Best Trail Camera Strategies for Your Summer

Trail Camera Strategies to Start This Summer

 

If you’re anything like us, you eat, sleep, and dream about deer hunting throughout the year. If there is a winter storm coming through, we’re thinking about the rut. If we’re sweating through a summer heat wave, we’re thinking about how to get ready for opening day. If that describes your lifestyle too, you probably also enjoy watching deer throughout the year by using trail cams. There’s just something special about trail cameras and how you can stealthily keep track of the deer herd on your property without them having a clue. Sure, you could start glassing fields or summer food plots in the evenings, but that takes more time than most of us actually have. Plus, you might not have any fields near you; maybe you hunt deer in a big woods setting where you can’t easily watch wildlife. These are the situations where having a few hunting cameras hung in key spots on your property can make a big difference to your hunting strategies next fall. Here are a few trail camera strategies to get you started this summer.

 

 

Top Trail Camera Strategies for This Summer

 

It’s not quite as simple as just throwing out a few trail cams in the woods and seeing what walks by. Sure, you could try that approach and you might get to see some wildlife eventually. But to get the most pictures, to get high-quality pictures, and to get information that will actually help you next fall, you need to focus on putting your trail camera in a spot that focuses deer traffic. Here are the best trail camera strategies for the summer.

 

Food Plots/Agricultural Fields

Food plots are great spots for getting pictures of deer for a few reasons. One, does and bucks alike need lots of calories in the spring to bounce back from the stress of winter. Throughout the summer, they need the food tonnage to build up their body weight and grow antlers to prepare for fall. This means high quality, protein rich forage! If you live in a forested area with very little agricultural food available, a single food plot is even more attractive to deer and your results will be better. Since it’s so critical for their survival, it’s probably the best place to hang trail cams on these locations.

 

 

 

For larger agricultural fields (e.g., corn, soybeans, alfalfa, etc.), the best location for game cameras might seem like the middle of the field where you can see the most deer. But since deer are creatures of the edge and will usually have set travel patterns throughout the summer, the best spot is generally along the field edge near a dominant trail. For smaller food plots (e.g., clover, cereal grains, brassicas, etc.), you can place a trail cam on a post in the middle of the plot without any issues. But really it comes down to just finding a spot that concentrates the activity and facing the game camera in the right direction. One thing to keep in mind is that facing cameras any direction but north will inevitably produce some glare in pictures at some time of the day.

 

Bedding Areas

Another reliable spot to capture deer pictures on your trail cams this summer is around their bedding area. After feeding throughout the night in destination fields or browsing in cutover areas, deer will shift to daytime bedding areas to chew their cud and rest. Often does and fawns will rest near or even within feeding areas, while bachelor groups of bucks will bed further away. Taking a quick scouting stroll from feeding areas and along main trails can lead you to bedding areas. They’re often easy to spot because of the oval depressions in the grass or weeds. If you’ve ever tackled a few habitat projects on your property, hinge cuts are great bedding areas to check out.

 

If you’ve designated some bedding areas as deer sanctuaries that are strictly off-limits throughout the year, try installing trail cams along trails on the fringe of the sanctuary instead. Be cautious about checking them too much towards the end of the summer when you want to really hold deer in-place. The bugs will likely be bad enough to convince you to only go once or twice the whole summer anyway. More than likely, you’ll find some small bedding areas outside of these sanctuaries too that you can set and forget until the end of the summer.

 

 

Travel Corridors

Of course, any main trails and travel corridors between the two areas above are also great spots to intercept deer movement. With a little desktop scouting, you can easily map these areas and find good potential corridors, but you likely have a few tree stands already hung in these areas anyway. Clear out the herbaceous vegetation in a spot along one of these trails so that you can get a clear trail camera picture. These small openings can also make deer pause long enough for a good picture.

 

When it comes to positioning your trail cams along trails, the common instinct is to place them so that the camera is off to the side facing perpendicular to the trail. Unfortunately, unless deer are really slow-moving, your camera will likely trigger too late and you’ll only get pictures of their rear end – hardly useful from a hunting perspective. Instead, try positioning your camera facing up or down along the direction of deer travel. Granted, you’ll still get pictures of deer moving away from you half the time, but you’ll get pictures of deer facing the camera the other half of the time.

 

 

Mineral Sites/Mineral Stations

Throughout the spring and summer, whitetails love to get an extra dose of minerals from the soil and plants around mineral stations. Lactating does need extra minerals to support their fawns, while Bucks need minerals to build their bony antlers. If you keep the station going for a couple years, you can easily train deer to keep coming back to it as a seasonal mineral source since fawns will be raised to use it. Eventually, the stations often become huge craters where deer have eaten the soil away. Luckily, you can easily set up a mineral site by scraping the debris away and exposing the soil in a given spot. Then you can incorporate some crushed mineral into the top inch of soil or simply place a block or rock on top of it. You can even place it on a semi-rotting stump, which will slowly absorb the minerals as well. But that’s about all it takes to set a station up.

 

If you’re installing one of these sites expressly for pictures, it’s best to locate it in a shaded understory area. Pictures from trail cams along fields and exposed sites often suffer from lots of glare, which greatly reduces the quality of the photos. But pictures within shaded areas can turn out crisp and clear any time of the day since light doesn’t interfere.

 

 

Water Sources

The final place that works great for trail cams are water sources, especially when paired with mineral sites. After eating something salty, we all crave a drink of water – deer are no different. Deer crave sodium due to the high amount of water they get in their metabolism during spring and summer. However, as the summer progresses and other waterholes or creeks go dry, a small water hole next to a mineral site will pull deer in. If you have natural wetlands, ponds, or streams on your property, you can easily locate mineral sites near them for the easiest solution. If you don’t have any water sources, you can easily sink a bucket, small rubber tank, or kid’s pool into the dirt to let it fill with rainwater. You can keep it cleaner by simply refilling it once you check cams. During hot summers or in southern, more arid areas, water sources can be the absolute best place for a trail camera setup, since it is such a draw for them.

 

How to Hang Trail Cameras and When to Check Them

 Once you’ve identified the spots and trail camera strategies you want to install this summer, it’s time to actually get them out. As already mentioned, pay attention to the direction you face your cameras, as south facing cameras will get lots of unusable pictures with a heavy glare. The one time you can get away with south facing trail cams is if you are in a forested or heavily shaded area. One of the best trail camera tips you’ll hear is to check the batteries and then recheck them to make sure they are fresh. You should also generally clear out some of the tall weeds, grasses, and even some brush in the area so you can avoid lots of false triggers. It’s a really deflating experience when you check your camera to find 1,000 pictures and 900 of them are of swaying grass. You can change the sensitivity level on many cameras to reduce this problem, but it still doesn’t hurt to make a small opening in front of the lens. Bring a simple folding saw with you when you enter the woods so you can easily cut any obstacles down.

 

Depending on where you’re hanging trail cameras, you may want to leave a trail to get back to them. For new deer bedding areas in big woods spots, for example, consider putting out some trail markers or trail marking tacks to help you find them again. This isn’t a good idea on public land, obviously, as would-be thieves could follow your tacks/markers right to the camera. But it’s a nice option for private land.

 

 

As far as when or how often to check your trail cams, it’s a tough call. The less you check them, the less invasive it is and more discrete your spying will be. After all, if you set it and forget about it for a few months, you can basically guarantee that you won’t interfere with the natural deer movement on your property. On the other hand, if your camera malfunctions after only a week of being outdoors, you could miss out on an entire summer’s worth of intelligence, which is just a terrible feeling (we’ve probably all had it happen at some point). Besides, we all feel the temptation to check them weekly. It’s kind of like Christmas morning when you get your chip and start to glance through them on the computer. If you have fresh batteries and haven’t had any issues with your camera before, let it sit in the woods for a month or two at a time, if you can bear it. If you’re not sure about your gear or if the opportunity is too great, then you’ve got two options. You can either charge right in making lots of noise (e.g., starting a chainsaw once in a while, driving an ATV, etc.), which will push deer away well before you spook them at close range. Or you can stealthily sneak in with scent-eliminating clothing and rubber boots to be incognito. It’s up to you and how your property is managed.

Good luck with your cameras this summer. With any luck, you’ll get some great pictures of deer to help guide your bow hunting on opening day this fall!

 

Planning and Hunting Food Plots in the South

Southern Food Plots and Deer Hunting

 

Hunting and land management practices in the southern states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi require somewhat of a different strategy than that of the Midwestern states. While we often focus on the Midwest, we can’t ignore the need for some accurate tips and strategies focused specifically on the south. The south requires a very different set of tactics, strategies, and tips. Several factors are responsible for this of which population density, soil type, terrain, median climate, lack of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) areas, browse quality and quantity all weigh in. Hunters owning or leasing property, or even hunt clubs in and around the southeast and southern regions utilize food plots in the summer, fall, and winter months not only for the well-being of the deer herd but also for successful hunting.

 

Proper land management practices are a direct influence on the health and benefit of the deer herd of the managed habitat. A popular concept stands true among land management philosophy, “Preparation for next year’s hunt begins at the end of this year’s season.” With that in mind, no two plans will be exactly alike for different tracts of land; the individuality of the property will factor into what core needs will develop the best sustainable habitat.

