Turkey Hunting: Road Trippin'

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Every year around April 8th, I go into a mid-season crisis.  Because our spring turkey season begins on March 15 and closes on the last day of April here in Alabama, April 8th is the halfway point in our season, and usually marks the point I start to realize that unless I travel elsewhere in May, my "happy time" is coming to an end all too soon.
I typically deny this fact for several days, trying to take my pent-up frustration out on the few turkeys that have survived the season thus far, which creates a narrow window for planning.  I will freely admit that forward thinking is not necessarily my strong suit.  But with my mind largely occupied with visions of Alabama Easterns from New Year's until March 15th, and followed by the hunt itself for what seems like an eternity, there is simply no time for itineraries and plenty of excuses for procrastination.
May arrives as does a funeral procession.  The skies darken and the grass dies.  I lock myself into a room and avoid calls from friends who are tagging birds in western states.  When I emerge from my pity party and talk to my all-is-great-with-the-world buddies, I have no one to blame for my plight but myself.  After all, the invites were there in droves from their end but the due diligence and requests for days off were not from mine.
Road-worn Rose
Given that I have regrettably not been much of a traveling turkey hunter to this juncture in my life, I will defer that knowledge, like May hunting stories, to those who do venture out of their home states each year with success.  Randy Rose, an assistant public defender in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, may be young in age at only 29 but is well-seasoned when it comes to throwing darts at a map and bringing turkeys home each year.  Rose, a former World Junior and Grand National Intermediate turkey calling champion and holder of numerous other turkey, duck, and goose calling titles, has taken turkeys in 17 states, ranging from his original home state of Georgia to Minnesota to South Dakota.  If there are turkeys to be hunted, Rose wants to extend his season by chasing them.
"I got into travel hunting after making a bucket list goal to harvest a gobbler in each state they are present," explains Rose. “The decision on which states I decide to hit up draws largely from that.”
Rose has developed a very extensive system on planning out his hunts from start to finish.  “After I decide on a state or group of states to hunt, which I do so based on distance or distance between each state, I start honing in on areas within those states.  I rely on the internet, turkey hunting forums, Game and Fish Department websites, or word of mouth to select the specific areas of the states I am looking to hunt in that hold the strongest numbers of turkeys,” says Rose.  “I hunt primarily public land, but do not get hung up on federal or state ground or the size of those tracts.  If there are turkeys there, I am interested.  I have killed turkeys in the middle of a 100,000 acre national forest and in a hundred acre CRP Walk-In Area.”
Having several options to choose from is a must, explains Rose.  “I never leave home without several options.  I usually have three or four options within a certain area I am targeting and have researched each of them, printed off and laminated aerial maps, and have had extensive talks with the game biologist for each area.  You must have quality maps to succeed when traveling; study the areas extensively and bounce ideas off the biologist.  Almost all of the biologists I have dealt with have been invaluable resources.  They really do want you to have a successful hunt.”
“The key with travel hunting,” warns Rose “is doing your homework.  If you research on the front end you will be in a much better position to succeed than if you go blind.  I cannot overstate the importance of maps.  They have been the difference maker in my experiences.”
As far as his favorite state he’s hunted, the Cornhusker state gets the nod according to Rose. “The Midwest is tough to beat, with beautiful country and plenty of turkeys, but overall Nebraska was my most memorable hunt.  I heard and saw more gobblers there than anywhere else.  Better yet, the people were friendly and the tags were over the counter.”
“The neatest thing about hunting different states is that the turkeys have different tendencies from state to state, and it really forces you to adapt quickly.  Plus, the challenge of hunting terrain you are unaccustomed to while seeing different parts of the country is a lot of fun,” says Rose.  “You just have to experience it once, and then you are hooked.”
Wild Turkey Report Staff
Wild Turkey Report is the internet's new destination for information on the sport of turkey hunting. Follow them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/wildturkeyreport and on Twitter @wildturkeyreprt!
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January 22, 2012, 10:00 PM