Tens of thousands of hunters will make their inaugural spring turkey hunting trip this season. Most states outlawed spring gobbler hunting until the late 1960s and early 1970s due to conservation efforts. Today, spring hunts have surpassed fall turkey hunting in popularity, but many hunters mistakenly believe the two activities are the same.
Those who have harvested toms and jakes in the fall season have the advantage of experience. The spring season, however, brings with it subtle differences that must be accounted for to ensure success.
In spring, one day (particularly in the Midwest and Northeast) a foot of snow can fall and the next day it can be 60 degrees. Certain weather conditions are more conducive to successful spring turkey hunting than others.
Snowy days not only enable you to follow tracks left by turkeys but present the opportunity of locating large flocks. Turkeys roost near evergreen and cedar trees to keep warm on cold, snowy days. Toms also tend to gobble loudly in these warming flocks. Windy and rainy days are the worst for hunting, as birds are not vocal in these conditions. Creek bottoms and other shady areas are common flock locations for turkeys on hot spring days.
Toms and jakes scatter and search for food on most days in fall. You’re more likely to locate a single bird or two, as opposed to a flock during this season. Spring, however, is mating season, and this changes the dynamics of the hunt.
Hunters must mimic the mating calls of hens to lure toms and jakes close enough to take the shot. The yelp is the most common hen vocalization; it’s the one they use most often during mating season to tell a tom she’s interested. But just like humans, he may not be “in the mood” at that moment. But a few hours later, that same tom may react to your yelps. This is why mastering the art of turkey calling is so important, as it can make all the difference in success or failure.
Clucking is also a good call for luring toms into range. The purr is a reassuring vocalization to put the tom at ease and make him relax once you have him in your sights.
No Dogs Allowed?
This subject sparks heated debate among veteran turkey hunters. Some believe that using dogs is unfair and removes some of the sporting aspects, because canines can find and flush very easily. The argument is pre-settled in some states (like Wisconsin) that outlaw using dogs for spring turkey hunting.
If you choose to use a dog, make sure they are well-trained and it is not their first turkey hunt. Hens will eventually leave the area entirely if a dog continues to flush them out of potential roosting areas. Bowhunters could benefit from dogs helping locate a downed turkey. The good news is that a turkey’s sense of smell isn’t good, so they likely will not detect a well-trained canine that you hide during callback sessions after the dog flushes the flock.
For more on the latest tips, gear, and strategies that lead to successful spring turkey hunting, subscribe to the Cabela’s Turkey Roost email newsletter and of course, log onto the National Wild Turkey Federation website. And as always, make sure to thank the landowner in writing if you harvested a turkey on private property.