By: Heath Wood
The Challenge of Flocks
When a hunter learns of an area that holds large flocks of wild turkeys, they quickly assume that the chances of making the harvest would be much easier. These areas typically allow the opportunity to call at several different turkeys compared to two or three gobblers in smaller flocks.
When talking with Drury Outdoors team member Josh Sparks about how easy it is to harvest a turkey in large flocks, he explained that hunters should be ready for a challenge even though it may seem easier. While hunting recently in Nebraska on their annual turkey trip, Sparks says that he and his hunting buddies faced significant challenges before success. These challenges consisted of staying hidden from larger flocks, calling against other turkeys, and taking them with a bow, making the hunt much more complicated.
Sparks and a few of his friends from college have a tradition that consists of an annual trip to Nebraska in late March to create a more challenging hunt. “In late March, it gives us a chance to get some early season action when turkeys are still in their winter flocks,” said Sparks, explaining they take along their bows and try to get archery close to large, numbered flocks to enhance their encounter.
Early Stages Of A Hunt
When Sparks and his friends arrived to hunt, the first thing on their to-do list was to locate the large winter flocks. “Our hunt was scheduled for March 25th, so we elected to arrive on the 24th to touch base with landowners and secure our places to hunt,” stated Sparks. After ensuring that all designated areas were ready to hunt, Sparks described how they tried to locate turkeys.
After looking at Deer Cast to see an increased chance of high winds, Sparks explained that they had two types of properties that he and his friends could hunt. The first was high up in the hills, and the other was low on a river bottom. With the forecasted 25 to 30 mph winds, Sparks stated they elected to hunt in lower bottoms. “When filming our hunts, audio is a large key to the quality of the hunt. When hunting large flocks, the range of vocalizations that can be heard is higher, so we elected to hunt in the bottoms on our first morning.”
When it came to locating turkeys before the hunt, Sparks described how they recalled having previous luck in bottoms such as the river bottom; turkeys were scavenging and going wherever the cattle had been. “Turkeys seem to follow behind the cattle to pick up leftover feed, and they like to turn over the cow patties to find bugs and extra feed.” On Sparks and his friend’s setup, they decided to sit between a large row of pine and cedar trees that ran along the north side of the river and created an excellent windbreak while hunting. Now that they had found turkeys, the next challenge became calling the large flock into archery range.
Getting In Range For A Great Harvest
When trying to call a gobbler into range, the challenge is extremely high because of competition from other turkeys. “It is tough to do a lot of good calling where we were hunting,” said Sparks. He added, “Where we hunted, there were 150 to 200 turkeys in the flocks, so competing against that many real turkeys is almost impossible.” Sparks explained that the key is to get in between the flocks and where they travel on their daily routine. Let the decoys and the mimicking of other turkeys do the work when hunting larger flocks.
Early on the morning of their hunt, Sparks explained how they packed in the Muddy Outdoors’ new VS360 blind to stay out of the wind, stay concealed while filming, and have room to draw their bows when ready to shoot. “The blind easily set up in approximately 15 to 20 seconds; it had more than enough room to draw my bow, and the blackout interior of the blind helped keep us stay concealed. The VS360 is lightweight enough that we carried it in that morning.”
Outside of the Muddy blind, at 20 yards, Sparks described how they used the Avian X LCD Jake, the Laydown Hen, and an Upright Hen to help attract turkeys into the archery range.
When using decoys, Sparks explained that using a Jake decoy helped create jealousy from the more mature toms, resulting in them coming closer to check it out. On Sparks’ hunt, he believes the Avian X decoys attracted the attention of a jake who came closer than began yelping. “The jake helped us bring in my gobbler. When the jake began yelping, I started yelping back.” After Sparks began calling back at the jake, he added a few fighting purrs that eventually attracted the tom closer as the jake approached the decoys. “After the gobbler followed the jake to the decoys, he flogged them, allowing me to draw my bow and make a successful shot,” stated Sparks.
During the remainder of Sparks and his friend’s early-season Nebraska turkey hunt, they used the Muddy Outdoors blinds, the Avian X decoys, and aggressive calling to finish their hunt with four different harvests. Sparks and his friends’ success is proof that even though there is a challenge when hunting large flocks of turkeys, success can be achieved if done correctly.