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Hooks and Antlers: Proper preparation keys successful turkey opener

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Hunters have three weeks remaining to do their scouting for the May 1 turkey opener, and preseason scouting often spells the difference between harvesting a tom and a “birdless” start to the season.

Scouting

Ideally, scouting ventures will reveal roosting, feeding and strutting areas. By discovering the behavior patterns of birds in a particular area, the hunter significantly increases his odds of putting the bead on a tom.

Seasoned hunters know that turkeys modify their patterns throughout the season so “patterning” birds requires in-season attention.

Common mistakes on scouting ventures are being too intrusive and doing too much calling. Such behaviors tend to quickly educate birds, and turkeys that have been exposed to preseason human intrusions and “overcalling” are generally quite wary by the time opening day arrives. Most experts suggest scouting from a distance with binoculars and using locator calls rather than actual turkey calls.

Calling

Proficient calling is more important in turkey hunting than in most other types of hunting, and now is the time for hunters to practice their calling.

With so many affordable and easy-to-use calls available today, an individual can easily find several types to suit one’s calling needs. The important thing is to practice, practice and practice. As a courtesy to others, it is best to practice when others are out of hearing range. At a minimum, develop the confidence to call loudly and softly with at least two different types of calls.

Shot Patterning

Another aspect of preparation, one often overlooked by hunters, is shooting one’s gun and learning which loads perform best.

As a general rule, hunters are advised to try several shot sizes and to shoot at varying distances (20-40 yards) because most turkey shotguns seem to “prefer” one load above the others. Finding the proper load allows the hunter to know the limits of his gun, and it gives confidence in knowing what shot to take and what shot to pass up when a gobbler appears on the scene.

Conditioning

In preparing for the season, a person should consider his or her physical conditioning. A regular routine of walking or whatever will go a long way toward making days afield enjoyable ones.

A level of fitness along with a routine of going to bed early is an excellent way to deal with those early hour wakeups during turkey season.

Vest Packing

Turkey hunters use a fair amount of paraphernalia so stuffing one’s vest is part of preparation.

While specific needs vary, items frequently found in vests are shells, license and tags, pen, knife, insect repellant, map, compass, orange hat, decoy, calls, head net, seat cushion, flashlight, water bottle, gloves, snack and pruning shears. The last item is particularly helpful in assuring the set-up site is quiet and comfortable for those long sits.

Communicating

The most important communication involves talking to the landowner and getting his permission before scouting and actually hunting on private land. Landowners also often have knowledge of turkey roosting, strutting and feeding areas on the property.

When possible, it’s also advisable to communicate with other hunters in the area. Such communication has a high safety value, builds camaraderie and provides information that might lead to a successful hunt.

Regulations

The Spring Wild Turkey Season in New York state runs from May 1 to May 31, and hunting hours are from a half-hour before sunrise until noon. Hunters must possess a valid hunting license and a turkey permit. The season limit is two bearded turkeys, and only one bird may be taken per day.

Hunters who take birds must report the take within seven days. For more details on regulations, see pages 46-49 of the current Hunting and Trapping Regulations Guide.

Outdoors Calendar

Today: 1000 Islands Spring Boat Show at Clayton Arena.

Today: Massena R&G Club’s Annual Sportsman’s Expo at Massena Arena.

Monday-Tuesday: Bowhunter Education Course at St. Lawrence Valley Sportsmen’s Club (393-3775).

Saturday: Sportsman’s Show at Golden Dome in Ogdensburg (393-3620).

April 12-13: Syracuse Gun Show at NYS Fairgrounds.

April 19: SLC Trapper Association’s Annual Dinner (212-0283).

April 26: Seaway Valley QDMA Benoit Brothers Seminar at Gouverneur High School (287-4968).

April 26-27: Youth Wild Turkey Hunt Weekend.

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