You have been out at dawn and dusk for days, using a locator call to make the big toms gobble and give away their roosting trees. Countless miles have been logged walking field edges and tote roads looking for turkey sign like scratches, dusting sites and tracks. You may even be lucky enough to have a breeding flock patterned.
After all, this isn’t your first rodeo. You are a seasoned hunter and have put in the time and preseason scouting to ensure a great opening day for spring wild turkey. But as we all know, there is something about North America’s largest game bird that makes even the savviest of hunters lose their mind when that first gobble booms across the ridge line on a crisp spring morning.
Here is a look at some common rookie mistakes to avoid the morning of the spring opener.
Don’t be late
If you aren’t an early riser by nature, you should make darn sure you have enough alarm clocks to shake you out of bed early enough on the morning of your hunt. Rushing through the woods, bleary eyed and sleepy, to make it to your hunt site in time is just plain not good.
Not good for safety, not good for stealth and most importantly, not good for other hunters who did get up on time and are nestled away waiting for legal light. Don’t be this guy.
You can get away with a minor shift when on stand hunting whitetail deer. Maybe, just maybe…you could get away with a twitch when scouring a stand of white cedar that you expect a bruiser black bear to emerge from. You most definitely will not escape the discerning eye of a wild turkey.
The vision of a wild turkey is their most finely tuned sense and their hearing is about twice as good as yours. Resist the urge to scratch your chin or adjust your seat pad every ten minutes.
My hunting buddy Harley can plant himself in his tree stand during deer season well before light, not move the entire day during frigid temperatures and not come down until after dark. That is the kind of discipline it takes to bag a trophy gobbler.
All of the preparations made and the expectations leading up to this morning can make the most seasoned hunter a little fidgety. Do your best to conceal any movement and if a turkey is near, wait until its head is hidden behind a tree, rock or other object to block his vision and your position.
Be a turkey
One of the biggest and most common mistakes turkey hunters make is calling too much. Sometimes the excitement of hearing an old tom’s gobble shattering the stillness of the woods can really get the adrenaline flowing.
If you’re not careful, you’ll find yourself working that slate call like a DJ at a turntable. I concede it takes a lot of discipline to not over call when you are on a hot gobbler, but the fact of the matter is this: Turkeys simply do not vocalize like that.
Think of it this way. If a real wild turkey was making as much racket as you are, predators would pinpoint them in no time flat. Gobblers will realize something is wrong and the jig will be up.
Try to restrict your calling to a minimum and do it naturally. For example, don’t make purrs and clucks that simulate a contented hen feeding before fly down happens in the morning. A gobbler will nail you in an instant. Turkeys don’t feed in trees.
Mimic turkey sounds as they occur naturally: Fly down cackle, yelps and clucks and finally purrs.
Wild turkey hunting is arguably one of the toughest challenges in the sporting world. With movement discipline, practiced turkey calling and plenty of planning, you should be well on your way to bagging a beard-dragging monster gobbler this spring.
Maine’s Spring Wild Turkey season opens May 1st.