Is there a better way?

Your place to talk about anything and everything hunting-related!
User avatar
shaman
 
Posts: 1015
Joined: June 30th, 2008, 12:35 am
Location: Neave, KY

Is there a better way?

Postby shaman » January 19th, 2014, 7:59 am

I once opined that if you took me off my 200 acre plot, I probably would not be a all that great a turkey hunter. However, I was probably the best there was on that one 200 acre patch in KY. So far, no one has come forward to dispute that. But then there is last year.

Last year was a bust. Nobody got a thing. It was an off year overall. The harvest numbers were down. Outside of the Opener, we hardly made contact with birds. The Opener, however, was incredible. I've never had more close encounters with gobblers in a single day. We just did not close the deal. #3 son and I were out at the honey hole and a large flock showed up with several gobblers. One mounted a hen within 20 yards of us, but sadly just behind a bush. Another poked his head up the exact same spot my 2011 Opener gob did, but he busted me and ran before I could shoot. Another came in on my back door, and I could not get around to nail him. Then? A zilch for the rest of season. We did have a gobbler one day trailing hens. He almost broke away and came to us, but he never quite got there. We tried an end-around he zigged when we zagged. As I said: zilch.

So as a result of last year, I would like to open this all up for discussion. Let me describe to you what I do, and then we can discuss it. I'd like to know: is there a better way? What am I missing? What would you do?

The Game:
Look, I know some of you hit 4 or more states and I have neighbors that have 4 or more spots in the area that they hunt. I find it a satisfying challenge to stick on my own 200 acres and work the same birds year after year. If it's a bad year, it can be a long month, but I could have just as easily been skunked spending a few grand driving around the country.

In March, I can sit on my front porch and owl and get gobblers sounding off in all directions. There is a flock of hens that roosts less than 200 yards from the back of the house. I frequently go out hunting in the morning and come back to find fresh gobbler tracks over the top of my boot prints between the house and barn.

The Setup:

This is a fallow farm in SW Bracken County, KY-- what's known as the Trans-Bluegrass. Kentucky allows two gobs in the spring. The season start with a Yute season the first weekend of April. Depending on the calendar the second weekend may or may not be the Spring Gob Opener. This year it is. The season runs until the first weekend in May. Overall harvest in KY has been going up. The NorthEast region has been trending down. Bracken County's numbers have been declining for a few years. I talked to the wildlife biologist, and he says it is nothing to worry about. The local effects of the decline are that the turkeys disappear off my place in late winter and I may not see them until just before the Opener. I have counted as many as 80 turkeys on my place in a weekend. The past few years, has been considerably leaner. The spring gobbler season is timed so that the turkeys come out of their latency phase some time in the first week. I usually hunt that first week, and then every weekend thereafter.

My property lies 2 miles north of the Licking River and 10 miles south of the Ohio River. It is a series of finger ridges with hollows between. These flow into creeks that form the east and west boundaries. There are 40 acres of pasture on top of the ridges. There are a few acres of bottom land and all the rest are hillsides with a mix of scrub cedars and oak/hickory savannah.

The Weather:
April in the Trans-Bluegrass is highly variable. I've had 15F and snow on the Opener. I've had 90-something for a high Opening Week. Usually it is windy by 9 AM and very windy in the afternoon. I frequently carry a Jon-E handwarmer in the morning, tucked under my coat. By the time I come in, I'm often down to a t-shirt. I have seen birds active in just about every circumstance from cold and windy to hot and muggy. Unless it is pouring rain, I try and go out. If it is pouring rain, I'll be out as soon as the radar shows it is going to lift.

