Tracking food sources can aid your hunt

What a strange autumn it has been so far.

The leaves didn’t turn colors and it seems as if it rains every day. The wet ground does make for good still-hunting if you are still archery hunting and/or wild turkey hunting.

It’s the kind of weather that I am thankful to have a portable blind to use. I can weather the showers from the blind and not get too wet but the wind makes it flap and that is definitely not good for turkeys. They see the flapping material and off they go before you know they are there.

Heading into the second week of turkey hunting calls for slightly different tactics at times but I suspect that turkey hunting pressure has been light in this past week so if we are at lucky we can hunt as we do most years in the first week.

I like to be in the woods just before daylight because turkey flocks tend to roost together in the fall and they make a lot of noise when they begin to glimpse first light. If the wind isn’t blowing a gale you can hear them clucking and yelping from quite far off and you can work yourself through the woods to get fairly close to them. Set up and join in the calling and often they will fly off roost and come right to you.

It’s a good-luck-morning when that happens and I have had it go just like that several times in recent years. Three years ago, I parked my car, quietly closed the door and was about to walk into the woods when I heard the turkey talk coming from nearby. I tip toed to a nearby tree, got set up, worked my box call out of my vest, sent 3 clucks their way and before I could get the box down and the gun up, here they came. By 6:45 I had my turkey and was on my way back home.

Most years, however, I have to hunt many days and places before I run into the birds. But if you have walked around in the woods some before season and have a good idea where good feeding areas are, you are way ahead of the game. Acorns are favorites as are all kinds of nuts. But I love to find the grapevine tangles with wild grapes so thick on the ground you have to trample them to walk through there. Turkeys love wild grapes and if you have the patience to wait, they will surely be by at some point.

Near to a cut corn field is another good spot. Both deer and turkeys and other birds love that habitat so there will be plenty of activity around your set-up near a corn field.

Usually by the second week, the flocks of hens and young are pretty spooked by having been split up several times. But may not so much this season because I am sure the constant rain has discouraged many hunters from going out.

If it is raining at dawn, turkeys will often stay on the roost till mid-morning. Or they will hunker up under a bunch of pine trees and just stand there. Hunters sometimes will shoot a turkey out of a tree if they see them even in midday. Pennsylvania hunters frown upon such easy shots, thinking it unsportsmanlike.

But I have hunted many times and places in the South for turkeys and they do not consider shooting a bird off the roost or out of a tree to be unsporting. I once hunted with a very well-known call manufacturer who got very upset because I would not shoot the bird off its roost one dawn.

Actually, I have noticed several of what I call “situational ethics” where hunters from one part of the country think a particular practice is dreadful while in another area they do it all the time.”

Hunting deer with dogs is one of those things and hunting bears over bait is another. Beginning this year, hunters who wound a deer many put a dog on a leash and use it to track a wounded deer. I’m all in favor of that. But in the south, where deer aren’t so much in open hardwoods but in deep swamps there is hardly another way to get them moving but to chase them out with dogs.

But I’m getting desperate. Apparently I’m going to have to carry along an umbrella and park it among the limbs of a tree and sit under it when I get into a flock of turkeys. My choices in the rain are to park myself in my blind and stay in that spot and wait or to still-hunt around with the umbrella. I have outgrown the times that I will plunge ahead all day in the rain, getting chilled and soaked and not caring. Now I care — I don’t want to contract a cold or pneumonia at my age,

The Ruffed Grouse Society put on its usual classy fund raising banquet last Friday evening. This is one of the premier conservation organizations whose research and other funding is especially appreciated in this time of problems with the grouse population.