The Early Season
In most places across the United States, the spring turkey season typically commences during March or April. The only states that do not open during this time are the northern states which hunt during May.
Depending on weather conditions for that spring, the earlier portions of spring turkey hunting can be challenging for hunters. The trials during the early season come from the lack of green foliage and cover while walking or trying to call in a gobbler. Another challenge presented during the early season is that turkeys are in the first portion of their breeding season and can be shy to come to specific calls. Below are three tips for early-season success.
Stay Put- Use A Ground Blind
One of my favorite tactics for spring turkey hunting is to get as close to the roost as possible before setting up to call. Unfortunately, during the early season, that isn’t always a possibility. With low temperatures, the leaves have yet to bloom out into total growth. And the leaves on the underbrush are slower to grow as well. Making your way through the timber without being spotted by turkeys is harder when new growth is behind schedule.
When the spring foliage is slow-growing, a hunter should stay patient and use a ground blind such as the Muddy Prevue 3 to help keep concealment. Often, hunters will have their blinds set up before hunting. By having the blind in place before hunting, the hunter can ease into the area before daylight, then begin calling as the day breaks without being seen by nearby turkeys.
One of the most prominent mistakes hunters make during the early portion of the season is trying to make a move to get into a better position to call, only to be caught by the gobblers’ keen eyesight. By spooking a gobbler early, the hunter runs the risk of not being able to call in that specific bird for the rest of the season. The hunter should be patient and use a ground blind as their primary source of concealment to ensure success for the remainder of the season.
Use A Jake Decoy
During the earlier spring portion, male turkeys are in a pecking order to find out who the dominant bird is. If the pecking order has already been established, using a jake decoy like the Avian X HDR Jake Decoy can lure a mature gobbler into shooting range because the dominance is still fresh on the mind. A jake decoy placed near a hen decoy is typically the perfect setup for the early season. When a mature tom encounters a jake decoy, he thinks that jake will breed one of his hens before he does, triggering a desire to fight. The dominant urge to whip up on the jake decoy can bring a mature tom running in from a distance.
As the season progresses, mature gobblers have often been whipped by other gobblers at some point. Using a jake or tom decoy in the latter portion of the season can detour a gobbler from coming closer because of the fear of getting into another exhausting battle with another gobbler. Instead, use the jake decoy during the early season and tag out early.
Use Calls At A Lesser Volume
Another common mistake that turkey hunters make during the early season is calling too loud. Although calling too much or too loud is a mistake hunters can make throughout the entire season, the early season is subject to calling with too much volume because of less foliage on the trees. When there are few leaves on the trees, the sounds of a hunter calling carry for a longer distance.
It is crucial to keep the calling at a lower volume to avoid spooking a gobbler who is nearby. Using calls such as purring, clucks, and soft yelps is ideal when sound travels farther. Often, hunters can use a slate call or a pot-style call to mimic the sounds of a hen softly purring while feeding through the leaves. Purring with an occasional cluck and soft yelps keeps the gobbler curious about where the hen is located, causing him to search, which leads him into closer range.
It is vital to use decoys when calling open areas. When there is less cover throughout the timber during the early season, gobblers will often be cautious about responding to a hunter’s calling. When the gobbler can see for longer distances, he constantly looks ahead to spot the hen making all the calls. If he doesn’t see anything, the gobbler doesn’t feel safe and becomes weary to come any closer. Again, softer calling can also make the gobbler search for the hen. If calling too loud, the gobbler can hang up outside of shooting range until he sees the hen, then respond.
The beginning of the spring turkey season can often create an unexplainable urgency among hunters, inducing a feeling that they must hunt hard until they can make a harvest. The spring turkey season is only a few short weeks, and then it is over. Slow down, be patient and enjoy a successful season.