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Gary Howey

” IN 2017

Planning a Spring Turkey Hunt By Gary Howey

Entered by Gary Howey

Former tournament angler, hunting and fishing guide. Inducted into the National Freshwater Fishing "Hall of Fame" in 2017. Active member of the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers (AGLOW), Past Executive Director (AGLOW). Howey has been an outdoor communicator since 1980 with his award winning syndicated "Of the Outdoors" columns appearing in magazine, newspapers, and tabloids throughout he upper Midwest and nationally.

March 24, 2016

  It looks as if maybe, just maybe Mother Nature is beginning to release her grip and winter is on its way out.  With the coming of daylight saving time, we will see more daylight hours and I will be in the mood to hit the woods to do some pre-season turkey scouting.

  As I look forward to another year of turkey hunting where I will film turkey hunts in Nebraska, the South Dakota Prairie and Black Hills units.

   This is the time of the year, you will find my Team Outdoorsmen Adventures members in the woods on our combination turkey scouting and shed hunting trip.

  Because deer generally shed their headgear in mid-February, while I am out looking for them, I have my eye out for turkey sign as I have often found sheds in the same areas I turkey hunt.

  When our crew starts to seriously thinking about turkey hunting, we put together some sort of a plan as things can change from year to year in the outdoors.

  We start by checking out the web sites of the states Game and Parks or DNR we will be filming. If they have information and columns devoted to turkey hunting, it is a good bet; they have a good turkey population.

   Generally, even If I have hunted the state or unit before, I start by checking out the states web site to see if the non-resident permit is available, the application period and the season dates.

  Because Team member Dalton Petersen, our youngest Team member from the Watertown area obtained his permit in an area he has previously hunted, I did not need to do much research.

 I start by contacting the game department, as this is where I obtain as much information as I can from their experts. Some of them have turkey density and harvest information that helps us to choose what area to hunt. These folks spend a lot of time in the field and have their finger on what is happening when it comes to turkey numbers. With this information, I can zero in on the best area and when things go right, come up with some names of landowners who may allow hunting.  

  With the information gathered from the Game & Parks, I am going to pick a unit or area where I have a good chance of obtaining a permit.  Over the years, I have hunted turkeys in Wyoming, Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota, Missouri, Kansas and Mississippi, with my best information gathered from those states Game & Parks or DNR’s.   

  Then it is time to wait, when you really cannot do much planning until you know if you were successful in the drawing.

  Once I know I have a permit or tag in hand, then it is a good idea to look for public land in that area.  If it happens to be one unit the game department was high on, I look at Google Earth to see what it looks like, looking for heavily wooded areas where the birds might roost and areas where they may be feeding.

  If we have to travel far and because we do much of our hunting on public ground, we avoid the weekend, especially opening weekend, as there are just too many folks out in the woods during that time. Before I avoided weekends during the turkey season, I called almost as many hunters in as I did turkeys.

  When we head out to film a turkey hunt, there are at least two people with us and when  it comes to calling critters, be it, waterfowl, turkeys or deer, the less people you have to compete with the better.

  On many of our hunts, the first time we hit the ground we will be hunting will be the day before when we arrive in the area. Which means we do not have the opportunity to do a lot of pre-season scouting; this is why we rely on aerial maps and the advice from the local game officials?

Larry's spring turkey

Larry’s spring turkey

  The first thing we will do upon  arriving, is to pull out our aerial map and look it over carefully, trying to pick out those areas where the birds may roost and possible food sources as wells as any funnels going from their roost to a feeding area. A funnel is anywhere two terrains come together, such as a valley between two forested areas.  Funnels are good places to set up as it narrows down the bird’s path, putting the turkeys within your shotgun and bow range.

  After that, we do a drive around, comparing what is there on the ground with the aerial map, as things can change drastically from when they photographed the aerial map to the opener of the spring season. We also like to stop by any adjourning landowner to introduce ourselves, to see if they have seen any birds and ask them if they allow hunting, just in case the birds should move onto their land off the public ground we may hunt.

  Then it is sit down time for us to finalize our plan so when the season opens, we will be fairly close the right place and ready to go.

  We always leave enough time prior to the sun down, to be out and use our locator calls, our crow, owl and coyote howler to get the birds to shock gobble. If that happens, armed with the information from the game department, our use of aerial maps, the talks with landowners and the gobbler giving away where he spends the night, we now have a plan

  The next morning before the sun appears in the eastern sky, it is time to head out and using our locator calls to pin point their roost tree.  

  On opening morning, as the sun makes its way into the eastern sky, we are set up, with our decoys out, and our backs against the tree, using soft tree calls, letting the Toms know it is our time, the opening of the spring turkey season.

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