Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Evolution Of Turkey Decoys

© By Othmar Vohringer

When I got into turkey hunting almost 20 years ago, we had few decoy options available to use that were easy portable and realistic. Today turkey decoys are offered in a vast variety of materials and configurations to suit any hunters need and wants. Some of the decoy models are so lifelike your heart would skip a beat each time you look at it in the field. The available decoys range from the regular resting hen, attentive hen and Jake we had back then to a large variety of decoys depicting every imaginable situation, including decoys with adjustable heads to mimic just about every position a real bird could take. While the first decoys where painted in simple colors that resembled somewhat the real colors we now have decoys that are, right down to every feather, realistically painted with iridescent paint. You even can purchase decoys that are colored to mimic a specific sub-species of turkeys.

My choice of turkey decoys have to be easy to transport, meaning, they are collapsible and be stuffed into a pocket of my turkey hunting vest without taking up much space. I also look for quality materials that are not likely to crack, like some of the older models did, or had paint jobs that easily chipped off.

Here are some of the current decoys on the market that hunters can use to fool gobblers and fit my criteria of a quality decoy.

The Lifelike Collapsible Decoy (LCD) line of turkey decoys with incredible natural feather detailing and many true-to –life body postures it hard to tell the decoy from the real birds.

Crafted from Dura-Rubber the decoy folds tightly and springs back to its original form. A unique stake design that is 24-inch high assures that the decoy stands higher and better visible to approach birds while at the same time allows for natural decoy movement without the unnatural spinning in the wind common some other decoy models. Avian-X decoys sell at over 100 Dollars which makes them a little pricy but in my opinion are worth every bit of the price for the avid turkey hunter.

For more information visit Avian-X Turkey Decoys.

Montana Decoys
Montana Decoys have been a favorite of mine for many. I started with their photo-realistic deer decoys and then began to use their turkey decoys too. What I particularly like about the Montana decoys that they are photos of actual animals, in this case turkeys, which are printed life-size onto a lightweight fabric. The spring wire frame lets you fold the decoy to such a small size that it will fit into a small pocket on your parka or pants. To give the decoy more realism Montana Decoys added feather cut fabric to the decoy that provides just the right amount of movement and 3-D realism.

The Montana Miss Purr-Fect™ 3-D Hen Decoy features PERFECT POSE TECHNOLOGY™ so you can match the pose of the decoy to the situation. Choosing one of two leg pole slots will change the position of the hen decoy to a feeding pose or looker pose. The head position of the turkey decoy can also be fine-tuned as its wire construction allows hunters to change the heads pose. I like to use these decoys by themselves or in conjunctions with other decoys to set up a flock of decoys.
With a suggested price tag of just under 50 Dollars every hunter can afford to purchase several decoys without breaking the bank.

To see the variety of turkey decoys Montana Decoys has on offer visit their website.

Flambeau Decoys
One of the first folding turkey decoy set I purchased was the Flambeau Master Series™ Breeding Flock™ set and I still use these decoys to this day in my decoy arsenal. The Master Series set includes an intruder Jake, attentive hen and feeding hen. With these three decoys you can create a decoy spread that is not likely ignored by approach toms. If you use the feeding hen and the Jake decoy you can perfectly mimic a breeding scene that will get every boss gobbler fired up with rage and anger.

The body shell of the decoy is made of soft rubber foam that won’t crack or tear even after years of relentless use. The decoy heads are crafted with molds form real turkeys for realistic impact. A unique stake system will make sure that these extremely lightweight decoys don’t move too much, or spin, even in high winds. At a suggested retail price for just under 100 Dollars for the set this is a very affordable starting kit for the beginning turkey hunter.

For more information on Flambeau decoys and other turkey hunting products visit their website.

Turkey Decoy Tip:
Most turkey decoys come with plastic stakes that can be difficult, or even break, when you try to push them into compacted or rocky soil. Many decoy manufacturers offer metal stakes for their decoys and it is well worth the extra cost. If you have basic welding skills, or know someone that can weld, you can make decoy stakes from metal rods very easily yourself at a fraction of the cost.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Best Turkey Hunting Setup For Bowhunters

© Othmar Vohringer

The biggest problem bowhunters face is drawing and shooting the bow without the approaching gobbler detecting the movement. One of the solutions to this dilemma is to use a ground blind. However, if you’re like me you too are not too keen on the time and effort it takes to set up a blind. The drawback with ground blinds is that the hunter is tied down to one spot. Mobility and unobstructed field of view is another reason why I prefer to use natural available cover such as brush and trees to hide behind. One of the best turkey bowhunting setups I found is, what I call, the triangle formation.

Here’s how it works.

In order to make this set up work you need to determine where the roosting tree is, use a locater call right at dawn and listen from what direction the gobbler answers. Find a wide tree trunk, bush or small extension of dense vegetation into an open field that provides you with good natural cover. You do all these things preferably the day before the hunt or by roosting the birds (observing where they go to roost) in the evening before the hunt.

On the day of the hunt, before dawn, stake out a hen decoy about 100 yards from the roosting tree and 20 yards to the side and ahead of you. On what side of you the decoy will be staked out is determined by the direction from which the tom approaches (See the graphic of the setup bellow). When the tom approaches his attention will directed to the decoy as he passes by you. This lets you draw and shoot the bow without being detected. As you can see from the graphic, the location of the decoy, the route the tom comes in and your shooting lane form a triangle, hence me naming this setup for lack of a better word “triangle formation”.

How to hunt the set up.

Right at dawn when the toms fly down start with soft yelps, clucks and purrs to get him interested. Don’t over call, call just enough to keep the gobblers attention. When the tom comes in and sees the decoy quit calling, pick the bow up and get ready to draw the string. If you keep calling the tom will pinpoint your position in heartbeat, and you do not want that to happen.

