The 2017 turkey season opens April 17 in Missouri and April 12 in Kansas. This has been a warm spring and turkeys started strutting and chasing hens two or three weeks earlier – possibly good news for hunters.
Turkeys usually nest in old fields, cutovers, forests or stream edges with a well-developed area that provides some concealment. One egg is laid daily until a clutch averaging 9 to 11 eggs is completed. Incubation takes 28 days, and all babies hatch within a 24-hour period.
Depending on weather, the brood hen and babies leave the nest within 24 hours of hatching. If the first nest is destroyed, some hens attempt a second nest. Hens that have to re-nest lay fewer eggs.
Gobblers go on the prowl for love when hens are on the nest. This is when turkey hunters have a great chance of calling in a big bird and why I think this will be an exceptional turkey season in both Kansas and Missouri. We’ll see!
Are you a novice turkey hunter? Then purchase a turkey hunting video and watch how the experts hunt gobblers. Wild turkeys are smart in their world, so you have to know all the tricks. Here are a couple more suggestions:
CALLING: Two type of turkey hunters will read this column; experienced and novice callers. There are putts, purrs, clucks, yelps, cutting, tree yelps and even gobbling sounds created on box, slate, diaphragm and push buttons calls used by hunters to fool Ol’ Tom. However, I suggest that novice hunters stick with light clucks and yelps.
Wild turkeys make mistakes when they call. Years ago I listened to a hunter making some of the worse turkey sounds ever. That hunter was clearly on my property and I decided to chase him off before he frightened every turkey out of the country.
I was shocked to find that hunter turned out to be a young gobbler apparently looking for his flock. You can occasionally make a mistake when making turkey sounds, but not on a seasoned old bird.
Novice callers should buy an instructional tape and imitate how the sounds should be made and the call that is easiest to use. Then keep it simple with clucks and yelps. You can learn more challenging calls later.
CAMOUFLAGE: Camouflage from head to toe and everything in between including your shotgun. There are many good commercial brands to try.
Be quiet – silence and limited movement are keys to turkey hunting success. Wild turkeys have eyesight approximately eight times better than a whitetail deer and amazing hearing.
Find a good spot where you know there are turkeys. This can be determined early in the morning by making turkeys shock gobble off the roost with owl calls.
SAFETY: Be safe – accidental shootings in hunting or target practice situations generally involve wounding or killing a friend or family member. Those who pull the trigger will spend the remainder of their lives wishing they had never looked at a gun. One moment of carelessness and your father or brother is dead. Those who accidentally shoot a stranger feel a sense of guilt and remorse too.
Let’s examine reasons for hunting accidents:
FATIGUE: Fatigue slows reaction and judgment, making a hunter less responsible when handling a firearm. For example, turkey hunting sometimes requires walking long distances.
Those in shape may feel fatigue. Others may feel like having a heart attack. Additional weight of a firearm or equipment is just as taxing on younger hunters who are trying to keep up with adults. The inexperienced hunter carries his firearm in a manner that potentially tires arms and shoulders. Experienced folks use a sling or belt style shotgun butt rest.
How many times have you watched a fatigued hunter lean on his loaded shotgun? This foolish act is flirting with death. No doubt you have seen hunters rest their firearm against a fence or tree.
Sadly, a smoothed polished barrel will easily slide, slamming down the loaded shotgun or rifle. An alert hunter unloads his gun and opens the breech before leaning it against an object to avoid a loaded gun falling out of control.
WHAT ARE YOU SHOOTING AT: Hunters education is necessary! Young and sometimes old students learn that you only take the safety off and touch the trigger when ready to shoot. But more importantly, only shoot when you are sure of your target.
Accidental shootings are reported every year by hunters who shot at sound, color or movement before positively identifying the target. Granted, this is more of a beginner’s mistake that an old pro, right? Wrong, even the experienced hunters make mistakes – sometimes fatal.
STAYING CALM: Few moments will make you breathe hard like a tom gobbling his head off. Staying calm will allow you to make that all-important one-shot kill and allow you to not make deadly mistakes. Taking deep breaths or simply calming yourself down is necessary.
KNOW THE AREA: Hunters occasionally walk into another hunter’s area, creating a dangerous situation. Never wave or speak to an approaching hunter in the woods. Some suggest that you whistle a popular tune. Waving or other types of movement may receive a shot of lead pellets or a bullet. Hunters who are day dreaming will occasionally snap shoot.
Hunters who are deeply concentrating on their hunt may be just as likely to raise and fire without thinking.
REMOVING GAME FROM THE WOODS: Turkey hunters occasionally carry a bird over their shoulder. This scene is often portrayed in magazines, on television and in newspapers. Be cautious of this potential death trap. Wrap turkeys that cannot be hidden in game pouches in hunter’s orange strips.
WALKING IN THE DARK: Finally, unload your firearm before walking through dark woods. I once watched an experienced hunter step in a hollow while trying to reach his car. His gun went off on impact. The bullet hit a rock and dangerously ricocheted through the darkness. The hunter’s leg was broken.
Experienced hunters avoid careless nighttime walks by using a small flashlight like a Mag Lite or by simply taping a piece of red cellophane over their flashlight lens. Both make less light but give you enough vision to safely walk out of the woods.
Shooting may be compared to driving a car. A second of carelessness can cause instant death. Every hunter must remind himself or herself that no wildlife is worth a human life. A calm, clear sight picture is always necessary before pulling that trigger. Otherwise you may contribute to a horrible hunting statistic. Don’t let your experience make you careless. It only takes one mistake.
Kenneth Kieser, a veteran outdoors writer and member of the Waterfowlers Hall of Fame and National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, writes a weekly outdoors column for The Examiner. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.