The Strategy:
Usually I open up Turkey Camp in early March, and spend every weekend scouting. I don't try to get too close to the birds. I just want to hear them and get an idea of their numbers and movements. Over the years, I found some basic components to my strategy.
1) The turkeys roost overlooking the bottom land, but tend to fly down uphill from their roost trees and proceed up to the pastures to feed and loaf
2) Starting from the bottom and working up never seemed to work. I was always behind the turkeys. Starting about 7 years ago, I get on top of the ridge and wait for the turkeys to come to me.
3) Over the years, I found myself traveling to the same spots to set up. So I finally decided to drop all pretense to pursuing the turkeys. I go to the known honey holes, work my calls and wait.
4) I have a string of setups along the spine of the N/S ridge. There is a line of trees following a long-abandoned road. I will normally set up in that, and watch the fields to either side, or the adjoining woods. My other favorite strategies is to hang out all afternoon in one of the abandoned barns and call, or go to one of the other places where I have seen gobblers strutting over the years and wait.
5) My favorite spot, where I have had the most success is in the treeline, overlooking the ends of pastures two either side. It also overlooks a favorite crossing point between the two fields.
6) In fear I will get patterned by the birds, I try and change out my calls and my hunting venues.
7) I work from a variety of venues. My favorites are back-to-the-big-tree kickin' it up old school. I have three locations or so that I improve every year with burlap or die-cut blinds. I have my deer hunting luxury boxes for really bad weather and I have the old barns. The turkeys use them for dusting. I'll sit in the door and call.

Calling:
I normally am well away from the flocks when first light hits. The closest I try to be is 80 yards. The light comes up, the flocks start to fly down, and that is when I go to work. I try not to be the first, or the loudest or anything out of the ordinary at first. If there is a gobbler sounding off, I try to take his temperature, but dollars to donuts he's usually with hens and he is tending them in the first hour or so. That just seems to be how the season works. Along about 9 AM the action picks up. Gobblers start showing up, and I may have 2-3 honoring my calls. I will flat yelp with occasional excited calls spaced several minutes apart. Once a gobbler starts to honor my calls, I shut up on the loud stuff and revert to feeding calls and dead silence.

If nothing is happening, I go in about 11 AM and go back out in the afternoon. My afternoon hunts consist of bouts of excited yelping at known strut zones spaced out about 15 minutes apart. A gobbler in the mood may travel a half mile over the course of the afternoon to come visit.

Despite changing venues and calls throughout season, I seem to get the majority of birds from the same spots using the same calls year after year. I have a homemade slate-over-glass pot call with Purple Heart striker that really seems to get them going. Close-in, (you'll laugh) I frequently use a push-pin Quaker Boy, because I have trouble purring with a mouth call. I have good luck with an old-style Toby Benoit Dixie Darlin' box call for reaching out in the wind. I also have a Quaker Boy Grand Old Master that has stirred the heart of many a gobbler. I also carry a selection of mouth calls.

Other notes:
On rainy days, I will either go out to one of my deer blinds and hang out, or I will wait until the rain lifts.

On a good day, I may hear as many as 20 individual gobblers sounding off between my ridges and those surrounding. On a bad day, I may not hear a single one on my property.

I shoot a 3" #4 Federal lead load out of a scoped Mossberg 500 with a Dead Coyote choke tube. Most of my encounters with birds are inside 20 yards. I've got bad eyes, so I put a scope on about 20 years ago, and it helped dramatically. I have missed more birds from having too-tight of a choke and the bird being too close than being too far away and not being able to throw a dense pattern.

The ground is uneven enough, even in the open fields that it takes planning to engineer a 40 yard shot from a sitting position. In the deep woods, a gobbler can be 10 yards away and you can't see him to get a shot.

There seems to be only a few days a year where the gobblers are actually receptive to calling. Before season sets in they will come to any rustle in the leaves. Some years you will not see them receptive until the last weekend of season.

I generally do not use locator calls. There are enough owl, crow, and hawk sounding off that I usually know where the gobblers are. All I have to do is be patient and listen. In the reverse sense, the appearance of turkeys in one of fields is usually occasion for the crows to sound off.

Roosts, strut zones, dusting areas, etc. remain stable from one year to the next. Even the personalities of the birds seem to get recycled. After more than a decade there is not much new happening. I'm now hunting probably the 4th or 5th generation of birds. The last new actor on the place was Mister Moto. He showed up about 5 years ago, and he was a gobbler noted for gobbling heartily in all conditions all year 'round. There are now a number of Mini-Moto's running around. He must have passed on the trait.

Runnin' and Gunnin' seems to lead no where in a hurry. The N/S axis of the farm is 3/4 of a mile. I can walk the circumference in 4 hours.

I stopped using dekes. I found they were more trouble than they were worth. They just added bulk to my kit, and I seldom saw where they added to my success.

