By all indications it should be a good one, at least as good as last year, and thousands of hunters, veteran and first-timers, will be waiting impatiently for that opener. It won’t be hard to take a fat young jake, but a good deal tougher to bag an old gobbler who’s been around for a few years. They can be had, one or the other, if you follow a few basic rules.
The first one is obvious — you’ll need to pattern the family shotgun. To kill a gobbler you need plenty of shot in the head and neck area, and some shotguns don’t handle this brand of shell or another well, leaving good sized gaps in the pattern that can cause a lost bird. Check them first. At least as important is doing some scouting to find out where the birds are. Hunting where they aren’t is pointless, and the little flocks and clusters of birds move often as food supplies dwindle.
If you find plenty of sign in this woodlot or stretch of tall timber, scratchings as they seek insects, centipedes, millipedes, and earthworms as well as left over nuts, and it’s fresh sign with droppings and lost feathers in plenty, that’s a good place to hunt. You’ll need to know the basic calls of turkey hunting and they’re easily available at most serious sporting goods stores. Buy some calls and a disc or tape, and practice. At least, you don’t have to be a bonafide expert to bag a bird. One of the worst calls I ever heard came from a live hen turkey, and I’m betting she called in a tom eventually.
For the actual hunting, there are several ways to go. One is to travel an area just before dark and hope to roost a flock, then come back before dawn and wait in a good location until the birds fly down . With any luck, you can offer up a few clucks, call in the tom immediately, and get your shot. If not, you go looking for prime terrain. Male turkeys like an open spot to do their strutting before the hens, and if you can find one with timber close by, that’s a good place to set some decoys and start calling.
If you’re hunting on hilly land, the best spot is likely to be a clearing right on top, and if none exists, you might as well try sitting down and doing some calling, then moving a hundred yards or so for more calling, and keep it up. Hopefully, you’ll hear a gobble sooner or later, from an interested tom.
The experts say you should start your calls soft, maybe a quiet tree yelp or two. If nothing happens, use a snappy hen yelp, then a few cuts, then a louder sound yet to attract birds from further away. And when you’ve got one coming, shut up! Too many gunners get excited, and call an approaching tom constantly hoping to hurry him along. Which might send wary birds in the opposite direction. If he hangs up, give a cluck or two, then hope. If that doesn’t work, there’s always another day.
Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at [email protected] You also can visit his blog at outdoorswithmartin.com.
HOOKS & BULLETS
• Visitors to South Bass Island this summer have the chance to explore Lake Erie science and history at the South Bass Island Lighthouse, the Aquatic Visitors Center, and on Gibralter Island. The lighthouse grounds are open to the public dawn to dusk free of charge unless otherwise posted. Tours will be offered from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on June 8, July 13, and August 10. The Aquatic Visitors Center gives visitors a chance to explore Lake Erie's complex ecosystem through hands-on activities and offers children ages 15 and under free fishing gear to borrow and a 100-foot fishing pier. Two science and history tours of OSU's Gibralter Island are offered at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. each Thursday from June 20 through Aug. 8.
• Looking for a fun hike? You can find it in any of northern Ohio's woodlots, parks, and forests this month. Wild flowers are springing forth right now, and will continue until the middle of May. They'll range from spring beauties and Dutchman's breeches to trilliums, May apples, and more, and will be found by those who walk hiking trails in our state parks and nature p reserves or any local wooded area. For more information on spring flowers in Ohio, check out the Ohio Wildflower Bloom Report at naturepreserves.ohiodnr.gov/wildflowers.