 

Food Plots in the South

 

The southern and southeast regions of the United States are more populated per capita by the human population, and although there are ample farmland and vast areas of unpopulated land, the acreage numbers of agricultural land are nothing compared to that of the Western and Midwestern states. Add to that the fact that soil comparisons rank the southern soils as some of the most nutrient-leached soils by average. The mild median temperatures do allow more native habitat browse year around, but the supplemental planting of food plots provide nutrition to deer during the most critical nutritionally stressed periods and is vital to the nutrition and health of the deer herd. Not only do food plots assist in the nutritional health of deer herds, but also these food plots are a huge factor in providing a viable method to attract deer during the hunting season.

 

When planning to put in a new food plot location or revive an old plot, deciding what to plant and choosing the prime location for a stand, several considerations factor into the success of that food plot. Considerations such as site selection, crop selection, soil preparation, planting methods, and stand placement ideal for that location. Other factors such as median temperatures, average drought, weeds, deer population, amount and quality of natural browse, and proximity of agricultural fields in the area are also important to the success of perennial food plots.

 

Food Plot Site Selection

 

The size, shape, and distribution of food plots are not only important to utilizing those food plots for nutrition; it is critical in successfully attracting deer during hunting season. As a general rule, factoring in the palatable native plants, nuts, and browse, 1-5% of the entire acreage of managed property should be planted, and often as much as 10% if the plot locations are available. Larger food plots will sustain crops longer because they can survive heavy browsing by game animals. Often, agricultural fields that are on the property or the property has access to can be used according to the crops planted and are ideal for stand placement.

 

Typically, food plots for deer will range from half an acre to as much as five acres. Keep in mind that deer will usually utilize the edges of larger plots in the daylight hours, but usually will feed in the center of larger plots only during the cover of night. Feeding in the cover of night will meet the goal of enhancing nutrition for the deer herd but will not benefit hunting from an attraction standpoint. Long, irregular shape plots offer deer easy use and access to food plots with the safety of some edge cover; whereas long, even-sided plantings seem to make deer weary for lack of edge cover.

 

Location, purpose, size, sun and shade exposure of the food plot are all dynamics to the use of that area, but none of these are more important than the soil type and condition. The requirements of the crop and the season being planted will largely be a factor as to where it can be planted.

 

Food Plot Soil Preparation

 

Before crop choice can be considered for a certain food plot, it is important to have the soil tested to see what each plot needs to create prime soil for planting crops. Soil testing can be done through many county extension offices for a fairly economical fee. It is important to follow the instructions on the soil testing kits when obtaining the soil samples. Once the results have been confirmed, it is time to prepare the soil for planting.

 

Soil fertility is going to depend on several elements but mainly soil structure/texture and pH.  For the southern/southeast regions the most productive soils are going to be found in the Black Belt Region, alluvial regions such as river beds, streams bottoms, and deltas which will be comprised of a combination of sand, silt, clay, and gravel. The deep sandy soils of the Coastal Plains are low in fertility due to a high rate of nutrient leaching in those areas. Soils that have a finer texture with some gravel will naturally hold more moisture than that of coarser texture with some gravel.

 

The pH numbers are classified as basic with a pH range of 7.1 to 14.0, neutral with a pH range of 7.0, and acidic with a pH range of 0 to 6.9.  Each plant is going to have a range that is tolerable to its growth and sustainability. The popular range of the greatest variety of plant species and summer legumes and fall plant species is 6.5 to 7.0 pH. It is evident that a vast amount of land across the southern and southeast regions encompass highly acidic soils because of the number of pine tree species found in those acres; pine trees thrive well in acidic soils. Alluvial bottomlands commonly have a more neutral pH which hardwoods grow well in.

 

Soil fertility doesn’t stop at pH levels, the amount of phosphorus, nitrogen, potassium, and other nutrients are important. One to two tons of Ag lime per acre is often enough to adjust pH and should be applied right before or immediately after plowing and should remain at the root level of the plant. Rotating certain legumes in summer plots can help build many of these nutrients and combined with proper lime and fertilizing, the result is fertile soil for planting.

 

A good seed bed, the preparation for planting, is critical for summertime food plots to retain moisture and aid in germination in the dry summers of the southern climate. When planting, it is important to plan according to pending rain and 60° or warmer temperatures for proper germination of seed. In many areas, the practice most popular for summer plots are mowing and poisoning residual fall plants and spring weeds followed by disking or drilling for an ideal seed planting of ½” to 1” depths; anything deeper will often not allow proper germination and growth.

 

Food Plot Crop/Seed Selection

 

Once the plots have been soil tested, lime and fertilized where required, it is time to choose what to plant considering the season of planting.  A variety of seed can be purchased Round-Up Ready, which means that the seed/crop can be sprayed throughout the season to kill weeds and vegetation that can choke out the crops that are planted. Alfalfa, a grass food crop widely grown in the Midwestern states, does not thrive in the southern regions.

 

A well thought out plan will include summer legumes such as Iron-Clay Cow Peas, soybeans, and other legumes which not only provide protein and fiber for deer, these legumes aid in adding nitrogen to the soils for fall planting. LabLab is a drought resistant, warm-weather legume that can withstand heavy browsing for areas with high deer density. Perennials such as crimson clover and ladino clover are often planted by broadcasting on top of other planted seed. Crimson clover and Regal ladino clover make good spring and fall browse. Brassica crops are fall crops that thrive well in the mild winters of the southern regions.

 

Cereal grains, such as wheat, oats, and rye, offer great cover but provide little to no nutritional value. Similar to cereal grain sorghum, Egyptian wheat, and millet also offer no real nutritional value to the deer herd. Egyptian wheat is usually considered for coverage or support of crawling or vining crops. Millet is often used for upland game and controlling erosion, but it chokes out most other crops so it should be planted only for these two uses.

 

Tree Stand and Box Blind Setups for Southern Deer Hunting

 

The typical terrain and characteristic of southern property are most favorable to stand type hunting. The overabundance of trees and planted pine plantations, topographical features, and the lack of long shooting ranges in the southern regions make hunting ideal for stand hunting over food plots that attract deer. After carefully planning out food plots, investing the time and expense into preparing and planting, the next step will be deciding on what type of stand and placement of the stand for the most effective advantage of a successful season. Using game cameras after the food plots are planted and before the season opens by placing the cameras in travel corridors and staging areas can also assist in deciding the best locations for stand placement.

 

There are several types of stands available that can be used in a variety of locations for the best shot opportunity. Permanent box stands will need to be planned precisely since erecting this type of stand doesn’t allow easy set-up, take down and mobility. Other stands, such portable box blinds, ladder stands, tripod stands, ground blinds, and bale blinds offer mobility.

 

Using the terrain and the characteristics of the land as factors in stand placement, take into consideration access to the stand, bedding areas, trails, corridors, staging areas, pinch points, typical wind direction, and the rise and setting of the sun. When placing a stand on a field with irregular edges, choosing a location that gives the hunter the widest angle of view will give an advantage. The most effective stand placements are those areas that will allow a stand to share a pinch point, staging area, or trails with the food plot view. As with any stand placement, it is critical to use any cover available, including a canopy of tree tops to protect from a skyline silhouette.

If planning to use a ground blind, for the best results, placing that blind and brushing it in well in advance to the season will allow deer to get accustomed to the blind. When placing a ground blind, avoid placing the blind in too close in proximity to a trail or the middle of a staging area. Bale blinds work well in large plots, and often allows the hunter a 360-degree view of the edges of the entire food plot. Bale blinds or tri- and quad-pods are often placed in areas that have the highest chance of a hunter flushing wildlife or being seen while approaching the stand, so attention to ingress and egress to those stands will be imperative.

 

Cutting shooting lanes is often necessary for elevated stands that are tucked into tree lines at the edge of food plots or stands that have irregular edge cover. With food plots that have long, straight sides, careful consideration of stand placement is crucial; take advantage of any cover available. One of the most critical factors in placing a stand is typical wind direction and natural thermals based on topographical features. Choosing a downwind location typical to the common wind direction for that location is going to be key. Of course, controlling the wind is completely out of our capabilities so having a second stand location or another food plot favorable to the prevailing wind is always good planning.  Another factor to consider is the rising and setting of the sun because naturally, these are times when deer are most active and looking directly into the sun does not only hinder the hunter’s visibility, it also places a low factor of concealment on the hunter amplifying any movement.

 

Deer movement can change drastically from early season bow hunting, during the rut, and late season hunting. Even excessive hunting pressure or crop over browsing in an area can cause deer movement to change at any given time. It is often essential to the success of the hunt to change strategy and even to change stand location. This change in location can be done by adding a stand, which results in as little disruption as possible in that area, instead of moving a stand.

 

There will always be conditions beyond control such as the amount of rain and extremely high or low temperatures, but having a plan in place of proper land management for spring, summer, and fall planting and a well laid out plan for stand placement ensures the highest odds of a successful fall deer season.

 

If you are interested in learning more about food plots or feeding deer check out the blog below!

 

Planning Box Blind Setups for the Early Season

Pairing Food Plots with Box Blind Setups

 

As turkey season starts to wind down across the country and we put our box calls and decoys back in storage, many hunters enter the summer slump. It’s that weird time of year again where there are no more game animal hunting seasons and deer season seems like a long way off. But luckily, there’s a lot you can do right now to make a big difference this fall. Before you hit the dreaded slump, turn your attention to pairing a box blind setup with an attractive early season food source. It’s the perfect way to keep busy in the offseason and avoid the summer slump blues.

