How To Learn, Understand, and Pattern Spring Turkey Movements
March 30th, 2016 |
Understanding Spring Turkey Patterns | Setting Yourself Up for Success
Success in the spring turkey woods really comes down to the two P’s, preparation and persistence. While turkey hunting can be one of the most exciting and exhilarating things that a hunter can do in the woods during the spring months, the difficulty level of being successful should be taken for granted. Understanding both the gobbler and hen movements during the days leading up to opening day can go a long way to ensuring you are putting a long beard in the back of the Chevy this spring.
If you follow the Landing Zone blog you have figured out by now that many of the articles focus a lot on preparation and scouting. The primary reason for this is there is no greater asset in stacking the odds in your favor and ensuring a successful trip afield. Whether its spring time turkeys or fall greenheads, understanding the movements and behavior of the game you are pursuing all them to become somewhat predictable. There is no substitute for knowledge when it comes to developing your turkey hunting game plan.
Patterning spring time turkeys is not only directly correlated to probability of success, but it is also pretty fun as well. Spending time outdoors during the spring months, listening to turkeys gobble on the limb and watching them strut is one of the reasons spring is a magical time of year. To be successful in developing a game plan for opening day, you must first do your homework and pattern the turkeys in your area. To have the best success for patterning the turkeys in your area, you must first understand what is going on with the turkey population as we get closer to opening day, and understanding what factors will change as the spring drags on.
The Early Spring Break Up
While this spring has been somewhat of a mild one across much of the Midwest, we are still in the very early portion of what would be considered the spring break up. Paying exception to southern states that have had turkey season underway for some time now, many states across the country are still very early in the spring break up process.
The spring break up is period in which large winter groups of gobblers will begin to break up into smaller groups and begin to disburse to new areas. During this time you are more likely to see a loan gobbler standing in a field or on a roadside by his lonesome or possibly with a subordinate gobbler. Also during this time you begin to see large groups of hens begin to become smaller as smaller groups will begin to separate in search of potential nesting location. While breeding is not yet occurring, gobblers will become more vocal during this time. With the warming temperatures and longer days, gobblers will begin to strut and begin to spar with other gobblers for dominance.
To the untrained eye, it may seem as though courting and mating are in full swing especially during a spring like this one where it has been unseasonably mild for a good part of March. While the gobblers may seem like they are running in fifth gear, the hens have not yet begun to get the same itch.
Right now is an excellent time to begin locating large flocks of turkeys. While the gobblers have begun to disperse, there will still be large groups of hens hanging around. Where there are hens, there should be gobblers. Locating turkeys right now can provide you two critical pieces of information. One, it will tell you how many turkeys you currently have on the areas you can hunt (gobblers included). Two, keeping an eye on the population of birds in your area will allow you to monitor the dispersal of the gobblers as the large groups of hens begin to separate. While turkeys can use the same properties from winter to spring, their nutritional requirements and life history needs to change. In short, they go from looking for easily accessible forages such as grain fields, to a forage such as insects. The bottom line is just because you see birds in an area in March, does not mean that they will be there in April.
Right now is simply an excellent time to begin to take inventory as two what the turkey population is in the area surrounding the properties you hunt as well as on the properties you hunt. While a gobbler can disperse a long way, there is a very good chance (as long as the habitat is there) that they will not travel far. Being able to key in on the dispersal as its happening will allow you to locate the gobblers new core area early, which can help you in determining your course of action moving forward, such as determining if you need to try to gain access to a new piece of property. Right now is an excellent time to begin listening for turkeys in the mornings and locating turkeys during the mid-day hours. Pay attention to where you see turkeys when you are out driving around as well. All of this information can help you when it comes to determining a method of attack come opening day.
The Pre-Season Plan
In most states, the spring turkey season dates are set to correspond with the level of mating activity that has occurred. Most states will open the turkey hunting season after most of the hens have been bred. Opening the season during this time not only ensures that most of the hens have been bred, thereby ensuring that hunting of the turkey doesn’t have a drastic impact on the reproduction of the turkey population that year, but also should equate to gobblers that are eager to respond to the sound of a turkey call. Now, that obviously doesn’t mean that there will not be gobblers who are locked down with a haram of love sick hens that have yet to be bred. It also doesn’t mean that you won’t find yourself in a situation where you have a love sick long beard that is eager for attention.
Developing a pre-season plan is a critical piece of the puzzle. Typically, within a week to two weeks prior to opening day, you can assume that the gobblers in your area have developed their core areas and have pretty well settled into their routines, making them very pattern-able. It is critically important to spend as much time in the field as you can during the weeks leading up to the opening day whistle. Understanding the time is precious for most of us, a good avenue is to spread your efforts out between morning, midday and evening scouting events. It is very important to locate the gobblers in your area in the mornings at least twice prior to opening day. Understanding where these turkeys roost is critical to developing your game plan and you need to locate them at least twice to ensure confidence in their roosting location. If their location changes drastically between locating them on trip one vs. trip two, then you must consider spending more time in the field, until you are certain of their location. You can obviously substitute evenings for mornings in terms of locating your turkey on the limb, however, understand that a gobbler is more likely to be vocal in the mornings than in the evenings.
Once you have a solid understanding of the roosting location of the gobblers in your area, it is then time to truly pattern their movements during the course of the day.
While it is not always the case, most of the time turkeys will tend to have a specific route that they will follow from day to day. In many cases, turkeys and especially gobblers will tend to move in a circle ending back at their roosting location right at sundown. For many turkey hunters, if success isn’t achieved right off the roost, things tend to get exponentially difficult in a hurry. In many cases, the reason being that they are unable to anticipate a turkey’s movements and behavior once they stop being vocal. If there is one thing that you can bet on, it is that there will be days where they will not gobble their heads off. Being able to identify this route will greatly improve your odds of being successful this spring.
There are a couple of simple tricks that you can do to help you zone in on where the turkeys are going during the midday hours. The first is to employ the use of trial cameras in assisting in this effort. Much like you would pattern a whitetail buck during the rut, the same can be said for spring gobblers. Placing trail cameras along the areas you think the turkeys are traveling will help you single out areas of use and non-use which can lead you to developing a pretty good picture of the turkeys daily travel patterns. It is important to note that while trail cameras are very effective, you must be cautious as to when you check them. Having a WIFI enabled trail camera is greatly beneficial in this regard, it is not always practical. Just be sure to practice caution when retrieving the trail camera cards as to not bump turkeys out of the area.
The second tip is to simply look at aerial photography. If you simply sit down and pull up a format such as google earth or a similar spatial program you can develop a fairly good idea of where the turkeys are spending their time simply based upon the habitat that is available. For instance, if you are hunting near a heavily grazed cattle pasture, there is a pretty good chance that during the middle of the day there will be birds visiting that field. If you take some time to sit down and observe the area around you, chances are you will be able to key in on several factors that will help layout what the turkeys are doing. The key is to pay attention to the details.
As was stated earlier, success in the spring turkey woods starts with preparation and persistence. Your chances of success are directly correlated the amount of homework you have done, the preparations you have made with a little bit of good ole’ fashioned luck thrown in to boot. It is certainly not too early to being your turkey season preparations, and being collecting the information that you need to put your turkey hunting game plan together for this spring season. If you take the time to do your due diligence and spend some time gathering as much information as you can, there is no doubt that you will be in a better position come opening morning. With opening day beginning to ring in across the Country, spring is certainly coming in with a bang, so be sure that you find yourself looking down the barrel of your Beretta at a long beard this spring and start patterning your turkeys now!