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Gearing Up for Spring Gobblers

April 2, 2011
By David Rearick
As waterfowl season drifts to a close here in Pennsylvania, my mind has already switched from feet down honkers to thundering treetops nestled high on my favorite oak ridges. As with every spring; planning out trips, tags, and gear is an important part in preparing myself for the upcoming season. Little things like making sure I have enough chalk to ensuring that my boots are well sealed and waterproof all end up finishing off my pre-season preparation. With just a few months before my planned trip to hunt Osceola’s in Florida and subsequent potential grand slam, the time is now to get geared up for the spring season.

Apparel Repair

As hunting apparel goes, things can easily be torn, broken, and punctured throughout the course of a season. While I am a bit of a procrastinator and let things go often times too long, I always take some time before the season to look over items that may be in need of a needle and thread or a good dose of scrub bush and water. The first item to inspect is clothing and turkey vests, and items like rips and tears and missing buttons are all sewn and replaced followed by a trip to the washing machine. Next comes boots, and they are given a good bath, set out to dry, and then sprayed with an aerosol waterproofing just in case. Having apparel in a ready to go fashion helps put things in motion for pre-scouting days in the field with no need to worry about a looming issue from the year previous.

Turkey Essentials

Everyone has their own list of go to gear including items like decoys, calls, and misc. items, but after 11 months of off-time, re-organizing this gear is a great way to make sure that everything is in the vest come the opener. The first thing to look at is decoys to ensure all the stakes are still there and nothing is worse for wear. Following decoys, inspecting different calls of choice and replacing any worn out diaphragms before the shelves’ become un-stocked is a sure fire way to have your favorite yelper at the ready. When calls are in place and before heading to the store, make sure other small items like chalk, scuffing pads, and head nets/gloves are all in good order.

Woods Time

With gear in good order, it is time to start frequenting favorite hunting spots scouting for bird activity. Personally, I like to start about three weeks before the season with some light windshield scouting and meetings with landowners to re-secure permissions. Once it gets within two weeks, it is time to lace up the boots and head into the woods, but without calls. Calling to birds early just to get them to gobble is not a good idea as it can give them a little education that hunters will soon be in the woods. Looking more at their natural movements off of the roost rather than just finding roosting locations by getting them to shock gobble will pay larger dividends in understanding daily routines, travel corridors, and how to get in front of them especially when the woods goes silent. I have taken many birds by actually backing well away from the roost, letting them gobble their heads off and fly down, and then getting in their path setting up with a decoy and some light calling; many times having them come in completely silent. It is more natural for a gobbler to get inquisitive enough to investigate a bird that is in their travel path, as typically birds gobbling on the roost are calling in order to assemble hens underneath them and not looking for a direction to go, as their fly down routine is almost pre-planned the night before.

Roosting Birds

Roosting birds the nights before the opener is a good way to get a feel for what travel paths they might take in the upcoming days, based on pre-season scouting. I like to do this simply to ensure birds are still using the area and to help pre-determine my footsteps into a specific spot before the hunt. Not going underneath them is always the best way to go in un-noticed and if avoiding walking a particular field edge or ridge that may leave me exposed is possible, I most certainly do it. But, if roosting the birds the night before isn’t possible, I go in early treading lightly and just sit and listen to where the birds are before making a move. The key here is to be proactive and move at a moments notice, but also always be cautious that a bird roosted closer than expected just isn’t talking yet. It takes a while to feel out the circumstances, but after years chasing these birds and making plenty of mistakes, it becomes second nature knowing what time is the right time.

While I am a waterfowl maniac, there is still no other season that gets me excited like spring turkey does. The trials, tribulations, and ups and downs are all part of the game. Learning from mistakes has always been important, and when a gobbler slips up, patience and persistence are keys to tagging out before the season comes to a close.

Fact Box

It takes a while to feel out the circumstances, but after years chasing these birds and making plenty of mistakes, it becomes second nature knowing what time is the right time.



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