 

Benefits and Challenges with Hunting in Box Blinds

 

Box blinds have a lot going for them when it comes to effective deer hunting. They’re comfortable and spacious, which makes it a whole lot easier to spend on all-day sits waiting for the right deer to walk by. Challenging and unpredictable fall weather can keep us out of the woods when we just use a climber or hang-on stand, but you don’t have to worry about that when you’ve got a high-quality box blind. They also keep your scent contained and hide your profile and movements from wary game animals. This is a huge advantage when hunting with a partner, cameraman, or even with kids. But maybe even more importantly, it provides a good space for you to draw your bow without getting busted when there are lots of observant eyes around. In some locations (i.e., edge of a clover or bean field), there could be dozens of deer all watching for danger, which would make stealthily drawing your bow pretty tricky.

 

 

That being said, there are a few potential disadvantages if you don’t plan ahead fully. For example, if a hit-list buck starts avoiding a hunting location completely, there’s really no stealthy or easy way to move an entire box blind around. If you have a climbing tree stand, you could easily sneak away to a different tree and/or location without making much noise at all. But you can’t exactly sneak a tractor around your property without wary bucks at least noticing. Granted, if it’s a farmed property anyway, they’re probably used to the sights and sounds of tractors, and may not view it as a threat. But this is why planting the right food plot in the right location and using the right box blind setup makes such a difference.

 

The Perfect Box Blind Setup for Different Food Plots

 

As we mentioned, box blind placement is going to be critical to your success this season, especially if you plan on bow hunting more than rifle hunting. For ethical bow shots, you need to be a heck of a lot closer to them than with a rifle. This means you can’t just deploy a box blind anywhere – you need to really think about how deer move through the area first. To counter their lack of mobility, you should try to position them strategically for different parts of the hunting season. To make them even more effective and sweeten the pot, if you will, you should consider pairing them with a food plot or agricultural food source as well. These areas will usually be the best place to put a box blind. Let’s look at some examples.

 

Annual Agricultural Fields

Whether you hunt over corn or soybeans in a given year, there’s no denying that big ag fields can really pull deer from far and wide. Whitetails in farm country will usually pattern their feeding schedule around one of these fields. It serves as a destination food source, and deer will usually spend most of the night feeding in and resting near them. How can you take advantage of that fact? Place a box blind on the field edge!

 

 

Wait, wait, it’s not always that easy. If you’re bow hunting in a box blind, you can’t put the blind up just anywhere along the edge. Deer tend to take a few common trails into these fields, and then slowly disperse into the center where there is more food available (due to better conditions and less browsing). While you could make a shot into the center of the field with a rifle, you’re headed for disappointment if you have a bow in hand and bucks out of reach. In this case, you really need to find a spot to funnel and congregate the deer movement so you can make a shot.

 

One example would be a converging trail system. Deer will usually take several trails from different bedding areas, but they might converge on a field corner, for example, as the main entry point. Inside and outside corners of fields are great pinch points for bow hunting whitetails. Placing a Muddy® Bull box blind in one of these corners near a trail system puts you within bow range of deer movement for an easier shot opportunity without spooking deer when you leave for the night. Additionally, placing your blind just within the woods may give you a better chance at a daylight shot, since reclusive bucks may hang out on the field edge until just before dark. If they stage up in front of your box blind, you may just get a shot off before the light completely fades.

 

Another example might be putting a water hole along the field edge to concentrate deer activity for a close shot. As we mentioned, field fringes are usually less productive and get picked over faster than the field centers. As a result, deer tend to cruise right past these areas. But digging a shallow water hole along the fringe can be just enough of a draw, especially in hot early season conditions, to make deer pause more than long enough for a good shot.

Perennial Food Plots

Another popular option for all-season hunting opportunities would be a clover or alfalfa field. Perennial spring food plots are green and lush through most of the year and help deer and turkeys get a head start each spring by being some of the first green forage available. But these plots can also be one of the best spots for deer hunting blinds as deer start to feel the pressure of the early season bow hunting crowd. Bucks will naturally want to avoid large open fields as they get more cautious, and these hidden food plots can be the best spot to catch them still wandering around during the day.

 

Large alfalfa hayfields can be hunted and approached much like the agricultural scenario above. However, you can also very effectively use the Muddy® Bale Blind if you routinely hay these fields. This allows you to hunt further out into the field with a bow than you would be able to with a typical box blind setup. Just make sure there’s some kind of natural draw or fence line nearby that you can use to sneak in and out without spooking deer.

 

 

 

Many clover food plots tend to be smaller in size, located in the timber, or consist of narrow travel lanes instead of large plots. These areas can be hunted a little easier than open fields because there is generally more cover surrounding them to sneak into and out of the box blind setup. Perennial clover plots usually respond best by planting seeds in the fall, along with a cereal grain nurse crop. This will give you a hunting opportunity this fall, but the real magic happens in the following few years. By next fall, your clover plot will likely be lush and full provided you do some maintenance on it throughout the summer. Hunting in a box blind above one of these fields can be magical on some properties.

 

Using These Box Blind Hunting Tips

 

As you consider the options above for a stellar early season deer hunt, you should always keep access and practicality at the front of your mind. If a certain box blind setup might be difficult to sneak into without disturbing deer, it’s probably not a good spot to sit. But if you can easily slip in and out without a deer noticing you, you have a chance at a successful bow hunt. And when you’re using the box blind hunting strategies above and pairing them with a good food plot, you have a really good chance.

Late Season Turkey Hunting | Tips for Stubborn Toms

Challenges and Solutions for Late Season Turkey Hunting

 

Hopefully, you’ve already put a nice tom down and on the table this spring. However, it doesn’t always work out the way you want. Calendars fill up, the weather might not cooperate, and the birds might be even less accommodating. But there’s still time to pull it off this year if you haven’t yet. Turkey hunting, like most types of hunting, can either be the most rewarding and fulfilling experience you can have or the most frustrating and confusing thing in the world. When you talk about late season turkey hunting, it tends to be an extreme case of both somehow. On one hand, the birds are seasoned survivors, so they know most of the tricks up your sleeve and will continue to avoid you despite your best efforts. And yet, when you do manage to kill a late season gobbler, you definitely feel like you’ve earned it and can wear it as a badge of honor. Spring turkey hunting is funny that way.

 

Each state has slightly different turkey seasons, so we’ll avoid diving into that too deeply. For the sake of this article, we’ll define late season as the last week or so of your state’s turkey season. It is crunch time and you need to make your time afield count. You may have only been able to hunt a small portion of the entire season, but the turkeys have been exposed to hunting pressure throughout the whole time slot. If you hunt turkeys on public land, especially, they have seen a thing or two. They know what’s going on at this point, which definitely complicates your life. Let’s look at a quick comparison of early season turkeys versus late season turkeys.

 

Early Season Turkeys Late Season Turkeys
Usually eager to respond to hen calls, and gobble back enthusiastically Often made call-shy by this point, they may silently slip through the woods

Often come running into decoys confidently

in small groups to fight for hens

May hang up out of range when they see a decoy to make it come to them

Cautious, but less discerning about

their surroundings

Very suspicious animals that will study their environment pretty closely before moving in

 

If you’ve noticed this pattern before when you’ve gone late season turkey hunting, don’t worry. There’s still hope for you. Let’s look through some turkey biology and explain exactly what turkeys do each day.

 

Wild Turkey Biology

 

In the early spring, hens will start to get ready to breed just after most males are primed for it and seeking them. This major peak in breeding activity is a great time to hunt since toms and hens are actively communicating and looking for each other.

 

However, after a few weeks of this, the bred hens slowly start to nest and the gobblers just can’t seem to find enough willing ones around anymore. They’ve also spent the last few weeks fighting each other for breeding rights and may be hesitant to approach other toms with hens (decoys, that is). But just as whitetails tend to have a second rut as more does come into estrous, there is another peak in turkey breeding activity shortly after the initial breeding phase. Toms will definitely be on the lookout for the last few receptive hens. That’s your ace in the hole for late season turkey hunting. With that, let’s dive into some spring turkey hunting tips you can use yet this season.

 

Late Season Turkey Hunting Tactics

 

When it comes to specific techniques, it really comes down to maximum concealment in the best places, the right kind of calling and using smart decoy tactics. Now we’ll break these out in more detail below.

 

Location and Absolute Concealment

One of the best tips for hunting late season turkeys is setting up in the right locations and then completely disappearing where you are. Setting up along travel routes and food sources is the best option to surprise a tom. After flying down from roost trees, toms will make their way to feeding areas. You can confirm that birds are using a given area with some light and fast scouting the day before or by using trail cameras to scout for you. The Muddy® Pro-Cam 10 or Pro-Cam 12 trail cameras both deliver amazing image quality with plenty of great setting. If you can stealthily sneak into a strip of trees between mature pines/oaks and a clover or alfalfa field, you should be able to surprise some turkeys in the timber. If not, green clover fields are magnets to turkeys in the spring, especially for late season turkey hunting. You’ll often find a turkey roost or two surrounding and in close proximity to green fields like these. Check out the video below, where two hunters tagged two gobblers on day one of their turkey camp in a clover field just like this.

