As the local outdoor shows have wrapped up now, turkey hunters have stocked up on new calls, new camouflage, new decoys and perhaps a new one-man chair blind. I purchased a new blind and new calls myself just a couple weeks ago. We drive everyone around us to the brink of insanity by the constant squawks and screeches that pass for practicing.
Preseason scouting has already begun. The incredibly mild winter has ushered in the scouting season earlier than usual and that's not so good. Spring gobbler hunting has become tougher than ever in the last few years, mostly because birds are so pressured and harassed they respond to their fear and suspicions by simply shutting up.
Much of the pressure the birds feel is from the preseason scouting time when hunters parade around their habitat, calling birds in before season, trying to get video footage and spooking birds almost daily. By the time season opens, they have learned that the enemy is everywhere and has learned to speak their language. They may decide to check out the calls they hear from afar but in recent seasons, they are doing it silently.
They have learned not to be so noisy about advertising their whereabouts. Coyotes slink in silently and when the birds fly off the roost, coyotes chase them. Add hunter pressure to the mix and you understand why birds will gobble from the roost but become totally silent when they fly down. Usually, anymore, they don't even fly down until the hens have arrived under their tree.
It's made hunting tough and the longer preseason scouting season this year will only add to the education of every gobbler in every place. I predict spring hunting will be tougher then aver this year just because of the added scouting time.
Folks are complaining of the abundance of ticks this year and the mild winter has benefited them as well. Make a good tick-repellent spray part of your gear. Also, you can purchase a marvelous little tick remover at any pet store. I got a tick last deer season that I didn't find right away. By the time I did find it, it had been attached for a day, perhaps more and was swollen and blue. But the little tick remover got it out with no trouble.
This mild weather will also spawn more cases of rabies, I would guess. Last spring and summer had an upsweep in the numbers of rabies cases and there have been quite a few cases found during this mild winter. In fact, a rabid deer was harvested during the after-Christmas deer season so this threat is to be taken seriously.
Another thing to be considered now is getting physically in shape for the coming season. AS always, over-exertion during a season can leave a hunter winded, tired and miserable.
As I have aged I have had to pay more attention to shaping up before season. This mild weather can be a help with this. Just walking around the block a few times can work off some of the winter fat, so to speak. I deliberately park farther away from my destination than I need to so I am forced to walk for exercise.
Most turkey hunts require the hunter to walk moderate-to-long distances while scouting or trying to locate birds. Add the fact that he or she is usually traveling up and down hills, around trees, over logs and traversing creeks, and the hunter has a formidable workout.
Because turkey hunting is often - not always - physically exerting, and more than 910,000 Americans die of cardiovascular diseases, many hunters could be at increased risk of a heart attack or stroke while in the field.
But a few weeks, of exercise before the season starts could make the difference in whether you walk out of the woods with your hunting partner or send him scrambling to the nearest hospital for help. Few of us are in the woods anymore without cell phones but sometimes we find ourselves in areas where we can't call out.
I have often suggested that every hunter make up a small survival kit that could help him survive in the woods should he get hurt and can't walk out of the woods alone and perhaps cannot call out either. Just a plastic baggie with a space blanket, matches and firestarter, and medicine you may require will make you much more comfortable should you become disabled. Getting hurt cam happen to anyone and we hear cases of it from every season every year.
Last deer season, I took a terrible fall, injured my ribs and actually had a hard time getting to my feet after the fall. Fortunately, there were others in the woods nearby and heard my radio call for help. But I also hunt alone a lot and carry my little survival kit with me just in case.
My advice is to begin to exercise more, practice our calls so we are proficient when we need to be, buy some good tick spray and take a few minutes to put together some supplies that would take me through a tough time should one befall.