It’s spring at last, though you might not know it from the foot of snow that fell on Missouri over the weekend. Spring turkey season is a scant two weeks away. I must admit, I’m starting to obsess over it the way I obsess over fall bowhunting season. There are several reasons for this:
- Hunting withdrawal. By the time turkey season arrives, it will have been three months since the close of bowhunting season. Outside of predator and migratory bird hunting, there’s not much to get through that lull period.
- Weird weather. It’s been a strange year weather-wise in Missouri, with the temperature never quite matching the season. It somehow makes me want to get out into the woods even more.
- Last hurrah before summer. The end of turkey season marks a free pass for most game animals in Missouri until fall. I have to get enough hunting time in to make it through.
- Ultimate challenge. As I wrote in my guest post over at The Will to Hunt, gobblers have the advantage in spring turkey season.
Hunting gobblers in spring isn’t easy, so every bit of preparation will help. Do you want to be ready to draw a bead on a bird this spring? Do what I’ve been doing.
Study Up on Wild Turkeys
Right now I’m learning (and writing down) everything I can about wild turkey hunting. Turkey biology, behavior, hunting strategies, seasonal patterns, you name it. With help from Field & Stream, the Missouri Department of Conservation, and other excellent resources, I’m studying up on things like how to tell a tom from a hen, when to use different calls, and optimal decoy setups. There’s plenty to learn.
Spring Hunting Strategies
In most states, the spring turkey season requires hunters to take only toms or bearded birds. That adds to the challenge, but also lets us exploit the tom’s fundamental weakness. Read my article on spring turkey hunting tips for some advice on hunting strategies for spring gobblers.
Prepare Your Hunting Gear
Last week, I started taking inventory of my hunting gear, with turkey season in mind. Spring turkey season tends to require less gear than bowhunting, but the equipment is arguably more important to get right. Here are a few things to check on now, while you still have time:
- Camo. Full, comfortable camouflage is a must for turkey hunting. That means pants, shirts, jackets, hats, gloves, face mask, and possibly even a blind.
- Calls. Currently, I’m trying to locate the kids’ sidewalk chalk so I can dust the board of my Knight & Hale Tom Coffin. It’s my go-to turkey call. And after I wrote my guide on choosing the best turkey call, I just couldn’t resist picking up a couple more.
- Bugs. They’re back with the spring, unfortunately. The good news is that there’s no scent control to worry about, so I can douse myself in 100% DEET spray and fire up the Thermacell (possibly the most important invention of all time).
- Vehicle. Just had it serviced and cleared out the cargo area so I’ll have room to stash my gear. I leave nothing to chance!
- GPS. I never hunt without it, even if I know the area quite well. Beforehand, I’ll program in some of the features I want to scout while hunting. During the hunt, I mark trails, landmarks, and most importantly signs of game.
Exercise and Sleep
Turkey hunting, much like bowhunting in the fall, can be physically demanding. You get up balls-early in the morning so you can be in position before first light. You might walk three or five miles in the woods. When the season hits, I want to be ready.
So right now I’m focused on exercise (cardio) and getting a little bit of extra sleep. It might seem like a little thing but I’ll be glad for it come the start of turkey season.
Asking off Work
In Missouri, turkey season starts on April 15th, a Monday. I learned that this was an intentional decision, to help spread out the hunting crowd on opening day. If I can take off work, I will, because I hunt mostly public land and it’s bound to be more crowded on the first Saturday.
Scouting and Google Maps
In a perfect world, I’d follow the advice of Chris Eberhart and other hunters, and be scouting 9 days out of 10, all throughout the year. In the real world, I have a job, kids, responsibilities, and that’s just not going to happen. So I do the best I can to learn the area I’m hunting before I even head out.
Every area I hunt is saved in Google Earth, and marked up with the waypoints I set when out hunting. I know where the trails are, where the sign was. I have topographic map and aerial photo layers that tell me a lot about the terrain. It’s not a substitute for boots-on-the-ground scouting, but it’s the next best thing.
Entering A Turkey Contest
Few things are as motivating as a bit of friendly competition. I’ve found this to be true in writing, sports, and other disciplines. That’s why I was thrilled to discover MWT TurkeyPalooza, a spring turkey hunting contest that benefits my favorite hunting forums over at Missouri Whitetails. The contest is pretty straightforward:
- 4 hunters per team, and each hunter can submit up to 2 birds
- Kills are entered by providing photographs and measurements
- Prizes for lowest-scoring bird, highest-scoring bird, longest spurs, most kills, etc.
It’s all of $10 to enter, which is less than the cost of a spring turkey hunting permit. I know for a fact that the competitive aspect of this (as well as the team camaraderie) will motivate me during the season. The trash talking has already begun on the forums. It’s a great way for everyone to share their successes (or lack thereof) and get the praise (or ridicule) deserved.
Other Turkey Contests
There are other types of turkey contests too, such as turkey calling tournaments. Most likely Field & Stream will have some kind of photo contest; I love entering those too. A contest is simply a great way to get you pumped up for spring turkey season, and I highly recommend it.
In conclusion, I’m thrilled about the start of spring turkey season and hope that you are too!