 

By this point in the season, most gobblers have been harassed by all kinds of hunters and are pretty cautious. They generally won’t come running into fields and decoys as confidently as they did in the early season. They will hang back and make sure the way is safe before proceeding. Because of that, you need to make absolutely sure you can hide from their keen eyesight – that’s always been a turkey hunting 101 lesson. Muddy® blinds are the way to go in this regard. Sure, you could still tuck into some heavy vegetation with some head-to-toe camouflage clothing. But this really limits your movement and can ruin your hunt when a silent gobbler sneaks up behind you and sees you reach for your turkey call.

 

Instead, set up you blind in a spot with high turkey traffic. If the turkeys in your hunting area are really suspicious birds, take some time to brush your blind in a little using natural vegetation from immediately around the blind. This small act can do wonders for making your blind completely disappear, even in a wide open field. Be sure to wear black clothing and maybe even black face paint when you hunt inside a blackout interior blind. No gobbler will see what’s coming for him. This approach is pretty much mandatory for turkey hunting with a bow due to the extra movement involved in raising and drawing it.

 

Late Season Turkey Calling

Spring turkey calling is a tricky thing because it changes so much from the beginning of the season to late season turkey hunting. As we mentioned, early season turkeys are pretty likely to come running into a series of hen yelps without too much prompting. But late season turkeys are a different breed and the conditions are very different. The hens have mostly been bred and the activity is dropping off fast. Consequently, there are fewer hens calling and those that are vocal are timider. So you have a few options:

  • You could completely rely on stealth and make no calls at all. This is a great option for areas with lots of turkey traffic and for surprising pressured turkeys. It feels like more of a deer hunt since it’s a complete ambush.

 

  • You could also try to keep your calling limited to a few soft hen yelps and cuts, followed by long pauses of at least a half an hour (unless you hear a turkey respond). If you hear a hen call to you, try to mimic her tone and cadence in response. If you hear a gobble, call back and try to read the excitement level. He may be excited and still come running over, or he may shut up and silently sneak closer. It’s a case by case basis.

 

  • If you get a gobbler that hangs up out of range and sight, but keeps gobbling back to your hen yelps, you may want to get mobile. Assuming you have some good camouflage clothing, silently sneak away from the gobbler, making a few calls along the way. Then set up for a shot, stop calling, and just listen. Sometimes, this simulated hen leaving him will make a gobbler change his mind and come running in hot pursuit of his lost opportunity.

 

  • Finally, if you notice gobblers starting to travel together in bachelor groups in the extreme late season, it might be time to give up the hen calls altogether. Toms may just be looking for other toms to hang out with for the summer and could respond better to a gobbler yelp than a hen yelp. Try letting out three slower, lower, and raspier yelps to simulate a tom instead of the faster, higher, and clean yelps of a hen.

 

To Decoy or Not to Decoy?

Whether or not you should use turkey decoys during your late-season turkey hunting is a tricky question. In some cases, even the best turkey decoys you’ve got just aren’t good enough. Taking the complete surprise approach by not using any decoys may be the right thing to do. Particularly for cautious birds, this is a smart move. Some toms might see a jake decoy and decide they don’t want to chance an encounter that could get them in another fight with their busted up bodies. Some toms might also see a hen decoy and decide they’ve seen enough hens that turn out to be less than real. In that case, they might hang up out of range and wait for the hen to come to them instead – it’s just a safer option for them.

 

 

But using decoys can still be effective for late season turkey hunting, on one condition: you may want to avoid using a jake decoy. It’s just a little too risky in the late season. Usually, the best approach for late season turkey hunting decoys is to just use a single hen about 15 to 20 yards from your ground blind. If a lonely gobbler stumbles on it, he’s bound to come check it out.

 

 

For this year’s late season turkey hunting, consider your typical approach and how you could use the late spring turkey hunting tips above to put a gobbler on the ground.

Effective Turkey Decoy Strategies for Hunting Out of Ground Blinds

Turkey Decoy Strategies When Hunting from Ground Blinds

 

 

Few turkey hunters today head to the woods without having one or more decoys with them. Whether you are run and gunning turkeys in big timber country or hopping ground blinds in southern agricultural fields, decoys can help bring that boss gobbler those extra steps needed to make the kill. Hunting turkeys from ground blinds typically means you are on birds. You may have positioned the blind the evening before or have it set up in a season long hotspot. Either way, you are probably fairly confident that turkeys are close by, which is where your decoys come into play. With birds in the area, your calling has to be crisp, your turkey blind placement perfect and your turkey decoy strategies on point.

 

 

The Right Way to Use Decoys from Ground Blinds

 

Some turkey hunters swear by decoys and yet others curse them because they have had a bad past experience of getting busted while using them. In most instances when a turkey hunter has a bad experience using decoys, it is almost always the operator’s fault. Here are six tips for setting up turkey decoys the right way when hunting from ground blinds.

 

Trophy Pursuit’s Turkey Camp, Part 2

Opening day of turkey season with the Trophy Pursuit Team in southern Iowa.

 

 

  1. Ground blind placement should be between the bird and the decoys. When hunters get busted while using turkey decoys, the first question to ask them is where were their decoys set up at? The answer is always right in front of the blind. Decoys are designed to distract a gobbler and have him focus his attention on something other than yourself so you can get positioned to shoot him. When you are behind the decoy, the approaching turkey is looking right into your portable turkey blind. Instead, determine where a likely gobbler will approach from and position portable hunting blinds between him and the decoys, ideally on your shooting side.

 

  1. Know your range. You want your portable turkey blind close to your decoys or at least half the distance you can shoot. For example, if you can effectively pattern your shotgun out at 40 yards, you want your decoys out at 20 yards. The mistake many hunters make is their decoys are set out as far as they can shoot. What happens? A gobbler gets nervous and hangs up at 60 yards and you have blown your hunt. Keep them close when hunting turkeys from ground blinds so you either have a close shot or at worst a shot that is within range.

 

  1. Ground blinds should be concealed but not your turkey decoys. Decoys should be placed in open areas such as fields, right-of-ways or open timber, where often bale blinds make the best turkey blind. Putting out a set of hen decoys in thick brush 20 yards from your ground blind that you can barely see is a waste of time. Gobblers react well and are less likely to spook if they can see the decoy from far off. One of the main purposes of using decoys is to give a bird something to draw his attention in with and if your decoys are buried in the brush you will never give him that chance.

 

  1. Numbers matter. Fall turkey hunting warrants more decoys because birds are flocked up as opposed to the spring where there is more one on one interaction between birds. Again the purpose of using turkey decoys as part of your ground blind hunting strategies is to create authenticity around your calling. A big flock of 6 hens and a jake set out in front of your pop-up turkey blind is not realistic in the spring.

 

  1. Spread your decoys out. Often, several different decoys are deployed outside your ground blinds like a hen and a jake or multiple hens. When you are using more than one decoy, make sure there is plenty of space between all of them. A gobbler approaching from a distance may not be able to recognize what you are trying to emulate if all the decoys are bunched together. Similarly, if your decoys are too close and a gobbler runs in, you may have a hard time getting a shot on him. A mature gobbler may also be unwilling to join in on the action and bypass you altogether if the situation looks too

 

  1. Hunting ground blinds and turkey decoys should both be prepared for the weather. You probably have your ground blinds secured enough unless it is severe weather in which case you will not be out hunting anyway more than likely. However, even light breezes and hard rains depending on the style of decoys you are using can cause them to look unnatural. Be prepared with extra stakes to secure decoys or that whirling hen decoy in front of your portable turkey blind will be the only thing you see.

 

Top 3 Ground Blind Turkey Decoy Strategies

 

A gobbler’s desires change from week to week in the spring. Early on they are determining dominance in an area so aggressive decoy set ups work well to lure big, mature birds in looking for a fight. Next, comes breeding. Gobblers will move from fighting to breeding a few weeks into the season and be less receptive to aggressive decoy postures. Younger birds can be lured into jake decoys during this time because they feel they can take on a smaller bird for a chance at part of the breeding grounds. But, strutters will scare these younger birds away as they have not forgotten previous losing battles to boss gobblers earlier in the year. Try a jake decoy matched with a hen as breeding moves into full force. Gobblers will look to break up the action if they catch sight of a receptive hen in their area with a young bird. After breeding is over and hens move on to nesting, use a single feeding hen to lure in receptive gobblers to your pop-up turkey blinds later in the season.

 

Along with turkey hunting from a blind, there are other spring turkey hunting methods. Having decoys with you is beneficial whether you are in a blind or not. However, these top three turkey decoy strategies work the best when hunting turkeys from ground blinds.

 

Ground Blind Set Up #1 – Jake and Hen

 

If you had no other decoy set up to use from your ground blinds, the jake and hen would be it. This set up works well early through late season up until hens start to nest. Early on gobblers will come in to fight away a jake while later on as breeding ramps up a big tom will come running in to displace what he thinks is a jake crossing into his territory and moving in on his hens.

 

The assumption with this turkey decoy strategy is that you are hunting mature gobblers. Sometimes if the area you are hunting is heavily polluted with jakes, you are better off just using a hen decoy. Remember to position the turkey decoys off to your shooting side and not have your portable turkey blind directly in line with how you expect a bird to come in. Otherwise, his full attention may not be on the decoys but rather on you and your blind.

