Imagine waking up well before sunrise. Walking slowly down an old forest road on a cool spring morning. The smell of wet aspen and fresh air abound. You have a warm tumbler full of hot coffee in one hand, and a shotgun in the other, your vest heavy with slates, strikers, and box calls. You’re about to settle into a ground blind or sitting camouflaged against a tree for the next couple of hours. The sun rises, and you hear gobbles in the distance, and thunderous flaps of wings as the turkeys come off their tall pine roosts. It’s one of nature’s gifts to hunters; it’s spring turkey season.
As a kid, my family would spend a few days, every April down in SE Minnesota near the town of Harmony. Harmony is known for its strong Amish population, and it provided things in the spring for my entire family to enjoy. My brother, my old man and I would wake up early, and spend the entire day hunting or scouting turkeys, while my mom would shop in the small Amish community. She’s always had an affinity for good craftsmanship and enjoyed the woodwork. For us, Harmony provided the opportunity to hunt turkeys in Minnesota. I enjoyed the hunts, and if we were all successful, the back of the truck would be filled with turkeys and new wood furniture…
Back then, the population wasn’t what it is now. There were no birds in the northern part of the state, and low numbers across the entire state as a whole. As I grew older, time didn’t allow for the long drive to Harmony, and we all became busy with other things. Life gets in the way of tradition at times, unfortunately. The drive was long, and the days were tiring. I lost my passion for the sport for a bit.
Since those days, the turkeys are the ones who’ve grown up. The population is booming across most of the state, and many new areas have been added in recent years, allowing people like myself to hunt gobblers locally. The population has even allowed for a fall either-sex season. They’ve come in a long way.
Equipment and Tactics
Aside from the usual calls, chairs, vests, camo outfits, face paint, etc.… here are a few new products available that will help increase your odds at getting close to and putting down the gobbler of a lifetime.
Since my kids are now hunting, a good ground blind is essential, and Primos/Double Bull has one of the most innovative blinds ever created. A lot of buzz has been floating around since the release of the Double Bull Surround View. It’s blind without a blind spot. With its one-way see-through fabric, the hunter can see out through the blind in every direction, while nothing can see in. This blind is going to revolutionize how we look at all hunting blinds going forward.
Primos has long been known as a leader in turkey hunting gear, from their calls, decoys, Double Bull blinds, and turkey apparel. They’ve added some new calls this season, as well as a combo pack of their popular Gobstopper decoys, one hen and semi-strut Jake. The realism is fantastic, and the combo pack is reasonably priced for hunters just entering the sport.
Ammunition is crucial, as the vitals on a turkey are basically limited to the head and neck. Federal Premium has revamped its turkey shotshell lineup with a trio of new high-performance product families. New Grand Slam, 3rd Degree and Heavyweight TSS loads replace all previously available Federal Premium turkey products.
Grand Slam shells extend the range and lethality of conventional turkey loads, putting as many pellets as possible within a 10-inch circle without breaking the bank. Grand Slam is available in 4, 5, and 6 shot. 3rd Degree with Heavyweight TSS uses a three-stage payload comprised of 40 percent #7 Heavyweight TSS shot, 20 percent #6 Flite stopper lead and 40 percent #5 premium lead to killing birds from spitting distance out to 50 yards. Heavyweight TSS provides the highest possible pellet counts; up to double those of similar weight lead loads, to take gobblers at longer ranges than ever.
All of the new offerings utilize the full-length Flite control Flex wad. The wad’s unique design improves pattern density and consistency when fired through ported and non-ported chokes. The wad was redesigned in 2017 with rear-deploying brake fins and side-mounted vents making patterns more consistent and denser.
As an added touch, all new 12 and 20 gauge loads also feature improved hull printing complete with a small tape measure graphic that allows hunters to measure spurs in the field and photograph the dimensions to show friends and share on social media.
Tungsten Super Shot (TSS) is an integral part of Heavyweight TSS and 3rd Degree loads. The material is more than 20 percent denser than Federal Premium’s previous Heavyweight shot and 56 percent denser than lead. The best part about purchasing Federal turkey loads is that a portion of all purchases goes to the National Wild Turkey Federation.
Tactics are simple. Find birds and set up in high percentage areas. Scouting is essential and prepare to put on some serious miles trying to locate birds. Once you find some hens, typically the toms aren’t far away. If you happen to find a good roosting area, with food nearby, setting up your decoys and blind between them is a high percentage tactic, and often times requires zero calling if you’re not comfortable with a call. For beginners, simple box calls or push-button calls are the way to go. Once you get a feel for the sounds, moving up to mouth diaphragms and slates is beneficial, as they sound more realistic, and can produce many sounds introductory calls cannot.
Rekindling the Fire
With numbers on the rise, and friends and family gaining or re-gaining interest in turkeys, I’ve been able to recall the days of old. Over the last few seasons I’ve been lucky enough to harvest a lot of birds, but more importantly, help others get into the sport. I’ve called for buddies and had toms roaring gobbles in our faces and have watched them down birds. I’ve also called for my son, daughter, and my wife. Watching them kill birds is more exciting than pulling the trigger myself by a long shot.
When I think about turkeys, a fire burns in me, one that has me itching for spring turkeys. A fire that I don’t ever see burning out…
- Matthew J. Breuer