Summary:
So now that I've laid it all out, what do you all think? I'm open to ideas.
Genesis 9:2-4 Ministries of SW Bracken County, KY
ImageImage

User avatar
Cut N Run
 
Posts: 2142
Joined: April 12th, 2008, 2:32 pm
Location: central North Carolina

Re: Is there a better way?

Postby Cut N Run » January 19th, 2014, 9:23 am

From my experience, 200 acres ought to be plenty enough property to tag out on a pair of mature gobblers, especially if there's light hunting pressure around you.

My old lease was definitely on flatter ground than your, shaman, but it also had a north/ south ridge but with heavy cover that could be maddening to hunt. Sometimes, a gobbler would holler for all he was worth to answer a few of my calls, but hold tight. Almost as soon as I'd try to move around him, he'd be gobbling from near the place I just left. I started listening for those regular spots where they'd gobble from and did my best to pinpoint strut zones. I found one that was like money in the bank. It was as close to a sure thing as there ever was. The turkeys roosted near there and as long as you went in early and quiet enough, you were going to see some gobblers, probably pretty close. In the late Fall, after deer season, I would trim a few trails into that area so I could approach from a couple different directions. It helped.

I also found a transition area (the old sawdust pile), which was a flat spot in the saddle along the spine of a ridge where the woods changed from selective cut pines to a steep mixed hardwood bottom. It was sort of a natural travel corridor that filtered game from the higher flat ground to the heavier wooded bottom. Turkeys could show up there almost any time of day, though around 10 AM seemed to be their favorite time to pass through. Even though there wasn't really anything to draw or hold them in that area, they preferred to travel through it and just a bit of calling would often pull gobblers in range of it.

I'm not sure how you feel about food plots, but a good plot can increase turkey traffic in one area big time. We had a few wide spots along old logging roads and powerlines that we planted in Ladino Clover and it really increased the number of turkeys that hung out around that property. In total, I doubt we had 3 acres planted, though it sure made a difference. A consistent quality food supply pulled turkeys from all over the surrounding properties. We never had double digit numbers of gobblers hanging out there in the spring, but 7 or 8 gobblers all gobbling on a 200 acre piece of land at first light almost guarantees you'll have some encounters at some point of the day. We also left a few plots un-hunted, so the turkeys always had a sanctuary where they could feed undisturbed. We would also rotate between which plot we hunted so there was never excessive pressure on any one of them.

I hope you have a great 2014 turkey season. It doesn't take much to go from bad to outstanding in just a few minutes. Good luck.

Jim
Luck Counts, good or bad

User avatar
shaman
 
Posts: 1015
Joined: June 30th, 2008, 12:35 am
Location: Neave, KY

Re: Is there a better way?

Postby shaman » January 19th, 2014, 11:12 am

Ladino clover happens to be something I use a lot of when I do food plots. Right now, I don't have any that are active-- I need to get the guy back in to do some rotovating. However, when I did have the fields in, I had a lot more action. Even without any sincere plots, clover ends up making up the bulk of what comes out of their craws. Prolly just mowing some spots down to let the clover be more accessible may help.
Genesis 9:2-4 Ministries of SW Bracken County, KY
ImageImage

icdedturkes
 
Posts: 443
Joined: January 28th, 2009, 8:54 pm

Re: Is there a better way?

Postby icdedturkes » January 19th, 2014, 1:05 pm

Describe "Opening camp"? Does this place generally sit vacant from deer season until camp is opened.. Do you have roads through the property? Do you own a quad or anything like that?

User avatar
shaman
 
Posts: 1015
Joined: June 30th, 2008, 12:35 am
Location: Neave, KY

Re: Is there a better way?

Postby shaman » January 19th, 2014, 2:57 pm

There is a road right to the place, but often the weather is bad and we have to stay away. Also the area is prone to ice storms in the latter part of the winter, so I often call a neighbor and check if we have power. The power has been off for as long as 6 weeks at a stretch. Once the weather breaks, we're down there every weekend from March thru June.