 

Ground Blind Set Up #2 – Feeding Hen

 

Why a feeding hen? Because when turkeys are feeding, they are calm and relaxed. If you put out a hen decoy that is upright and alert, a cunning boss gobbler will get the sense that something is not right or that she is alert for a particular reason. A group of feeding hens, 2-4 of them, works well when breeding has picked up and gobblers are looking for hens. You can add a strutter behind the hens if it is further into the breeding season to spark some competition if you are hunting in areas that contain mature birds. Keep the strutter positioned behind the hens like he is trailing them, which is a typical situation in the spring.

 

Ground Blind Set Up #3 – Strutting Gobbler

 

Turkey hunters are reluctant to put out a strutting gobbler decoy for fear that the dominant nature of it may make a bird hesitant to come in. There are two times when using a strutter decoy is successful when used as part of your ground blind hunting strategies for turkeys.

 

First, position a strutter facing away from where you believe a gobbler will approach from. Early season birds looking to dominate will see an away facing gobbler as an advantage to taking him on. Second, use it at the right time and right place. Stay away from this decoy setup, even if it is paired with a few feeding hens when hunting areas with jakes. Jakes will quickly be turned away from a dominate strutter later in the season. Also, this set works more effectively earlier in the season when birds are willing to challenge other gobblers for breeding rights.

 

Bottom line, turkey decoy strategies work effectively when planned out with ground blind hunting. Although it can happen, it is rare to throw up a decoy and make a few clucks and see a big gobbler running in. The more common scenario is having to plan your turkey hunting blind placement and decoy set up down to the last detail. These six tips should go a long way to improve your turkey hunting, especially if you are unsure of how and when to place decoys when turkey hunting from a blind. The next time you head out to one of your ground blinds for turkey hunting, think about these tips and pick the right decoy set up for tempting in a mature longbeard.

spring turkey hunting

Spring Turkey Hunting Methods

Spring Turkey Hunting Methods and Tools

 

As with any outdoor activity, the better prepared you are beforehand, the more likely you are to enjoy your time doing it. The same is true for spring turkey hunting. In the unpredictable spring weather conditions, you never know what you will face. So if you’re wondering how to hunt turkeys in the spring, you need to decide how you’ll go about it first. This spring turkey season, take some time to consider your personal hunting approach and that can tell you a lot about how to stay comfortable the whole time you’re out.

 

Choosing Your Turkey Hunting Method

Let’s start with some spring turkey hunting basics. Everyone’s got their own way of doing things and personal preferences. But there are really only two styles of hunting when it comes to spring turkey hunting. You’ll either be in a ground blind of some sort or exposed on the ground. You could hunt them from a tree stand, but it’s not as common for spring turkey hunting season. Depending on which type of hunting you like to do, you’ll have to adopt different methods to stay comfortable in the field. Each has their own benefits and drawbacks, which we’ll discuss below. Take your pick and see which sounds better.

 

Ground Blind Hunting

Using a ground blind has a lot going for it for spring turkey hunting. A turkey’s primary predator defense mechanism, and thus its strongest sense, is its vision. When you move at ground level without any kind of cover, a turkey is very likely to spot you and that will be the end of your turkey hunt. Ground blinds are obviously one of the best ways to stay hidden and out of sight from such keen vision. Since there are only a few open windows, you can move around significantly more inside a blind without spooking turkeys away. That makes them such a great bow setup for turkey hunting; you can grab your bow and draw it without really worrying too much, especially if they’re focused on your spring turkey hunting decoys.

 

Blinds also have the added benefit of keeping you protected from the elements while you’re out there. Rain and wind can make for a pretty miserable time in the woods. But when you can hunker down inside a blind and stay warm and dry, you’re more likely to stay out longer. Obviously, more time afield can help increase your odds of putting a gobbler down for good. Since you’re well-hidden, you can also afford to sit very comfortably. The swivel-ease ground seat from Muddy® is a great option for turkey hunting from a blind. It comes with a convenient carrying strap, is very stable, and can swivel 360 degrees to allow you to get in position for a shot quickly. It’s slightly heavier at 15 pounds, which makes it a good candidate for bringing the seat out when you set the blind up (ahead of the hunting season). It’s already colored black, so it will blend into the dark blind interior, and then you can leave it for when it’s time to hunt.

 

 

Of course, the primary drawback to this style of spring turkey hunting is that it isn’t as portable and adaptable as just sitting somewhere. If you notice lots of turkeys congregating on the other side of a field one day, it would take more effort to pick up and move your gear than simply moving over to the other side by yourself. Of course, you could always just move and hunt by yourself in that situation and then resort to your blind if the weather’s not great. You can combine the two methods to take advantage of different situations.

 

Exposed at Ground Level

The other primary spring turkey hunting approach is to just sit in the woods or on a field edge somewhere with a good vantage point until a gobbler comes within range. Since you don’t have any concealment around you, this approach means you’ll need to really rely on your turkey hunting camo clothing and natural concealment opportunities, such as shrubs and long grasses, to hide your profile. That makes it tricky for bow hunting turkeys, so this approach is better for shotgun use. You’ll also have to keep your movements minimal and pay special attention to when you are truly not being watched (going back to turkey hunting 101). This can be a tricky catch-22 situation, because you can’t see what’s behind you, and can’t turn your head to check without potentially being spotted. One of the best spring turkey hunting tips is to set up in a good location with lots of cover behind you so you’re able to get away with a little movement when needed. While you could simply set up next to a large tree trunk to lean back against, sitting on the damp, hard ground for a few hours just gets old fast (and it gets old faster the older you are); it doesn’t provide great back support and will start to feel uncomfortable after a short time. Additionally, the best time to hunt turkey in the spring is often in the early morning when dew is thick on the grass and undergrowth. To help avoid these issues, the folding tripod ground seat folds up for easy packing and is camouflaged to use in the woods with some minor concealment in front of you. Being up off the ground a little can also help to produce some better visibility and shot angles around you while keeping your rear end dry.

 

Of course, the downside to this style of spring turkey hunting and the controversial method of turkey reaping is that you are exposed to the elements and can be easily seen. Again, there are ways to mitigate that risk (e.g., good camouflage clothing, being aware of your movements, finding natural cover, etc.), but it is still a risk. As mentioned above, you can combine these two methods easily to take advantage of each scenario you face.

 

 

 

When you head to the field this spring, perhaps very soon, plan ahead for whatever situation you are likely to encounter. If you hunt on private land where the turkeys are not as perceptive and the weather forecast is grim, you should really consider using a ground blind equipped with a comfortable chair. If on the other hand, you hunt mostly public land, you don’t have much choice except to use a ground seat for turkey hunting in the open. But as long as you’re prepared for it, you should be alright.

Bale Blinds 101 | Turkey Hunting with Bale Blinds

Bale Blinds for Turkey Hunting

 

Hunting turkeys from a blind is an effective strategy when it comes to springtime gobblers. It is even more effective when going after big boss gobblers with kids or inexperienced turkey hunters. The one challenge with portable ground blinds is they stick out like a sore thumb when trying to hunt a food plot, open field or power line where turkeys may be feeding or strutting. Bale blinds give you all the advantages of other ground blinds but fit in much better in open areas.

Bale blinds are nothing more than a hunting blind designed to mimic a round hay or straw bale sitting out in an open field. Unlike traditional ground blinds, hay bale blinds are dull in color, usually comprised of burlap or other natural fabric material left uncolored. The natural coloration blends in much more effectively than a dark camo blind, which is their big advantage when it comes to turkey hunting. Even though you may be hunting areas that have never had hay bales in them, the design of these ground blinds for turkey hunting are exactly what it takes to fool a distant gobbler into making a mistake.

 

 

Turkey Hunting from a Blind

 

Bow hunters chasing turkeys in the spring are very familiar with hunting ground blinds. They are about an archer’s only chance to get drawn on a close bird and make the shot. However, the proven advantages of better concealment, weather evasion and versatility in creating a spot are making turkey hunting from a blind the norm from bow hunters to shotgun hunters.

 

Even the best turkey hunters get busted year after year. The turkey’s eyesight is one of the best if not the best defenses to avoid predation out there. Concealment, therefore, is the key to consistently take spring gobblers. The standard approach to turkey hunting is finding a tree big enough to block your backside and sitting as motionless as possible. This is Effective, and many mature birds have been killed under this exact hunting setup, but many more turkey hunters have been busted from a quietly approaching bird or trying to get one last box call sequence in, only to be picked out from hundreds of yards down the field. Hunting blinds for turkeys address all these challenges and then some.

 

The turkey blind removes most uncertainties while afield, giving all turkey hunters a major leg up on mature gobblers. It is tough for even seasoned turkey hunters to sit still for hours waiting and also pick the exact perfect time to move if a bird comes in not as planned. Hunting turkeys from a blind makes it easier to sit for longer periods of time more comfortably and also move when needed without being detected. Also, ground blinds for turkey hunting like the portable Muddy Bale Blind are designed to be light and mobile so that they can be located right in the action.

