Though we’re a far cry from sun-soaked days and electrifying gobbles, Old Man Winter’s grasp is weakening. I don’t know about you, but when I kick back in the La-Z-Boy to daydream I see widespread fans popping over green hills and red heads morphing white as a big tom closes the distance.
One of North America’s most coveted animals, wild turkeys are no joke to harvest, especially when chasing the savvy bird with archery tackle. Sure, they are plentiful in numbers, but if you plan to come out of the woods with a waddle bouncing against your leg and fan bobbing over your shoulder, you better dub February “Turkey Prep” month. Here to help point you in the right direction and offer you sage, veteran advice is Zink’s Josh Grossenbacher and M.A.D. Game Calls’ Billy Yargus.
Yargus, a 37-year turkey hunting veteran and 2008 National Wild Turkey Federation Grand National Calling Champion had some solid preseason tips sure to make you more successful in the spring woods.
“I cut my turkey hunting teeth hunting public land, and to this day spend several days each spring on public ground,” Yargus said. “I believe the key to being successful on public ground and private ground alike is taking time to master your hen calls. This is especially true with mouth (diaphragm) calls. You want to be able to make multiple hen sounds in a variety of tones and cadences on a single diaphragm call, and nothing will help you do this like listening to a live hen. I will get out and call turkeys even when season isn’t on. My goal is to listen to different hens in the woods and learn to mimic their sounds. I will use my phone to record them. You can also jump on the Internet and listen to live hen sounds on YouTube and other sites. If you can master your mouth calls you will have an edge on the competition when season arrives.
“Next, and probably most important, is to get out and start scouting during the month of February. The trees don’t have leaves, meaning you can locate roost sites easily. You can also glass timber and find turkeys feeding in fields. Nothing beats hands-on scouting. If you have access to a particular piece of property or if you’re hunting public ground, go in and learn the property. Locate those hollers, fence rows, fields and likely strutting/travel zones. The more work you do prior to season, the better results you’re going to have come opening day.
“My last big tip is vest preparation. Turkey hunting requires a litany of gear, and you need an organized vest. Take time to organize and memorize your vest. Know where your friction and mouth calls are and make sure you get your facemask and gloves, which you likely used during deer season, back in your vest. It’s also a good idea to make room for an old turkey wing. I will use a wing to scratch in the leaves, simulate a fly down and make a big tom think a couple of other birds are fighting. Having a vest full of necessary gear and being able to get to that gear quickly is essential.”
Zink Calls Turkey Product Manager, hardcore turkey hunter and multiple time National Wild Turkey Federation Calling Championships qualifier Josh Grossenbacher has a proven preseason routine as well.
“Killing a turkey with a bow can be a chore,” Grossenbacher noted. “When all the pieces come together you want to release a lethal arrow. It’s my opinion that tons of bowhunters skimp on pre-turkey hunting shooting sessions. Shots on turkeys can be close — five yards close — and you need to know what pin to put on the bird at in-your-face distances. You’re likely to find that your 30- or 40-yard pin is the best option on ultra-close shots. It’s also a good idea to purchase a 3-D turkey target and practice pounding this target out of your blind at multiple distances and shot angles. The more shooting practice you get in and the more familiar you become with your bow, arrow and blind setup, the better your chances of skewering a big longbeard.
“Secondly, you need to practice with a variety of mouth and friction calls to discover the ones that are right for you. Personally, I take multiple mouth calls to the wood with me, but one thing I want turkey hunters to know is, in addition to having multiple mouth calls, they should also have more than one of each call. If you’re hunting all day a call can get wet, wrinkled and difficult to blow. It’s nice to have a backup of that same call in your vest. When you get home wash all of your mouth calls in cold water to remove the acid created by your saliva, and lay them out to dry. Once your calls are dry, store them in a location that doesn’t get a lot of heat or direct sunlight.
“In addition to mouth calls, it’s essential to master an aluminum and crystal pot-style call. Experiment with different strikers to simulate different sounds. You never know what sound an old tom is going to like from day to day. Being able to orchestrate a symphony of calls to perfection is a huge key to success.”
Thank God we live in an era of supreme product information. Every year turkey product manufacturers beef up their line of goods. Take a look at these worthy products sure to make this spring a memorable one.
From Primos (601-879-9323; www.primos.com) comes the Hook Up Box Call featuring a patented magnetic hinge design that positions the blades perfectly every time. This “perfect” blade positon makes the call a breeze to master and ensures true-to-life hen sounds.
Hunter’s Specialties (319-395-0321; www.hunterspec.com) gives those looking to draw a big tom in close the Jake and Suzie Snood decoys. Lightweight inflatable fakes, this combo sports realistic head and feather detail. Plus, the specially formulated no-flake paint promises lasting durability.
The Scarlet Fever Pot Call from Knight & Hale (www.knightandhale.com) is made from select walnut and kiln dried to an eight-percent moisture to eliminate any and all wood change. Stage and field proven, the Scarlet Fever is CNC machined and set with a slate sound board to ensure rich, sexy tones.
Want to jump out of the blind and do a little run and gun action? Heads Up Decoy’s (785-621-4797; www.headsupdecoy.com) Tom Turkey decoy is composed of a circular silhouette image of a strutting tom, which mounts to your bow’s stabilizer and contains a “fan slot” on the back.
The Rinehart Targets (608-757-8153; www.rinehart3d.com) 3-D Tom Turkey provides shooters with visible vitals and correct body dimensions (height and length). This backyard bird matches the shape, body positon, color and feather pattern of a real non-strutting tom.
Promising a “Champion In Every Call” Zink’s (877-LEG-BAND; www.zinkcalls.com) Signature Series Pro Pak includes a trio of diaphragms designed by turkey calling gurus Hunter Wallis, Josh Grossenbacher and the Matt Morrett.