We were down a few weeks ago to check on the place and hike around a bit. This weekend, I wasn't there due to snow storms that came through Friday night and Saturday afternoon. I keep a 4WD truck now as a go-anywhere deer wagon and boat puller, but until things dry out, it's a little muddy trying to take it around. Mostly I enjoy walking the place. Even though we are only an hour or so from downtown Cincinnati, we have deer, turkey, coyote, and the occasional bear, elk and bobcat.

Here's a pic:

Image

and if you follow the link in my signature, the heading photo shows exactly what it is like looking out the back. In March, I go out on the front porch in the mornings and owl and every gob in the neighborhood sounds off. We can see 4 counties from the porch.
Genesis 9:2-4 Ministries of SW Bracken County, KY
ImageImage

icdedturkes
 
Posts: 443
Joined: January 28th, 2009, 8:54 pm

Re: Is there a better way?

Postby icdedturkes » January 19th, 2014, 3:24 pm

Ok I am going to go out on a limb here and say you are your own huntings worth enemy.. You have a place where turkeys and deer spend the winter months undisturbed going about there business and than March hits.. Here you and your family comes..

It is interesting and makes sense your cabin is on a hill. We can see 4 counties from the porch.In March, I can sit on my front porch and owl and get gobblers sounding off in all directions. There is a flock of hens that roosts less than 200 yards from the back of the house. These birds that have lived in the hills below and have not seen any activity up on that hill are now overwhelmed.. If you can hear and see them they can hear and see you up there. Something has changed.. They can see you up on that hill cutting wood, kids playing maybe a dog barking.. They are simply not used to it.. The more and more you are up there the greater the shock..Once the weather breaks, we're down there every weekend from March thru June. I know folks are thinking turkeys live around peoples homes all the time.. But they are used to the activity and not thrown a huge culture shock so to speak just before season, the activity is permanent. There is a road right to the place, These birds may not see traffic on this road for months now there are vehicles in and out as you and your wife go to town, gas station etc..

Now onto scouting

Mostly I enjoy walking the place.
Usually I open up Turkey Camp in early March, and spend every weekend scouting. I don't try to get too close to the birds. I just want to hear them and get an idea of their numbers and movements. Over the years, I found some basic components to my strategy.

While we all enjoy being in the woods in the spring, scouting, enjoying the warmth etc You have no reason to scout.. You obviously understand the turkeys and their behavior on your property.. Nothing will change year to year barring major agriculture or timber management practices.. If there are birds on your place they are going to use the property the same year to year and from generation to generation.. You starting your scouting in March is applying the human element to your property for what 4,5,6 weeks.. Even if coy that much scouting even if you do not know it you are going to bump birds and alert them to your presence in the woods.. Your scouting could essentially be done in one or two days at daylight, owl, crow or cutt and cackle learn how many gobblers are on your property in a particular year how they use your property has already been learned over the years of your hunting there..

We hunt small parcels where I am at.. 200 acres would be pretty large here but is small in the big scheme of things.. Increased human activity can shut down turkeys on that small of a parcel and possibly move some to your neighbors as long as theres meet their needs.

Like I said you are your own worst enemy.. It would be interesting to hear results from your property if you went up there maybe one weekend to open the cabin, got out of there and came back up the first day you could hunt..

timbrhuntr
 
Posts: 78
Joined: February 17th, 2013, 10:14 pm

Re: Is there a better way?

Postby timbrhuntr » January 19th, 2014, 5:19 pm

You been reading Ray's book again :mrgreen: ;)

User avatar
shaman
 
Posts: 1015
Joined: June 30th, 2008, 12:35 am
Location: Neave, KY

Re: Is there a better way?

Postby shaman » January 19th, 2014, 5:37 pm

You know it's funny. I usually don't think of it that way, but you might be right. I know deer get used to our presence. Turkey never do.

What I do know is that the birds are funny. You've heard my stories about the gobbler that used to come up to the house every evening. We'd be there, and he'd see us and off he'd run. It was a new and exciting experience for him each and every time. I also know that some years I can't help bumping birds when I'm out. Those are the years I'm usually successful, and everyone gets a bird. If I don't see them, I know I'm in for a struggle. That was the way it was last year for sure.