 

 

Five Reasons Bale Blinds Work Well for Turkeys

 

Clearly a blind for turkey hunting gives you an advantage as opposed to the alternative. A blind like the Muddy Bale Blind works well for turkeys for these five reasons.

 

  1. Concealment

    Camo style portable ground blinds have a hard time blending into open areas well. Stick one of these blind out in a food plot or an agricultural field and pressured birds may be reluctant to come in. A bale blind presents itself more naturally in these situations, which helps to blend in more when hunting open areas for turkeys.

 

  1. Disguise Movements

    When hunting turkeys from a blind, you want to leave the camo clothing at home. Dress in all black (or as dark of clothing as you have) to take full advantage of the matte black interior of bale blinds. The dark interior allows you to move into position for a shot or to fire up one last call sequence to get that bird a few steps closer.

 

  1. Protection

    Spring weather can be unpredictable. As such, there are going to be times this spring when weather conditions will be less than favorable. Hay bale blinds provide protection from the elements, which is especially important when hunting those open areas where there is not protection from trees.

 

  1. Reduce Noise

    Turkeys stay alive with their eyesight but that does not mean they have poor hearing. A hay bale blind blocks most noises you may make in a blind that could alert a close turkey you may not even know is there.

 

  1. More Success for All Turkey Hunters

    Hunting ground blinds like a bale blind makes every turkey hunter more successful, but they benefit youth and inexperienced hunters the most. Bale blinds can comfortably fit two people so one mentor and mentee can hunt easily together while remaining concealed.

 

Early Spring Setups for Bale Blinds

 

Hunters still need to put their time in before the season to scout and pattern birds, and once you find birds it is time to make plans for where and how to hunt them. There are three early spring areas for hunting turkeys where bale blinds make the most sense.

 

 

Strut Zones

 

The first prime location for a bale blind is in strut zones. These areas are defined by disturbed leaves, broken feathers and increased turkey tracks and scat. Gobblers will seek out these areas from the roost in the morning or later in the afternoon after feeding. Typically, strut zones are found in and around fields like along one edge or a high corner. These open conditions lend themselves to using a bale blind. You can position hay bale blinds in a number of different spots in an open field or food plot depending on where birds are coming from to access the strut zone. A good tip is that mature birds usually visit strutting areas around the same time of day and take the same path to get there. The bale blind works well here because they can be positioned exactly where you need to be to get a shot without worrying about trying to brush in a blind just off the field, which may leave you out of position.

 

Feeding Areas

 

Second, feeding areas like established food plots and pastures are going to be good setups for early spring birds. After strut zones, locating areas where gobblers are feeding throughout the day are key in setting up your blind. Turkeys will use perennial food plots and pastures that are close to mast sources to find acorns and bugs. Areas like these that are adjacent to water are ideal because turkeys will frequent water sources throughout the day and the closer one is to a food source the more use it will get. Do not forget about right-of-way areas as well. Gobblers may use areas like power lines and gas pipelines as strutting zones but more importantly, these areas are usually planted with tall grasses that provide ample forage of bugs in the springtime. Again, open areas where birds are feeding are where hay bale blinds shine. Positioning one on a food plot or along a right-of-way will disguise you much better than other hunting ground blinds.

 

 

The Fly Down

 

Third and finally, roosting areas are another location to use a bale blind. Turkeys are going to be roosting in trees, obviously, so how does the bale blind work here you may ask? If you can pinpoint where birds are roosting, you can setup your bale blind to ambush them as they leave the roost in the morning or head to the roost at night. Turkeys are not graceful flyers and usually, they like to leave the roost and land in an open area. Hay bale blinds can be set up along field edges near roosted birds for morning hunts and in open fields or right-of-ways near water to catch birds in the evening heading to roost.

 

Bale Blind Setup Tips

 

There is more to hunting blinds for turkeys than simply getting your blind upright. The location is most important when positioning your bale blind, but several other considerations can also increase your odds from a bale blind.

 

Avoid setting up your bale blind facing the sun if at all possible. Bright sunlight can reveal your movements in the blind by adding light to the already dark inside. As you pick your location, think about the direction the sun will rise from and set to in conjunction with how your blind is set up. The sun’s position throughout the day and your timing on when to hunt the blind may or may not influence your hunt.

 

Get in a few days early to set up your blind. If you have scouted well, you know when birds are using an area so you can use the times when they are not there to set up your blind. Getting the blind in a few days before the hunt takes the pressure off having to put it up in the early morning hours and potentially risking bumping birds off the roost. More portable bale blinds should still be set up beforehand but can be adjusted if needed or work well for those that have limited time for scouting an area.

 

 

You have to go where the birds are this spring and if that means fields, food plots or right-a-ways then a bale blind is your best bet. The whole idea behind turkey hunting from a blind is to minimize the chances a gobbler will spot you. Open areas make it tough to hunt on the ground and other portable ground blinds stick out enough that they may alert birds that something is not right. Bale blinds cannot make you successfully all on their own. However, with good scouting and using setups around strut zones, feeding areas and roosting locations, they can give you the advantage in open areas to close the deal on a mature gobbler this spring.

turkey hunting ground blinds

Choosing the Best Turkey Hunting Ground Blind

How to Choose and Use Turkey Hunting Ground Blinds

 

As the weather continues to warm and we keep hearing the cardinals chirp outside, most hunters’ thoughts are turning to turkey hunting. After all, it’s the next major event of the year that we look forward to, and it’s just around the corner! This imminent arrival means you’re probably getting your turkey decoys ready, practicing a few more mouth calls, and patterning your shotgun. But as you prepare for turkey season this spring, have you thought about turkey hunting ground blinds much? They’re used a lot for fall turkey hunting, simply because you can also deer hunt out of them. But their use for spring turkey hunting is a little more sporadic.

 

Maybe you’ve never used one before, but you have been eyeing them for a couple years. While some shotgun turkey hunters prefer to sit in the open and depend on their turkey hunting clothing while they hunt instead, ground blinds are almost necessary for bow hunting turkeys. Because turkeys have such amazing eyesight, more shotgun hunters are turning to turkey hunting ground blinds as well. They might not be as portable as moving your body alone, but the advantage of being completely unseen is often a better tradeoff for portability. It allows you to bring your kids along more easily (you know they can’t hold still for very long), and it grants you more freedom of movement to get ready for a shot. Provided you pick the right locations for them and take a few precautionary steps before you hunt, you’ll be impressed with the benefits of using a ground blind.

 

 

How to Choose a Hunting Blind

Convinced you need a ground blind for turkey hunting yet? Before you run to the store to put one in the back of your pickup, you need to realize one important thing: not all blinds are created equal. Some are cheaply made or poorly designed for specific hunting purposes. Others are just too bulky or don’t blend in the way they should. Take a moment to consider your turkey hunting opportunities and compare them to the major categories below. If a hunting blind meets these specific criteria, you are in business and ready for hunting.

 

Design/Size

First off, if the turkey hunting ground blinds you’re looking at simply aren’t big enough for you, you should pass on them. If you feel cramped inside a blind, you won’t want to hunt in it very long, which will usually limit your opportunities at bagging a bird. For bow hunters especially, having enough elbow room to draw your bow back stealthily is critical to it all working. Some people prefer shooting in a standing position, so you need to find one to fit that style of hunting. Additionally, you might want a hunting partner or camera gear to join you on a given hunt, which means you’ll need even more room. Finally, some hunting blinds just seem like they were made for anything but hunters in mind. For example, windows containing noisy Velcro or zippers are sure to spook game out of range in a split second. But windows with a silent hook release can be operated with only one hand while the other holds your weapon.

 

Camouflage Pattern

As we mentioned, wild turkeys have amazing eyesight and can spot the smallest little irregularities. That’s one of the advantages of hunting from a ground blind; it totally conceals your movements. But if your pop up turkey blind doesn’t blend in the way it should, it’s not really doing its job. You can (and should) always take steps to brush it in a little, even if it’s in a field setting. But that won’t hide poor designs or camouflage patterns; that would be like putting makeup on a pig. Try to get the most realistic pattern you can find so you don’t have to drastically alter the look of your turkey hunting ground blinds.

 

Weather Resistance

If your hunting ground blinds can’t stand up to the unpredictable spring elements, you’re out of luck. One of the advantages of using a turkey blind in the first place is to stay out of the weather, which could include sleet or rain, depending on where and when you hunt. If the blind is constructed poorly, it will likely leak through after only a little while and start raining inside too. Who wants to hunt in that?

 

Stability

Along with weather considerations, most hunters leave their turkey hunting ground blinds in the field for at least a few weeks. This allows time to get the turkeys acclimated to seeing it and also includes the actual hunting time you spend in it. During those few weeks, it will experience high winds, falling branches, wildlife encounters, and probably more than you even want to think about (particularly if it’s a brand new blind). But that’s just how it goes. So if your turkey hunting blinds can’t stay securely anchored or hold up to the abuse they are going to face, they probably won’t last very long.

 

 

What’s the Best Turkey Blind?

So now that you know what to look for in your turkey hunting ground blinds, it’s time to actually go buy one. But is it possible to combine all the attributes discussed above into a single option?

