Outdoors column: Gobblers are a sure sign of spring

Turkey season just can’t get going soon enough for many hunters who are ready to get into the spring woods.

With the prolonged and severe winter which we have all endured this year, I can’t agree more. It will be interesting to hear reports from those early season tag holders what effects the heavy snowpack and extremely cold temperatures had on Minnesota’s wild turkey populations.

With any uncertainty about how the winter affected a particular favorite hunting location, pre-season scouting will play a much larger part of the equation when it comes to being successful in filling your tag – or coming home empty handed this year.

Dan Zimmerman of Nisswa bagged this spring gobbler.
Dan Zimmerman of Nisswa bagged this spring gobbler.Submitted photo

Another factor to keep in mind with a late winter and a lingering deep snow pack in many parts of the state may be that birds have yet to leave their wintering grounds.

Birds that lived in large flocks near feedlots and survived on the hot-lunch program of cattle manure may still be concentrated in these area. Or birds that had easy pickings with neighborhood bird or deer feeders will linger as long as possible if an easy food source is still available.

These patterns will change and become more predictable as the weather changes and the landscapes begin to green. But until this happens, prepare yourself to be flexible with your hunting locations.

It will take some footwork and door knocking to secure permission to hunt these locations. Starting early will ensure you a premiere hunting location before someone else beats you to the punch.

If and when the warmer temperatures arrive and the foliage begins to emerge, locating a tom turkey will still be critically important to the success of your hunt. One of the sure indicators will be a group of hens, or the actual sighting of a tom. Now is where your scouting will pay big dividends.

One of the most important parts of turkey hunting is where you set up. If you are a hunter and use a blind, you have the luxury of setting up almost anywhere you choose. Most hunters I know will take the time to brush- in their blind, but this is not always necessary. The key here to success is not to have any movement, which the keen eyes of a tom can see. Only have the windows, or shooting slots which are necessary, open.

Having any open windows or doors behind the shooter will allow movement to be seen right inside the blind making you extremely vulnerable to being busted.

It’s those hunters that sit on the ground using the natural surrounds, or a tree or stump as a blind that have the extraordinary challenge of not being busted by the slightest movement by a big old tom.

This is where pre-season scouting will be part of your success.

As I walk the terrain looking for active birds in the spring, I am always looking at the brush or foliage to imagine where I would set up in case I were running or gunning after a non-committal tom.

If it is an early morning set up location, large trees, heavy brush or natural terrain which offers good visibility, but still allows you to be stealthy are far and few between. Here again, pre-season scouting will take the guessing out of stumbling around in the darkness of morning only to be not as concealed as one would want to be.

If I had to pick one location for an early morning set up it would be a slight depression on a woodland road next a corn field which still has last year’s stubble.

These locations are far and few between, but they do exist.

Take some time scouting this spring and maybe you will find that magical spot and bag a big old tom.

Jeff Weaver is a contributing writer to the Outdoors page.