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Useful tactics for spring turkey hunters

By DICK MARTIN • Apr 21, 2018 at 8:00 AM

Ohio’s spring turkey season, a long awaited event for many, will arrive on April 23 in the south zone and April 30 in the northeast zone.

From all indications it should be a better than average year, thanks to a fairly mild winter that led to good survival of the young polts, so your chances of bagging a bird or two are excellent. If that is, you make no mistakes. Jakes may be a little stupid and easy pickings for hunters, but the old gobblers have usually been hunted more than once and survived, so you’ve got to do everything right. I certainly don’t need to tell serious hunters that they’ll need good camouflage gear and have had plenty of practice at making the various kinds of calls with help from purchased tapes and/or videos. But there are some fine points that it would pay to remember.

The first and crucial point is that you need to find some birds. Take time to scout out areas you plan to hunt and look for feathers, scratchings, droppings, and other signs of turkey presence. When the season is drawing close, look for roost trees. One way to find a roost is to travel small roads in public hunting areas and stop here and there to use an owl hoot call. Roosted birds will often gobble in reply and reveal their presence. Or walk your favorite private land just at dusk and after dark doing the same. Pinpoint a roost, and your chances of taking a gobbler go up astronomically.

The next question is — where are you going to hunt, flat land or hills? If it’s the former, look for those perfect spots to do some calling. The ideal is good sized timber with brushy areas and a tree side pasture or clearing where the toms can do their strutting. Pick your calling spot near the clearings and plan to place a few decoys, maybe two hens and a jake 15 to 20 yards out in the clearing with the jake facing the hens. Sometimes a big gobbler will come in cautiously to the decoys when you start calling and sometimes he’ll come at a run ready to flog the offending jake.

In hill country with plenty of ravines, hill tops, timber and clearings, remember that the big toms don’t like to travel far and don’t like to cross ravines and other obstacles, particularly when they have a hen or more already. So, set up on hilltops whenever possible and start calling. If you get a reply, wait to see if he’s coming to you. If not, and the calls are coming from ever further away, move quietly and try to set up in front of him. It may work and it may not, but if you’re very quiet, there’s a good chance.

There are some vital do’s and don’ts, too. One is that when a bird is coming your way, stop calling. Amateurs too often start calling louder and more often hoping to hurry the bird along, but that can turn a wary tom off rather than on. If he hesitates and hangs up, try a few soft clucks and feeding calls, and make sure you have several kinds of calls along. Sometimes a tom with several hens already won’t come far for just one more, but if you tune up with several calls imitating a small flock of hens, he might come running.

And if a tom shuts up after a gobble or two, don’t give up. Some will ghost in without making a sound, so wait at least 15 minutes. If nothing still happens, you have nothing to lose by getting loud and aggressive. Sometimes the hens will get curious and come over to see who’s part of the new flock. The gobbler has to tag along then.

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• The Ohio Department of Higher Education has awarded $3.5 million in funding for 21 additional projects in its ongoing Harmful Algal Bloom Research Initiatve. HABRI is a statewide response to the threat of harmful algal blooms that arose out of the 2014 Toledo drinking water crisis where elevated levels of the algal toxin microcystin in Lake Erie threatened water supplies for more than 500,000 people in northwest Ohio. The selected projects focus on reducing nutrient loading in Lake Erie, studying its dynamics, and better informing water treatment plants on how to remove toxins.

• Like to paddle on one of Ohio's beautiful wild, scenic, and recreational rivers this spring, summer, or fall? There are now 14 rivers around the state with 800 river miles designated as Scenic Rivers, and four, the Big and Little Darby Creek, Little Miami River, and Little Beaver Creek have also been named national scenic and recreational rivers. For more information on the 14 rivers and their locations, visit watercraft.ohodnr.gov/scenicrivers.

• Bird watchers from all over the state will be converging at Magee Marsh Wildlife Area this year for the free Hike the Dikes program. It's open to all ages and provides opportunity to explore Magee Marsh, one of the nations top birding hot spots. Hike dates include May 12, June 9, Aug. 11, and Sept. 8. For more information, call 419-898-0960. 

• The Mohican Wildlife Weekend will be held on April 27 through 29, and as always it will be an interesting and well attended weekend. There will be lots of events, literally something for everyone who enjoys nature and the outdoors, and among those events will be a number held on Saturday and Sunday at Pleasant Hill Lake Park. They'll range from archery shooting and gold panning to archaeological displays, fishing & casting, and a fly tying workshop. Google up Mohican Wildlife Weekend for a full list of events and locations.

• Nature lovers looking for the best displays of wild spring flowers can receive help from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources this spring. The ODNR will publish an Ohio wildflower bloom report each Friday detailing which species is blooming where, and making specific recommends for seeing the best displays of spring bloomers across the state. Visit naturepreserves.ohiodnr.gov/wildflowers to read each weekly report. 

• The Sportsmens Alliance is offering a 52 gun Raffle for some excellent weaponry. Each ticket is $50 and readers can buy several until they sell out 1,000 tickets. Each ticket is entered in all 52 drawings and ticket holders can win more than once. For details or to buy tickets, call 614-888-4868.


Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at [email protected] You can also visit his blog at outdoorswithmartin.com.

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