 

Ground Blind Options

Ground blinds come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and features. We pride ourselves in the fact that our blinds, tree stands, and hunting accessories are top notch quality, offering you the best products available for your hunting. We offer 3 Hub-style ground blinds, the Ravage, Redemption, and the VS360. We also offer up-in-comers in the world of both deer and turkey hunting, bale blinds. Both the Muddy Bale Blind and Muddy Portable Bale Blind offer the quality of blind needed for turkey hunting, in a better disguised package! All of the ground blinds feature a blackout interior with solid and durable exterior.

How to Use Ground Blinds

Once you get your turkey blind out of the box at home, it’s time to consider how you’re going to use it to be the most effective turkey hunter you can be. While you could simply throw your blind up in the woods and potentially kill a turkey that same day, there are some other things you should think about first.

 

 

 

First, it usually helps to set your turkey hunting ground blinds up early so the turkeys and other wildlife have time to get used to it before you hunt them. Some birds don’t seem to care about or even notice blinds when they’re put up that day, but some definitely do. If you’re going to go hunting at all, why wouldn’t you eliminate any possible chance of being unsuccessful before it happens? In this case, it’s a very easy solution. If you hunt on private land, simply set up your ground blinds at least a week or two before your turkey season starts. That way, the normally wary birds among the flock should have settled down again and grown used to seeing it there. When they start to expect it, you will be all set to sneak into your blind and hunt. Depending on how discerning your local turkeys are, you may even want to leave the windows open so they get used to seeing the black shapes. If you keep them closed and they’re suddenly open when you go hunting, it will have the same effect as not having a blind there in the first place. If you hunt on public land, you don’t have much of a choice. Most public lands don’t allow you to leave ground blinds overnight. And for the places that do allow it, you run the risk of someone else stealing or destroying it when you’re not there. But as long as you’re setting up near some quality gobbler hot spots, you’ll still probably get a shot at one.

 

Before you hunt in your new ground blinds for turkey hunting, you may also want to consider a few concealment tips. First, you’ll want to get your brand new blind dirty. Literally. Slop some mud or dirt up on the walls and rub it around. But the goal is not to create a layer that hides your camouflage and makes you look like an earthen mound. Instead, you should wipe a thin layer around and brush most of it back off. This simple act helps cover up the slight sheen from new blind materials once the sun shines on it. Have you seen what dust can do to a shiny new car? It makes it look dull, right? That’s exactly what you want for camouflaged turkey hunting ground blinds.

 

After the blind is in place and mudded up, you should also take just a few moments to brush it in. No matter if you’re in the deep and thick timber or within an open, grassy field, it helps to surround the blind with some other natural vegetation to hide its outline. Lay lightweight branches against the sides of the blind and even on top as long as they’re not too heavy. Tuck tufts of grass and branches into any exterior crevices or around the windows. The whole idea is to make it blend in with the surrounding vegetation as much as possible, and nothing can help do that better than using some of that natural vegetation.

 

Using Turkey Hunting Ground Blinds This Spring

If any of this resonates with you, it’s probably time you start looking at adding a hunting blind to your turkey hunting gear. Using a blind, especially on turkeys, offers you a much better chance of success in the field; unless you choose a blind that falls short in the features we mentioned above. But if you pick a high-quality version that puts hunters’ interests first, you’ll wonder how you ever hunted without one before.

Feeders, Flashes, and Feathers | Simple Turkey Scouting

Tips on Scouting for Turkeys

There is no doubt that spring has officially sprung across much of the lower forty-eight states, and as old man winter begins to loosen his grip it is only a matter of time until the predawn air is filled with the sound of gobbling long beards.  Spring turkey hunting is the favorite past time of many sportsmen and women across the Country, and although the open day of turkey season may still be several weeks away, the time to begin scouting for turkeys is now.

Turkey-ology

As game species, the wild turkey is often underrated by many and is perceived to be a somewhat easy target to pursue.  The term “bird brain” pretty well sums it all up, and with the art of “fanning” beginning to become popular, many hunters are beginning to subscribe to the notion that turkey hunting isn’t as difficult or challenging of an activity as many would make it out to be.

Now, you don’t have to be a veteran at turkey hunting to know that those who subscribe to the philosophy mentioned above are only fooling themselves.  Turkey hunting, aside from often being physically demanding, requires that the hunter uses every tool at their disposal to put themselves in a position to be successful and sometimes that still is not enough to get the job done.

Turkey hunting success can ultimately be tied to one simple thing, and that is scouting.  Scouting turkeys is the name of the game, and mid-march is an excellent time to begin to do just that.  During the early spring months, wild turkeys will often still be in their winter groups with hens and poults from the previous year comprising one group and gobblers and jakes comprising the other.  Both groups will often utilize the same feeding and roosting areas, however, they will not begin to disperse until later in the spring.  Although still in the bachelor groups, gobblers will begin to strut and gobble starting in mid-march, especially during crisp, cold mornings.  This is no doubt that hearing a gobbler screaming on the limb can help make scouting turkeys an exciting and fun activity for anyone, regardless if you are beginning turkey hunter or a veteran.  As the spring continues to progress, groups of gobblers will begin to break up into singles and pairs, with calling and displaying continuing to increase as well.

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Larry Ellis: Photo

Scouting Tips & Tactics

Turkey hunting is all about dedication and preparation.  You need to be able to understand the day to day lives of the gobblers that reside within the area that you will be hunting.  Determining where the turkeys on your property roost and feed as well as locating strutting zones are all important pieces of information that you need to have.  In addition, having an understanding of the overall number of turkeys in your area is also an important piece of information to have at your disposal.

While hitting the woods at dawn to listen for a gobbling long beard is an effective turkey scouting technique, it comes with its limitations.  Turkey’s move, and depending upon where you are, can move a great distance over the course of the day.  Just because a turkey roosts on your farm does not mean that he will be there later in the morning.  It is important to do your best to use all the tools at your disposal to help you when it comes to scouting for turkeys.

Believe it or not, a game feeder and a few trail cameras can really help you when it comes to scouting turkeys and getting set for your turkey hunting adventure.  If you use these tools to your advantage, you can begin to develop an idea of not only how many turkeys you have on your property, but what areas they are using and when.

Feeders | Game Feeder use for Turkeys

Wild turkeys love cracked corn.  It is a source of carbohydrates and is easy for wild turkeys to forage on.  Better yet for the hunter, cracked corn is relatively cheap and for the purposes of scouting for turkeys, a little corn can go a long way.  Before using a game feeder and cracked corn as a means for scouting for turkeys, be sure to check the local regulations in the state that you are in to ensure that you are legal; however, if the use of cracked corn is authorized in your state then you are well on your way to gathering some serious intel.

game feeder for the purposes of scouting turkeys is really an easy process.  The first step is to identify an area that you either know turkeys will be passing through or utilizing at some point during the day.  Try to focus in on areas that you feel turkeys may be utilizing later in the spring, during the turkey hunting season.  This will help you to rule out any unintended perception bias from the trail camera photos.  Once you have your location selected, you can set up your game feeder and get to work.  It doesn’t take much corn lying on the ground to get the attention of wild turkeys.  In fact, for the purposes of gathering trail camera photos, less is more as it will deter other wildlife such as white-tailed deer from staking a claim.  Check the game feeder periodically, however, use caution and do your best to avoid bumping any turkeys off the area.

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Flashes | Trail Camera Tips for Turkeys

When it comes to turkey hunting, and specifically scouting for turkeys, trail cameras are your friend.  Trail cameras, especially when live video is available, can provide you with some real-time information that will certainly help you to start developing your turkey hunting game plan for the spring.  When it comes to utilizing trail cameras to scouting for turkeys, the philosophy is simple, you want to have as many cameras out in areas that you feel a gobbler may use at any given time and you want to be able to check the cameras as often as needed without bumping birds.

This is, of course, easier said than done, however, your life becomes much easier if you are utilizing trail cameras that are enabled to stream live video to your laptop or mobile device.  Having the ability to check your cameras remotely allows you to avoid running the risk of spooking any of the turkeys on your property while still receiving valuable information.

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If you are utilizing cameras that require to manually check the cards, where and when you check your cameras becomes a little more important.  If you are setting your cameras up in areas such as strut zones or roost sites, the mid-day hours are an excellent time to check your cameras.  If you have your cameras set up next to your game feeder, things become a little more challenging as wild turkeys could be using these areas at any given time, so proceed with caution.

Feathers | Turning Scouting into Hunting

Though it is a simple method, using a game feeder and a few trail cameras to your advantage can really help your gain a better perspective on the number of turkeys in your area and help you to begin to pattern their movements. This is critical information to any turkey hunter!

Spring food plots

The Power of Perennials | Spring Food Plots

Perennial Clover |Spring Food Plots

 

Establishing a food plot is an investment.  It is an investment of your time, your money, and your effort.  Most hunters devote to establishing a food plot in order to reap the benefits later in the year with the benefits, of course, being opportunities at a mature white-tailed buck or a long spurred gobbler.  There is no question that if you enjoy hunting and harvesting wild game, that establishing and maintaining a food plot can greatly increase your chances for success. With spring arriving, spring food plots started now, can create exactly the opportunities you can expect.

Back to the Basics:

Contrary to popular belief, not all food plots are created equal.  To think that you can simply toss some seed on the ground and have it be successful is simply not true.  Like anything, the more time and effort you spend planning, installing and maintaining your food plot the better the results will likely be.  Before you even break the soil, there are several factors that you’ll need to consider.