You all also may remember my stories about the gay turkey herd-- the unattached group of 10 gobblers that used to just hang with each other and displayed constantly like a bunch of models. I even caught them chasing away hens. One day I was out enjoying coffee and listening to flydown and all of a sudden they were on me-- 10 gobs just suddenly appeared and started strutting for me out behind one of the barns. Crazy. That is a rarity, however. Normally, if I go out at all in the morning, I run out to one of my favorite listening posts and just set up and listen to the turkeys fly down. I may be listening to birds 100 or two hundred yards away. That's also when I venture out with my parabolic mic and get the material for my podcasts. Last year was pretty much of a write-off. I did not get much good material and the season pretty well sucked as well.

What I do know is that I had a neighbor that was living off the land for a couple of years. The owner of the property finally threw him off. However, I have a feeling my birds might have ended up in his freezer. He seemed to know WAAAY to much about what was on my property. Most of the neighbors are good guys, however, and we seemed to all get skunked last year.

You're giving me serious food for thought here. However. And DANG! I went back to check and my podcasts were all horsed up on my weblog. They're fixed now. Lord knows how long they were broken.

Okay. Back to scouting. Let's table that for a bit, only because it's not something I can work on at the moment. What else in my description do you think warrants review?

BTW: I've for other folks to start threads like I did. I'd love to hear more of how y'all hunt.
Genesis 9:2-4 Ministries of SW Bracken County, KY
ImageImage

icdedturkes
 
Posts: 443
Joined: January 28th, 2009, 8:54 pm

Re: Is there a better way?

Postby icdedturkes » January 19th, 2014, 6:54 pm

timbrhuntr wrote:You been reading Ray's book again :mrgreen: ;)

I love Rays book but I have seen it with morel hunters, leak hunters and have a buddys I hunt with similar problem to what he has..

User avatar
turkey junky
 
Posts: 745
Joined: June 25th, 2011, 4:46 pm
Location: I.G.H. MINNESOTA

Re: Is there a better way?

Postby turkey junky » January 20th, 2014, 12:42 am

i agree with icdedturkes i think you me be educating your turkeys prior to season??? if you know or always find & kill gobblers in the same general areas there is no need to start scouting in march??? do it a WK or 2 prior to season at most??? "the walking around part that is" & get MRI "most recent information" on ur birds then

i also feel you are doomed if you always use the same calls & technique day in & day out the turkey season or breeding phase is always changing with turkeys from the start of the season to the last day so what works on opener may not work on the last day of the season... got to try new things & see what the turkeys like they will tell you if you listen... example last year was a late spring for most hunters from MN to OK the birds were in huge flocks later then ever & plain hen yelps only was not doing much for most i had to kee kee run in 3-5 gobblers & or hens with gobblers in toe i also had to gobble at a few large groups of gobblers to get a reaction & or get them to break from the spot they were hung up at... jake yelps were also used with great results last yr... many hunters who only stuck to plain hen yelps clucks purrs ETC. like every year were skunked last season they just were not saying what the birds wanted to hear at that time is my opinion???

it would drive me crazy to just sit at the same spots every yr we hunt 1 farm like that in MN we figured the area out years ago i try to on purpose kill gobblers in new areas each season if i didnt it would not be a hard hunt to just kill a gobbler we have area that turkeys hang out at & use daily so there really is not calls needed in many spots they help speed things up & make us feel like we are part of the hunt... but i know the area & terrain well & if i hear a gobbler sound off & i know i can get close to him i do it you will miss a chance to kill many gobblers if you just sit back & wait sometimes you/we have to make things happen & not just wait thats my fav part of turkey hunting making things happen... "thats why i feel naked with out a crow call or locator call of some kind i have to know & keep contact with the bird to be able to make moves with out being busted non stop"

200 acres is big & small yes it should support enough gobblers to be hunted but you can also blow birds off a 200 acre chunk of land real fast with to much people activity especially if there is a much more quit place nearby with all the same terrain/habitat as your 200 acre peace of land... i my self would give the area a break mid season if you feel your pressuring the birds to much & go roam around a peace of public land in the area??? then try ur honey holes after a few quit days??? or once the hens start to nest??? with only 4 WKs to hunt that mite not be a option???

i wish you all over in KY a much better season then you had last year & hope some of this info from the guys on here helps you out this season...

Next

Return to Talkin' Turkey • General discussion

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 12 guests