hens. Their gobbles were getting louder and louder. Finally, I saw one coming through the pines toward me. As it strutted, it would fan out its tail and fluff its feather hoping to entice the hens and intimidating to the other males in the area. I used my call to make a few short clucks to get its attention. I was hoping my hen decoy would draw it close enough to get a shot but it didn’t work. Before it was in shooting range, it turned and walked parallel to me. The tom was more interested in the flock of real hens that was now heading out of the pines to the field. Disappointed, I watched the birds move out of sight.

About thirty minutes later a yearling male, called a jake, came in to check out my decoy. He slowly walked by me at about 20 yards eyeing what he thought was a lonely hen. As he drew closer he realized something wasn’t quite right and turned and headed the same direction as the others went. I could have harvested that bird but it was only the first two hours of my six day season so I let him go. I hunted three more hours that morning and the following morning, without any toms coming into range.

On the third day of my season I decided to set up on the field edge and place my decoys in the open field. I was going to try to intercept the flock as they moved down toward their feeding area. The plan worked. Just as had happened the previous two mornings, the hens left their roost, walked by my old blind and out to the field and the toms soon followed.  

The first group of birds to move through my decoys included four hens, a jake and a tom. The young jake, trying to get too close to the hens, was constantly being harassed and chased off by the bigger tom. Unfortunately, this kept the tom from coming into range. As the hens moved along scratching and eating, the tom and jake soon followed. Again a disappointment, but it was only 6:15am and there was plenty of time left to hunt.

Over the next hour I used my call every 15 minutes.   I did my best to imitate the calls of the hens. I could hear gobbling to my north so I knew there were toms in the area yet. Eventually one of them took the bait. At about 7:30am, a mature tom came strutting down the field all by himself. He was fixated on my two hen decoys and was in full display almost the entire way down the field edge. My heart was pounding and I was thinking this bird might give me a chance. Without any other live birds to distract him he strutted right into my decoys hoping to have the hens all to himself. He presented a prefect shot at about 25 yards. I sat a few minutes and let the adrenaline wear off.  After admiring the bird, I registered my harvest using my smartphone, took a couple pictures and headed home with the thoughts of roasted wild turkey and fresh soup running though my head.