Start prepping for spring turkey season.
By Trent Jonas
Many states offer spring archery seasons for turkey—and that’s awesome news, because spring is an excellent time to bag a gobbler. Spring is mating season for wild turkeys, so they are active and frequently less skittish than they are during the fall season. This affords bowhunters plenty of prime opportunities to take a turkey as the weather warms up from winter. Here are a handful of tips for those hoping to head out into the field after a spring turkey.
Be sure to check your state’s seasons and regulations. Spring turkey hunting is often staggered between archery and firearm seasons, and many states also offer a spring youth hunt for turkey. Depending on where you live, spring archery season may begin as early as March or last as late as June. Be aware of bag limits and refresh your ability to differentiate between male and female turkeys, as many states only permit toms to be taken, particularly in the spring. In some areas, turkey tags/permits are assigned by lottery. In such cases, you’ll need to verify the lottery deadlines and submit your application a few months before spring turkey season begins.
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It’s been a long winter, so before you head out to hunt a turkey, it’s a good idea to find out where they are. To get started, hit the woods in the early morning to figure out where they roost. Look for sign like molted feathers, droppings, tracks, and places where they’ve scratched beneath leaves or other ground cover looking for food.
At this point, don’t use calls, just listen for them. Toms will often gobble as they get ready to come off the roost. Once you have a sense of the turkeys’ general location, revisit the area in the days before season opens. Head out at different times of day so you can get feel for where and when turkeys are roosting and where they forage.
During the spring months, it’s often easier to locate hens, which tend to travel in flocks, than toms. The toms will also be searching for the hens. So, stick with them, and you’re likely to get a shot at a gobbler. In fact, consider this tactic rather than using decoys, as it’s more effective and allows you to travel lighter. Spring is mating season, so if you locate a group of hens, you can be pretty certain that the toms will come calling.
Learn to use a variety of calls. Start with a locator call, which mimic the calls of species like owls, hawks, crows, and even coyotes. Used where a tom can hear you, such a call can cause a tom to emit a shock gobble and give away his location. Excited turkey vocalizations—and even loud noises—can also elicit a shock gobble from a camouflaged tom.
Use a variety of vocalizations and change up your calls as you hunt. You can keep a diaphragm call in your mouth while you’re stalking or waiting which will prevent a turkey from noticing your movement as you reach for a call. Importantly, though, don’t overdo the calls. If a tom thinks you're just messing with him, he may stop responding and move on.
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The best weather for spring turkey hunting is the weather in which you’d probably most like to hunt: Clear, calm, sunny spring mornings. This kind of weather will get the toms gobbling from the roost. On the other hand, if the birds are still breeding and not on the nest, the hens will come to the tom and they’ll change locations as a group.
Although, nice weather is the most favorable, it’s certainly possible to hunt turkeys in any conditions, as long as you know what they’re most likely to do. Snow may inhibit the turkeys’ regular patterns, but at the same time, it makes tracking a little easier. On hot days, look for a water source and scout the shaded areas nearby. Rain can provide excellent opportunities because it inhibits turkeys’ keen eyesight and often forces them into open areas.