"HOW TO OUTFOX A SPRING GOBBLER " by Luke Clayton Luke Clayton With the spring turkey season only days away, its time to plan our upcoming hunt. Regardless whether were hunting eastern turkey in Kentucky or Rio Grande gobblers here in Texas, there are a few tricks that will help us bag Ole Longbeard. Ive spent time in the spring woods hunting turkeys for nearly thirty years now, and often with some very experienced turkey hunters. Ive learned a few things from these guys and even more from the turkeys we hunted. In the outdoors, few things are absolute truths. Granted, the movement of the planets is constant; we know when the sun comes up each day, and when it sets, but when it comes to predicting patterns of game animals and birds, we can only guess and base our assumptions on past experiences. One truly hunts turkeys in the spring. Granted, some gobblers are shot around corn feeders, especially in Texas, but this practice takes much away from the true sport of spring turkey hunting. The hunter takes to the woods with his calls, decoys and shotgun or bow in attempts to first, locate a gobbler, then have the bird close the distance to what he thinks is a receptive hen. On occasions such as last spring in Palo Pinto County, I had to close the distance to a couple of gobblers that simply would not cross the Brazos River. I was on the opposite bank calling and with every series of hen yelps, the two gobblers responded by gobbling that was loud enough to shake the leaves! Once I crossed the watercourse, I was able to call the birds up within a few yards, just on the other side of a long pile of driftwood, near the waters edge. Turkey hunting is definitely a challenging endeavor that can be likened to a chess game. Moves are made that result in consequences that hopefully result in a successful hunt and a big gobbler on the ground. Sometime even the best laid plans work; sometime they dont. Here are some of the techniques I use when hunting spring turkey. I use these as a guideline but am always quick to alter plans when the situation dictates. PATTERN YOUR SHOTGUN FIRST - All shotguns shoot a bit differently and its important to pattern your shotgun with the load you plan to use to hunt turkeys. Either buy a turkey target or make one. Heres how: Use a piece of cardboard, a black marker and your hand for a pattern. Clamp your four fingers together then, touch your thumb to the fingers. This silhouette perfectly duplicates a turkeys head. Your arm serves as his neck. Use the marker to outline your arm and hand on the cardboard. Then, back off 30 yards, hold a bead on the center of the birds neck and see how many pellets hit the neck/head. Adjust your sight picture until your pattern centers on the head/neck. Body shots on turkeys should be avoided when hunting with a shotgun. Its pellets in the neck or head that puts the bird on the ground. Ive killed several gobblers with my bows. When bow hunting, center of body shots are best. USE FIELDS TO YOUR ADVANTAGE - Food plots are common these days and on many ranches, large fields are planted in winter wheat for cattle. If the areas you are hunting has land planted in wheat or food plots for wildlife, use them to your advantage. On many occasions, Ive had gobblers spot my hen decoy, set near the edge of a wheat field, from a quarter mile away and come strutting within bow range. Try to set up in the cover of the trees and brush adjacent the field and place your decoys on high ground in an area with good visibility. Use dowel rods to give your decoys more elevation if necessary. Calling is helpful when using this technique, but once a gobbler spots your decoy, chances are pretty good he will make a beeline for it. Avoid calling too aggressively, especially to a bird heading your way. I like to set a jake decoy a yard or so behind the hen. If there is one thing a boss gobbler cannot stand during breeding season, its the sight of a young gobbler (jake) in the vicinity of hens. Photo by Luke Clayton MOVING IS SOMETIMES NECESSARY - On occasion, you might hear a gobbler respond to your hen yelps by gobbling but after repeated gobbles, it becomes obvious that he is not closing the distance to your position. When this occurs, sometimes moving just thirty yards then setting up and calling again will close the deal. In the real world, hen turkeys seldom stay in one place and call. When the turkey hunter moves thirty or fifty yards, the gobbler is tricked into thinking his hen is on the move and he moves closer to locate her. CALL ON THEIR LEVEL - Ive found that turkeys do not respond well to calls coming from a lower elevation. When a gobbler responds to my call, and Im hunting in hilly country, I always try to get on his approximate elevation or, above before I set up to call him in. Turkeys do not like to cross natural barriers such as fences, heavy brush or streams to approach what they perceive to be a receptive hen. Try to set up to call in areas that allow approaching gobblers easy access. MID-MORNING IS BEST - Many turkey hunters leave the woods if they havent shot a bird by 9 am. This is a major mistake. Ive killed far more birds through the years from mid-morning until noon than during the first hour or so of daylight. When gobblers fly down from their roosts at first light, chances are very good they are already with hens. After the initial morning breeding activity occurs and hens head to their nests, gobblers once again become active. Gobblers are often not as vocal during mid morning, so remain very still and although you might have a preconceived idea of the direction the bird will approach, he might come from anywhere. Many times, I've simply looked up and there stands a big gobbler that showed up unannounced without a single gobble. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ OUTDOOR TIP OF THE WEEK Chances are very good crappie are in water 2-4 feet deep in the waters you fish. They are in the middle of their spawn on most lakes. Try placing a crappie jig 1-3 feet below a floater (depending upon water depth) and make a long cast. Slowly crank the jigs back in, allowing them to stop at bits of likely cover. A quick, short pop of the rod tip will impart just enough movement to entice a crappie holding tight to the cover. Wade fishing can also be very effective now. Using a 12 foot jig pole and wading the shallows, one can drop the jigs right into the heaviest cover. To avoid hang-ups, drop the jigs vertically into the cover and remove them vertically. When a crappie takes the bait, rear back on the jig pole and hoist him out of the cover as quickly as possible. You will catch more fish and spend more time fishing and less re-tying jigs using this method! Photo by Luke Clayton ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Want some new wild game recipes and so much more? Listen to Outdoors With Luke Clayton for a new show each week at www.catfishradio.com and check out the new fishing videos at lukeshotspots.com Contact Luke at firstname.lastname@example.org The BOC has a virtual library of Luke's stories right here on the forums; just about anything you could want to read about the outdoors. Click here to see a boat load of information!