Lee Clancy: Try something new this turkey season
My mind is abuzz with all things turkey. If Minnesota's spring turkey season didn't start next week, I'm quite sure my wife would have booked me a hotel room where I could continue my practice calling and she could live in peace. I suppose the clucking, purring and yelping from the basement could get a little annoying after a while.
Since my mind is so active during my preseason preparation, I forced myself to choose just a few aspects of my hunting season that I would like to change or develop. I call these focus points my "new-season resolutions."
My resolution could be something as simple as taking a gobbler with my first shotgun. Or, I could resolve to accomplish something more complicated, like shooting a bird in Nebraska, South Dakota and Minnesota. You get the idea.
This season, I'm resolving to develop my ability to hunt turkeys on the move. So often in the past, I have scouted properties well enough to have a decent idea of where the birds would be and when they would be there. I would then place a blind near those locations and wait, calling softly at times, until the birds made their scheduled appearance to my location.
Of course, it didn't always work out that way, and having the ability and confidence to put the sneak on a few birds could really alter the outcome of a hunt.
Often in the morning, gobblers will fly down from their roost and start courting a nearby flock of hens. A tom may have walked straight to your location if not for those hens. However, the hens often take the gobbler straight away down the opposite side of the valley.
Instead of sitting in my blind and waiting for that gobbler to return, or attempting to call in a jake that has been left out of the action, this year I'm going to be mobile and do the ol' end-around.
Here in Minnesota, the parcels of land we typically hunt are quite small, especially when compared to the large tracts of public land we can hunt in South Dakota or Nebraska. But even small properties sometimes have enough room and cover for a careful hunter to sneak around and cut birds off at the pass.
As the hens slowly meander through a picked field, eating and scratching at the dirt, with the gobber displaying his fan and showing off for anyone that will pay attention, this year I'll be slipping along the treeline quietly pacing ahead.
Once I have successfully gotten in front of the birds, I will set up my ambush spot near some sort of natural pinch-point. Turkeys are often very reluctant to cross over, under, above, or through any type of impediment that lies between them and where they want to go. On more than one occasion, I've had a nice gobbler hang-up because he didn't want to cross a small drainage ditch with a tiny trickle of water flowing through it.
Though the bird's reluctance to cross even the most simple of obstacles is annoying, this characteristic can also make turkeys fairly predictable in their travel routes.
On the property I'll be hunting this season, there are three small fields separated by overgrown fence lines. The field drives connecting each field are just wide enough for a tractor and disc harrow to squeeze through. This span also happens to be just about the perfect shot distance for a gobbler to fall to my honed broadhead.
When I'm in position near a pinch point, I'll quietly set-up my collapsible blind just inside some brushy cover and wait. If the hens are vocal as they make their way across the field, I like to mimic the matriarchal hen and get her really fired up. Otherwise, if the birds are quiet, I typically wait in silence and hope the birds don't get distracted along the way and continue their trek in my direction.
In order to be an efficient, mobile turkey-slayer, there are two requisite pieces of equipment you need to pack. The first is a small, collapsible hunting blind that stows nicely on your pack. These fabric blinds typically cost less than $30 and come in multiple camouflage patterns. The blinds help conceal most of your hand movements when calling or readjusting for comfort.
The second piece of equipment is a small chair or stool that packs easily. I've found that sitting on the ground is too noisy. No matter how well you clear a spot in the dirt, it seems there's always a twig or two that want to snap as soon as you draw your bow or shoulder your shotgun. A small, elevated chair keeps you comfortable and quiet. If you're a bowhunter, a chair also aides in a more comfortable and natural shooting position.
If you're already used to hunting turkey on the move, force yourself to try something new and hone a new skill. If you're like me and have been more accustomed to hunting turkeys in a stationary manner, leave the pop-up blind in the truck and try putting the sneak on a long-beard.