Friday, February 3rd, 2023
Friday, February 3rd, 2023

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Spring Turkey season preview

Cold temperatures, even a threat of snowflakes yet, keep winter
hanging on.  For Iowa’s 40,000 turkey hunters, spring is as close
as this Friday morning. That is when the three day youth season
opens.  The rest of us will wait until Monday, or one of three
other ‘mini’ seasons circled on the calendar. Resident hunters can
hold up to two turkey tags. Most are shotgun hunters, selecting one
of those seasons. A second tag can be used only in the fourth
season. A growing number of archery-only hunters can hunt across
the four seasons, given the degree of difficulty in luring a wary
gobbler into bow range.

Over the last three decades, Iowa’s turkey ‘deficit’ has become
a surplus, as stocking, woodland management and the big bird’s
breeding proficiency have wild turkeys as a prevalent game species
again.  Still, that leaves the hunter with the task of getting a
gobbler close enough to set sights on him.

“Find where they’re roosting. That’s where you want to be first
thing in the morning,” advises Todd Gosselink, forest research
biologist for the Department of Natural Resources. “Scouting is
great; getting out there before the season, looking for scratch
signs, feathers.”

With a good mix of upland timber and crops, northeast Iowa has
been a gobbler stronghold over the years. However, you may want to
‘Head West.’  “Western Iowa, the Loess Hills, is probably one of
the stronger regions. There is a great mix of habitat there, with
crops and timber,” assesses Gosselink. “Typically, it gets less
rainfall so you get good recruitment and good survival.”

Don’t dismiss rainfall and weather as turkey factors. The floods
of 1993 and again in 2008, underscore how much of a factor weather
is on nesting success and poult survival.  “The flood hit at
probably the worst time last year; right at the end of when turkeys
were on the nest,” recalls Gosselink. “We definitely lost nests;
especially where turkey habitat is in the lower flood plains; north
central, northern Iowa. I’m sure those areas were impacted.” 
Across Iowa, summer 2008 surveys showed a 12 to 18 percent
reduction from 2007 in the number of poults seen with hens.

Iowa’s spring turkey hunting tradition involves slipping into
the woods before dawn. Gosselink says, though, not to discount
those midday moments.   “By midmorning, you can still hear some
gobbling. You have to know where the turkeys are and then decide
whether to travel,” says Gosselink. “If you walk, use a shock call;
a locater to get a bird to respond.”  He calls them ‘second chance’
birds. The hens that morning were either uninterested or have gone
off to nest, depending on the time of season. Toms are a lot more
responsive, when the real hens are gone and another one keeps
calling out for him.

Your decision then, is to stay where you are…or walk halfway to
that early morning gobbling and then set up for action.

Season dates:

April 10-12…Youth Season

April 13-16…Season 1

April 17-21…Season 2

April 22-28…Season 3

April 29-May 17…Season 4

Iowa’s 2008-09 Hunting & Trapping Regulations booklet
(online www.iowadnr.gov or at
sporting goods counters) contains details ranging from shooting
hours to type of shot or arrows to use and participation in youth
season.

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