  • spring-food-plots-tips_pic1Location

Where you decide to place your spring food plot is a critical step in the planning process.  You want to ensure that you are creating your food plot in an area where wildlife can easily locate and utilize it, while at the same time ensuring that you are allowing yourself an entrance/exit strategy that works with the area. Establishing a food plot next or near bedding or roosting areas can be advantageous, but it can sometimes be detrimental as well.  Most prefer to establish their food plot along clearly defined travel areas, where wildlife may already be frequenting. The other strategy is to simply create a “destination” feeding area where it works for hunting. By creating a food plot that has tremendous pull in attraction and size (a lot of high-quality food), you can make the plot work for your hunting strategy.

  • Layout

The size and shape of a food plot is often something that many who establish them will not really consider, but believe it or not, there is a “better” and a “worse” when it comes to laying out your food plot.  When it comes to the shape of your food plot, long and linear will typically prevail over smaller and round any day.  The reason for this is rather simple.  Wildlife such as white-tailed deer and wild turkeys (among many others) are considered species of edge.  They prefer to utilize transitional areas between various cover types as travel and forage areas.  This is mainly a defense mechanism that will allow them to flee at the first sign of danger.  A long, linear food plot provides a plethora of edge in comparison to a small, round food plot.

  • Installation Limitations

Not everyone has access to large farm equipment that can sometimes be required to establish or maintain a food plot.  It really doesn’t matter how well you have planned out your food plot if you do not have the means to establish and maintain it.  It is critically important to keep these factors in mind when planning your food plot.  Being limited to small-scale equipment, such as those that can be utilized by an ATV can significantly play into what species of forage you wish to establish, so be sure to do your homework and plan accordingly.

  • spring-food-plots-tips_pic2Food Plot Species | Annual vs. Perennial

When it comes to food plot forages there are two categories to choose from, annuals and perennials.  Annuals consist of species like corn, soybean, milo/sorghum and wheat just to name a few.  As the name implies, annuals are species that need to be planted every single year.  These species are excellent options for wildlife food plots; however, from a cost standpoint they require an investment in time, seed, and effort each year to establish them.  Perennials, on the other hand, are species that once planted will germinate year after year.  Perennials would consist of species such as clovers, alfalfa, and chicory among many others.  These species of food plot forages require an upfront investment of time and money however once established, annual maintenance can generally keep perennial food plots in excellent condition for several seasons.  There is no question that in having a diversity of annual and perennial food plots on your property is likely the best case scenario, however, when time and money are limited perennials provides you with a feasible option that can help you grow, hold and harvest more game each and every year.

In terms of species to plant, research goes a long ways. Learning what species are out there for planting is a good way to start. However, you will quickly learn that most “experts” narrow their search and use down to just a handful of great plot species. One of the most common and effective spring food plots is clover. Particularly mixed clover plots (white and red) or straight ladino (white) clover plots work incredibly well. They are browse resistant, can take shade, and are hardy and require little in terms of establishment and maintenance.

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The Clover Connection

Among all the species of perennial forages, clover typically ranks at the top of the list.  There are multiple species of clovers available for use, however, when it comes to managing for wildlife the most popular variety used is typically Ladino clover.

Also referred to as “white clover”, Ladino clover is a perennial legume that actively grows during the cooler months of the year (spring and fall) and can be established easily and provide an immense wildlife benefit in a short amount of time.  Aside from the wildlife benefits, ladino clover is relatively inexpensive and generally doesn’t require much maintenance to keep a stand looking great and providing an excellent source of forage for white-tailed deer and wild turkeys.

  • spring-food-plots-tips_pic4Seed Bed Preparation

Regardless of whether you are establishing an annual food plot or a perennial food plot, everything starts with the seed bed.  Taking the time to have a soil test conducted in the area you plan to establish your food plot is a critical step that many will simply skip.  Ensuring that your soil is up to the task of producing what you are asking it to is important, so take the time to take care of your soil, and your soil will take care of you.

Once your soil test has been completed, it is time to prepare your seed bed.  When it comes to seeding clover, having a well-prepared seedbed is important.  It doesn’t matter whether you are using a disk, roto-tiller, or plot master to break the ground open when it comes to establishing clovers what matters most of all is how the food plot is finished.  Having a smooth seed bed is optimal for establishing a clover plot, so be sure to do your best to remove all of the clods by running a harrow or culti-packer over the site prior to seeding.  Once your seed bed is prepared, add any soil amenities as recommended by your soil test and you are set.

 

  • Seeding Options

Seeding a spring food plot, in particular, is incredibly easy in terms of actually putting the seed on the ground. Clover seed is rather small and can be easily spread by hand or mixed with lime or fertilizer and established with a broadcast seeder attachment on the back of an ATV.  Typically, clover species such as Ladino are seeded at a rate of 2 to 3 pure live seed (PLS) pounds per acre.  Though the rate is important, what is even more important is ensuring that you have adequately covered your food plot location with seed, so be sure to pay close attention to your coverage area when establishing your food plot. In some instances, thicker seed rate for ladino clover…in the 5 lbs/acre allows for quick germination and ground coverage. This means the food plot is a thick carpet in just a few weeks. It also means that the plot can hold moisture better than a plot broadcasted with 3lbs/acre.

While seed bed preparation is a very important part of establishing a clover food plot, the timing of the seeding is an equally important part of the process.  Without question, the best time of year to establish your clover plot is during the early spring or late winter months.  Often referred to as “frost seeding”, starting your clover food plot during these months allows the daily freeze/thaw action of the soil to work the seed into the soil.  If you are lucky enough to time your efforts in conjunction with a snow event, then you’re are set.  Spreading the seed on top of a fresh snow aids in protecting your seed from being foraged upon by birds and small rodents, while also allowing you to more easily see any areas that you may have missed when seeding.

  • spring-food-plots_pic5Maintenance and Care

Ladino clover food plots require very little maintenance and care once established.  Generally, all that is required to maintain a hearty forage base is a high mowing (if it’s a large plot >1 acre) to control annual broadleaves or at least one or two herbicide sprayings a year to keep the grass and other weeds at bay.  While an ATV mower or brush cutter is typically the preferred method, raising the mower deck on your riding mower can be enough to do the trick. If you have a small clover plot meaningless than an acre, a lot of deer browse essentially mows the plot. Keep in mind, mowing drastically decreases the amount of food available to your deer, while at the same time opening gaps in the clover for weeds to sprawl up and moisture to escape.

The biggest competition to maintaining your ladino clover plot is generally grass encroachment. You can resort to a heavier-handed approach by using a grass selective herbicide (Clethodim or Sethoxydim) such as Select to help control the encroachment.  A grass specific herbicide will only affect grass species, and will not harm the broadleaves such as clovers and other forbs and legumes you might have in your mix and will keep your clover food plot producing year in and year out.

Bucks, Beards, and Babies

So, aside from the return on investment why would you want to establish a perennial clover plot?  The answer is simple; from a wildlife standpoint, these perennial legume plots provide a source of protein and other important nutrients that are important for the health of the white-tailed deer on your farm.  From improving lactation in does to helping grow larger antlers in bucks, these plots will be utilized from the spring months all the way through the first frost.  In addition to providing a forage base, these areas are also often selected by does as fawning locations and can help increase the fawn survival on your farm as well. Clover fills the gap where late season food sources finally are completely exhausted, and soybeans and other crops have yet to be planted. Essentially clover is the missing species that can provide the food and nutrition when it is likely not available.

There is no question that a clover plot is an excellent place to encounter a gobbler in the spring, and the reason is simple, ladino clover plots provide wild turkeys with an excellent source of forage as well.  In addition to the forage that the clover itself provides, these areas also attract a wide range of soft-bodied insects which are an important source of protein for wild turkeys.  In addition to adult wild turkeys, these plots provide an excellent brood rearing location for young turkeys as well.  Ladino clover plots, not only help you to harvest more wildlife, but they also help you to grow more wildlife!

Hunting Strategies

No matter if you are chasing a big buck or a long beard, ladino clover plots can help you to be successful.  Wildlife will utilize these spring food plots all year long, which can really help you to monitor the wildlife on your property throughout the year.  A clover plot is an excellent location to maintain a trail camera set throughout the course of the year. These food plots are perfect locations to utilize your trail cameras in conjunction with a ground stake.  Have an “in the field perspective” can not only provide your with some excellent information pertain to the health of the wildlife on your property but can also provide you with some amazing trail camera pictures as well.  Ground stakes provide you with a way of collecting the exact information you wish to collect and remove the issue of finding the perfect tree or trimming limbs and a clover plot is a perfect place to use it.

spring-food-plots_pic6-(2)There is something about hunting over a ladino clover plot from a ground blind that is special.  Ground blinds like a bale blind can often blind right into the surrounding vegetation and are perfect for these types of locations.  During the early fall, when there is still ample foliage on the trees and undergrowth, archery hunting from a tree stand can sometimes be challenging, and with ladino clover food plots generally being areas of high use during the early fall, hunting from a ground blind can be an extremely effective approach.

christmas-gifts-for-hunters_pic7If you are looking for a way to increase the number of white-tailed deer and wild turkeys on your property while at the same time, increasing your opportunities for success then consider establishing a ladino clover food plot, and begin reaping the rewards!