Marty Fischer-Know Your Opponent

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Since early March, the wild turkey hunting seasons have been starting in state after state.  A number of turkey hunting enthusiasts already have stories to tell, good and bad.  There have been tales and yarns filtering through sporting goods stores and hunting club circles of success, but as is often the case with wild turkeys in this part of the country, there are lots of "you've got to be kidding me" hunt recitations out there as well.
When it comes to the wild turkey, there are no absolutes.  I could take the time to spout a list of do's and don'ts herein that might give you a few pointers that might shift the odds in your favor.  But I'm not going to do that.  Instead, I am to talk about a day in the life of the wild turkey gobbler during the spring hunting season in hopes of opening some eyes about what makes him tick. 
For the vast majority of each calendar year, wild gobblers really don't have much to do at all.  For about nine months of each year, they sleep, eat and try to stay alive while sharing each day with other gobblers.  Keep in mind that from the day they were laid in the nest as an egg, something has been trying to kill and eat them.  They possess a keen sense of sight and hearing, and both of those senses are constantly on full alert. Many turkey hunters have been known to say that if a gobbler had a sense of smell like a deer, you'd never kill one. 
As winter transitions into spring, the daily routine of the wild gobbler changes literally by the day, if not by the hour.  During the deer seasons across the country, gobblers live in bachelor groups, and hunters often see them in fairly large "all male" flocks.  As the Ides of March get closer, gobblers start to intermingle with hens and jakes, in addition to other gobblers.  As the days get longer and the temperatures warmer, the urge to proliferate the species starts to become a priority. 
As is the case with most of the world's creatures, the strongest among them do the majority of the breeding.  Dominant gobblers will often fight to assemble their hens for breeding.  And let's not forget that a gobbler gobbles to assemble hens to his position for breeding.  In other words, Mother Nature says that he's not supposed to come to your calls.  I can tell you that the urge to breed and his curiosity are often your greatest ally in the turkey woods. 
It seems that I spend a lot of time telling fellow hunters that patience is a virtue in the turkey woods.  After all, if a gobbler wants to take a couple of hours to walk 50 yards, that's his prerogative.  When you're in the turkey woods, you're on turkey time, so if you've got to be somewhere at a certain hour, you might miss out on that gobbler walking by your spot just after you've left the area. 
One thing that many hunters don't fully understand is that turkeys can move from one location to another from the fall months into spring.  Where the birds go is totally based on where the hens plan to nest.  And you can bet that wherever the hens want to go during the breeding season, the gobblers will go as well.  It is common for the Fall/Winter range of birds to be totally different from their range in the spring.  That is the reason that you quite often see birds in a place during deer season but not during turkey season.
As a result, it is important to do a bit of scouting to find out where your birds are when the season starts, and you need to monitor where they are throughout the season.  Just remember that they will most likely move a bit between opening day and the middle of the season.  Once the hens are nesting for most of the day, the gobblers will go off in search of more hens.  They will often come back to where you saw them earlier in the season. 
Turkeys are very different from deer.  They simply won't tolerate much human intrusion during the breeding season.  Birds that you can drive close to during the winter months run like the wind in the spring.  They react more to movement than anything else, so learn to move quietly and with a bit of stealth when hunting.  Any quick movement on your part will likely be picked up by a turkey's keen eyesight.  
Hunters need to understand this and realize that every trip to check a trail camera, every time you walk through your turkey woods before and during the season and every time you slam a door or talk loud can help alert a wary gobbler that something is changing in his home territory.  You'll find that they don't like change. 
For the most part, turkey hens are quiet as they walk and feed through the woods.  The most noise they often make is very soft clucks, purrs and yelps.  Occasionally a hen will get a bit more vocal with louder yelps and cuts, but that's more the exception than the rule.  As a result, hunters running up and down roads yelping loudly on box calls are doing nothing more than telling the birds that there's something different going on in their living room.  Don't think for one second that they aren't paying attention.  They are, and too much change makes them very suspicious.  
So there you have it-a short look at a day in a gobbler's life.  Having an understanding of what makes him tick can really help you harvest one of these very difficult birds.  You're in "turkey school" every time you go to the turkey woods.  Just make sure you're paying attention to the teacher.  
Marty Fischer
Marty Fischer is the host and executive producer of TNT Outdoor Explosion seen each week on the Pursuit Channel. He is a professional wingshooter and instructor, a book author, video host, gun club designer and avid turkey hunter. He is the author of two books, "The Gun Digest Book of Shotgunning" and "Limbhangers and 4-Letter Words - The Trials and Tribulations of a Turkey Fanatic."
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