Is there any place you’d rather be?
Saturday, Oct. 31, is the fall turkey season opener in most of Pennsylvania.
Forecasts are for a cloudy day and the recent rains will make things pretty good. Lots of leaves fall when it rains for a couple days in a row. The main sign most hunters will be looking for are the scratching turkeys make when they feed through the woods. They are looking for acorns, beech nuts, wild grapes and tubers and worms and other insects that are buried under the leaves. The scratching will be easy to spot after the rain we have enjoyed.
Tracks in the muddy roads and trails will all be fairly fresh. Remember, gobbler tracks are a good bit larger than hen tracks but also remember that both hens and gobblers are legal game in the fall season. Judging by the large numbers of hens that I saw last spring traveling right with the gobblers, I will not be reluctant to shoot a hen.
The gobblers were so occupied with the hens last spring that the old boys would neither gobble nor come to a hunter’s calls.
Prospects are good for fall turkey so says the Game Commission but then, don’t they always say that?
Scatter and call back
I’m sure the earliest settlers in America learned this trick from Native Americans at the time — sneak up on a flock, then charge at them, yelling, to scare and panic them.
Then, you quickly choose a comfortable set-up spot in the same area from which you bumped them, get completely camouflaged, calls in place and then wait for 20 minutes or so until the confused, young birds begin screeching out calls in an effort to relocate their flockmates.
It’s an old psychological ploy. Hens and their young at the time are a close-knit bunch and they panic when they find themselves suddenly alone. They will generally respond and come quickly to the first calls they hear, so relieved are they to hear the voice of another turkey. They talk in what is known as the kee-kee run, simply a series of not-quite-yet-developed yelps.
This becomes noisy and exciting for awhile until turkeys begin to appear from every direction. If you happen upon a flock that hasn’t been separated before, the process will work smoothly.
But they learn quickly and by late season, savvy to this maneuver, they become frustratingly cautious.
A diaphragm mouth call is the most commonly used call used to make the kee-kee so practice before season, sit tight and wait. They will eventually look for you.
Dusk to dawn
This tactic can produce a big payoff but it requires a good bit of preseason scouting to locate feeding areas, loafing spots and roosting trees.
Roost trees are obvious if you are specifically looking for them. In mountainous country turkeys most often roost in large trees with good horizontal branches, a tree from which they can easily launch themselves into the air to glide down the mountain should they need to escape avian predators during the night.
Or perhaps from which they can easily glide down into a cornfield in farm country. If they are not disturbed they will often use the same roost tree night after night. There will be lots of droppings under that tree. Mark that location when you find it.
Anytime I haven’t yet found a roost tree, I’ll sit quietly on a ridge waiting and listening until dark, to see or hear a flock flying up to roost. I have often waylaid birds as they came marching along on their way to roost. You may get a shot then. But if not, wait until it is really dark to get up and leave the area because you don’t want to spook them now.
Set your alarm clock for really early and be in the near vicinity of that roost tree before dawn. Turkeys make a lot of noise on the roost just before they fly down and they can be easily persuaded to your soft yelps and clucks. Try to mimic the calls they are using.
If they don’t come to your calls first thing, perhaps you can actually rush them and scatter them. Turkeys seem most vulnerable when coming to roost in the evening and then first thing in the morning. And it is vocal magic when a tree full of turkeys begins to wake up. But it does require discipline to get out of that warm bed and into the woods in the dark of pre-dawn.
In an answer to a specific request from a reader, I am reprinting a recipe for venison jerky.
If you bagged a deer during the archery season, this recipe is a winner!
n 3 LBS VENISON
n 1 TABLESPOON SALT
n 1 TEASPOON EACH ONION AND GARLIC POWDER
n ONE-HALF TEASPOON BLACK PEPPER
n ONE-THIRD CUP WORCESTERSHIRE SAUCE
n 1 CUP SOY SAUCE
n 3 TABLESPOONS LIQUID SMOKE (WRIGHT’S PREFERRED)
n ONE-FOURTH TEASPOON SALTPETER.
Cut meat in small strips about the size of a cigarette. Remove all fat and gristle. Marinate overnight in above seasonings.
Stir several times so meat becomes all the same color. Drain. Pat dry with paper towels. Spread on cake cooling racks in a shallow pan.