Spring gobblers await

Now that I’ve got deer season in my rear-view mirror – and to be honest that’s the way I look at it about a week into the firearms season – I can begin focusing on spring gobblers.

Sure, it seems like a long way off. But Paula and I will make what’s become an annual pilgrimage to Nashville in February for the National Wild Turkey Federation’s convention and sport show, and in March Paula will be looking to finish off her grand slam with an Osceola gobbler in Florida.

And there’s always a call or two sitting on my desk, so there’s really no such thing as an off season when it comes to spring gobblers.

I always seem to be taking stock of my turkey hunting efforts, and I’ve vowed this year to make some changes. I simply have to be more aggressive out in the spring woods, in terms of my setup more so than my calling. On occasion I should crank that up, too, but in evaluating my past couple seasons I recall several scenarios where I should have forced the issue a bit more; it could have resulted in a couple more filled tags.

I’m what you would call a passive spring gobbler hunter. Always concerned about bumping a bird. About over-calling. About charging into a hunting situation. My setups underscore that: in many cases I could close the gap on a gobbler; I’m hesitant to move my position and often settle in for a long sit in a promising spot instead of making a move. 

To be honest, it has worked well over the years. But looking back on the past couple seasons – particularly during a couple Kansas hunts – I recall a few scenarios where I should have kicked it up a notch. The fact that I can’t recall the last time I bumped a gobbler should tell you something; every turkey hunter does that once in a while.

In years past I always had a turkey-hunting sidekick by my side who was one of those hard-charging hunters. Dave (Moose) is the kind of hunter you have to tackle if he hears a gobbler he deems ready to die. I’m the guy who would rather sit in the blind and let it happen. While Dave forces the issue, his soft-calling skills are second to none, and that combination has been deadly in many states. Our system of checks and balances has worked wonders in the past, in New York, Pennsylvania, and Nebraska. And hunting with Moose is always a barrel of laughs for both of us.

But Dave and I don’t get together as often as in the past. His boy Dylan is his regular hunting partner, while I generally take to the woods with my wife Paula. So I don’t have that sidekick who’s ready to give me a kick when I need it.

This spring, I’m going to make a conscious effort to be more aggressive on gobblers. Not to the point where I’m going to be “fanning,” that much talked-about method in which hunters crawl toward a gobbler while holding a turkey fan – a move many in the industry have called into question from a safety standpoint. But I’m going to make a point of setting up closer, moving my setup more often as needed, instead of parking on a promising travel route and waiting for things to happen. I won’t likely alter my calling, but wouldn’t rule that out, either, if I feel the need to crank it up.

I’ll be out of my turkey hunting comfort zone, for sure. But I think many turkey hunters would benefit from evaluating their methods and maybe altering them from time to time. 

Chances are I’ll bump a gobbler or two this spring and be sick about it.

But I might just tag a couple more longboards, too.

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