IT'S GOBBLING TIME: Turkey season opens Thursday as hunters match wits with the wily birds
Turkey season opens Thursday in most of Oklahoma, the time of year when turkey hunters match wits with wily gobblers.
Hearing a turkey gobble and watching one strut in the wild is a sight to behold. And it's a challenge to fool a gobbler and lure one close enough to shoot.
"I never shake and get excited as I do during turkey season," said Mike Freeman of Noble. "Turkeys are the most wary things, 10 times the hearing of a human and 10 times the eyesight of a human ...
"The excitement of hearing that gobble and watching them strutting, they put on such a show."
I called several seasoned turkey hunters in Oklahoma and asked them to provide their best turkey hunting tip. The tips vary, but the most common themes from the group were to scout more, call less and be patient.
Learn to call to the hens — The thing that is often overlooked is learning how to talk to a hen and getting a hen riled up. You hear guys all the time say, 'They are henned up. They just won't leave the hens.' With a thriving population in Oklahoma, there are so many hens around, they (toms) just won't leave them, they are always with them, so bring the hen to you. If you can get that hen to come to you, she will bring that gobbler right in behind her. Learn to get her riled up and yelping back and forth. They are pretty territorial, and she will come to find out what is going on and she will bring that ole' gobbler right with her. I have used it successfully a lot. — Jeff Puckett, Norman
Find the roost — You got to know where the turkeys roost. I think that's the most important thing for us in Oklahoma. When they fly off the roost, you got to know which direction. They are going to go from that roost area to a feeding area, and we try to intercept them in between. Most seasoned turkey hunters will tell you they would rather kill a turkey in the first hour of the morning than any other time of the day because they are most predictable. They are going to fly off the roost, the gobblers are going to strut and the hens are going to go to a feeding area and the gobblers are going to follow. — George Moore, Edmond
Be patient and don't call too much — Sit still and be patient. A lot of time people will bust birds and they think it is over with, and if they just sit down right there, within an hour there will be a bird back in range. And they call too much. If a bird is going to respond, he is going to do it on his own time. If you make a couple of calls and he gobbles, he knows where you are. You don't have to keep calling. When you keep calling it actually gets the hens' attention and the hens will go to him and say, ‘We don't recognize that over there. Let's go the other direction.' — Ronny Lambeth, Oklahoma City
Be diligent about scouting — The best advice I have is do your homework. Really scout hard and prepare yourself. I think if people do that they are going to have success. By scouting, I mean going out and patterning the turkeys. Knowing where their food sources are. Know where the roost spots are. Then put yourself in line with one of those. I think if you are doing that, you're going to have a pretty good chance year in and year out. If you don't go out and scout, you are putting a lot of it in the hands of luck. You increase your odds so much by going out and scouting. I have been out 15 times (scouting) already. I try not to scout the night before (opening day) because I don't want to disturb them in any way. If you scout Wednesday I would glass them from a distance (using binoculars). I wouldn't want to put any pressure on the birds. — Russ Rundle, Elk City
Hunt away from the roost — In the morning, that bird is gobbling on the roost and how many times have you heard hunters say, ‘When he hit the ground, he shut up.' Actually what the bird does is gobble on the roost to tell the hens where he is and then he goes to an open spot and hens run to him. Instead of working that bird around the roost area, go where that bird might be midmorning. Instead of working the roost and messing with him there, where he's got all the hens he wants, just forget about that. Go to an area where he may be in the midmorning and set you out a decoy and wait for him to get done with those hens. I have had a lot better luck with messing with those birds an hour or two later than messing with them right when they fly down (off the roost). — Melvin Hart, Yukon
Find the hens and their nesting habitat — If you can locate hens, there are going to be gobblers. It's sort of like deer hunting. If you locate a doe, you know there are going to be bucks there. The hens generally stay in the same place all the time. The gobblers move around to find the hens. If you can find water, habitat and food, the hens will be there. The habitat is most important. The time of the season is spring, and they've got to have nesting habitat (plum thickets, for example) and water and food close by. — Mike Freeman, Noble
Scout more and call less — My No. 1 tip is to pre-scout. We spend a lot of time scouting. It will overcome a lot of ineptitude in calling, in set-up and camo and everything else. I tell my hunters every time, if we are where the birds want to be, our odds go way up. I think that is real important early in the season. My second tip would be not to overcall. I can get real aggressive on calling because I got a lot of birds to hunt so if I mess one up, I can go to the next bird. But if I am hunting ground with a limited number of turkeys, I would probably be a little cautious about overcalling once they know you are there. Let them wonder what is going on as opposed to telling them what a fool you are. — Jerick Henley of Edmond, hunting manager of the Chain Ranches in western Oklahoma and south-central Kansas.
Be patient and try a wingbone call — Most people get jumpy and want to move, want to try to find a bird that's gobbling. If one shuts up, he may be coming to you. There is a good chance he is. You just need to stay put. If you can, just sit there for 30 to 45 minutes after you hear the last gobble. He could be slipping in on you. I have had it happen too many times. Another mistake that rookies and veterans alike make is we call too much because we like to hear them gobble, so we want to keep them gobbling. Sometimes that makes them more wary. And I use a wingbone call mainly because very few people use them and it's different. It's just something that turkeys don't hear a lot and sometimes that is what it takes. I think sometimes they know what brand of call you are using if you are using a box or a diaphragm. — Ron Jordan, Muskogee
SPRING TURKEY SEASON
Dates: April 6 to May 6 in most of the state. April 17 to May 6 in the southeastern Oklahoma counties of Atoka, Choctaw, Coal, Latimer Le Flore, McCurtain, Pittsburg and Pushmataha.
Season limit: Three tom turkeys per hunter. Some counties have a limit of one or two toms. No more than one tom may be taken from the combined eight counties in the southeast region.