By all accounts, it should be a good one with about 180,000 birds out there waiting, and easy as pie to get a turkey since hunters can shoot either a gobbler or hen. Unfortunately, it won’t be easy at all. Last year only about one hunter in 18 scored on a bird during the fall season, which means that 17 didn’t.
So, how can you raise your odds? First, don’t bother to head forth and try to call one in as you did last spring. They’re not interested in sex, but are very interested in food and that’s one prime way to get one. They’ll be in flocks now too, rather than just a bird or two, and every morning and evening those flocks are going to head for a place where they can fill their crops.
I’ve seen them stacked up in farmers fields several times, always where they were keeping livestock and feeding them in the back 40 or even near the barn. They like cattle feed. And they love acorns, especially the white, burr, and post oak kinds that are sweet and tasty. Turkeys will forage for hours in an oak grove, scratching here and there and leaving plenty of sign as they gather acorns and the incidental centipede, beetle, or grub.
So, one prime method of hunting these birds is to find where they’re feeding and set up a ground blind. If the sign is fresh, anywhere from a dozen to several dozen birds should be heading your way sooner or later. Turkeys have sharp eyes, so it goes without saying that you should wear full camouflage and make sure your blind is a good one.
A second method that can produce quick success is to move around in a good area and use binoculars to find a flock. Then slip in as quietly as possible, and when you’re fairly close, get up and race toward the flock, yelling and making plenty of noise. It sounds like a dumb way to hunt, but a fair number of that 1,175 birds killed last year were likely taken that way. The idea here is simple.
When you charge the flock, they’ll scatter like the proverbial covey of quail, flying and running in all directions. But flocks want to stick together, so you put out a single hen decoy and start an occasional “kee-kee” yelp. The scattered birds should gradually drift your way heading for the hen decoy. Then it’s just a matter of waiting until one is in good range and making your shot.
There are other ways to get a bird, though the above two are best. If you’ve located a flocks general feeding area, you might just sit and listen before dark and wait for “fly-ups”. Then be back come dawn and wait again for “fly-downs”. Once the birds are on
the ground, then charge the flock as before and scatter it, wait some more and use the call. And you might just head to a likely farm, start walking and using binoculars, and hope to slip up on an unwary turkey. That’s pretty iffy too, but it might work.
Finally, do remember that fall turkeys may not be hunted statewide, but only in certain counties that include Huron, Richland, Ashland and Lorain, so check before you hunt.
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HOOKS & BULLETS
• Individuals interested in learning to trap are invited to attend free workshops in northeast Ohio. Workshops will be held at Berlin Lake Wildlife Area and Highlandtown Wildlife Area on Oct. 28 and 29. For details on the former, call Jim Duckworth at 330-206-7161 and for the latter, call Vern Snyder at 330-223-1683. Pre-registration is required, so contact the appropriate above person for location, class times, and to register.
• Area hunters know that in spite of diligent efforts by various groups, upland game birds like pheasants and quail are scarce indeed. But Dan Magneson, Supervisor Fishery Biologist with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service might have an answer, the Hungarian Partridge. According to Magneson, they can live on intensively farmed land with little cover. They do well in drought conditions and survive several blizzards, an ideal gamebird for Ohio. Perhaps our Division of Wildlife should spend a little less on growing put-and- take ringnecks and more on stocking this fine game bird?
Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit his blog at outdoorswithmartin.com.