If the tom loses interest and walks away call him back with clucks and purrs, depending on the situation peak his attention with a short series of exited yelps to turn him around.

If the gobbler has committed and heads straight for the decoy he will walk right past your set up. As soon the head of the gobbler is obstructed by the tree trunk, bush or other cover you sit behind, draw your bow. Alternatively you can wait for the tom to spin around to face the decoy while the fan will obstruct his view behind him. This is another good reason why bowhunters should set out the decoy in such a way that it faces them directly. Toms that approach a decoy almost always will face it head on.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Turkey Hunting News

Alabama Launches Comprehensive Study as Turkey Population Declines.

Alabama's wild turkey population is in steady decline since 2010. Earlier this month the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division (WFF) announced that it will be launching the most comprehensive long-term wild turkey study in the state’s history, alongside Auburn University. The five-year project is aimed at analyzing the reproduction, survival, and harvest rates of the species in Alabama, which is seeing a significant decline of wild turkeys over the past five years.

Read more about it here here.

Lymphoproliferative disease virus causing tumors on turkey are now in 17 U.S. Sates

A potentially deadly virus once only found in European domestic turkeys has found its way to North America, and according to a recent study by researchers at the University of Georgia, is much more widespread than previously thought.

Scientists with the Southeast Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study said that wild turkeys in 17 states from Maine to Colorado have tested positive for lymphoproliferative disease virus (LPDV), which can cause tumors and wart-like growths on the heard and neck area. However, researchers also stated that they had determined the virus was much less dangerous than it was originally believed to be.

Read more about it here.

Best Public Land Places for Southern Turkey Hunting.

Hunting turkeys on public land can be very though, not only have you to deal with great numbers of other hunters but also hunter educated birds.
The list in this link will provide you with information about the best public land places to hunt turkeys in the southern part of the USA.

Read more about it here.

News items have been provided by Outdoor Hub

Friday, March 20, 2015

A Voice For Canada’s Wild Turkey

© Othmar Vohringer

(Originally published in the Merritt Herald)

It is no secret that organizations like Ducks Unlimited, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Wild Sheep Society of British Columbia and a long list of similar organizations right down to the many local Fish & Game Clubs across Canada pour millions of dollars and countless volunteer hours into wildlife conservation. Some of these organizations concentrate on a single species and its conservation needs. One of these is the Canadian Wild Turkey Federation; it is the new kid on the block of Canadian operated wildlife conservation organizations and was founded, like most, by concerned hunters.

Until last year the conservation efforts for the growing Canadian wild turkey population has been represented by the American based NWTF (National Wild Turkey Federation). When the NWTF closed its Canada branch in the spring of 2014 to concentrate on turkey conservation issues occurring in the U.S. the vacancy was taken up by the founding of the Canadian Wild Turkey Federation (CWTF). This new, not-for-profit organization’s mission statement is to promote the establishment, restoration, preservation and sustainable management of wild turkeys and their habitats across Canada. As well, to develop conservation and research programs and engage in projects to preserve and enhance wild turkey hunting practices, traditions and heritage. It is also to focused on working with governments, other organizations and stakeholders to develop programs and engage in projects to protect wild turkeys and their habitat though education and youth conservation programs. The CWTF, with head office in Ontario, has many chapters across Canada and is hoping to set chapters up in British Columbia too. CWTF chapters are concerned with fundraising events, public education and other programs to aid the conservation needs and CWTF mission on a provincial level.

Canada has a thriving turkey population with the main population residing in the province of Ontario, however, here in British Columbia turkey populations also exist. The presence of these birds has been ongoing for probably a century or more; turkeys have been migrating from the south and entering Canada in a fairly recent natural expansion of their range.
Unlike in other provinces, British Columbia has yet to establish a conservation program for wild turkeys and in fact, regards the birds as an alien species. Yet, there are records going back to 1910 of wild turkey sightings in BC. Other records state that in the 1960’s flocks of turkeys migrating from America established themselves in the East Kootenay range.

When I emigrated from Switzerland to America and encountered wild turkeys I was instantly mesmerized by these fascinating animals and joined the National Wild Turkey Federation in an attempt to learn more about this remarkable bird and do my bit to aid in their conservation. Turkeys soon became my favourite bird species to hunt and to study. When news broke last year that a group of Canadian hunters founded the Canadian Wild Turkey Federation I signed up as a member of the new organization here in my own home country. It is my hope that in the near future the CWTF can set up several chapters in BC. Education is important since there are still many misconceptions about wild turkeys. Two of the most persistent myths are that wild turkeys have a devastating effect on agriculture and to other upland birds, such as the Ruffed Grouse and Pheasants. However, locally based studies conducted in the mid 1990 have addressed these issues with the conclusion being that turkeys do not inflict more damage on agriculture than any other wildlife and they do not cause any threatening effect on other upland bird populations.

The Canadian Wild Turkey Federation hopes to work closely together with provincial and federal governments to ensure a secure and prosperous future for the Canadian wild turkey. To achieve this goal the CWTF relies on memberships and support from the conservation and hunting community. To learn more about the CWTF and how you can help visit their website

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Revisiting Turkey Shotgun Choke Tubes

© By Othmar Vohringer

It is around this time of year when I get a fair amount of queries about recommending a choke tube for a turkey shotgun, or emails that go something like this. “I purchased an extra full turkey choke tube but my shot pattern is all over place.” It never fails, every year some hunters buy a chock tube labelled “turkey special” or “super full” and think they have the magic solution for a tight shot pattern. Little do these folks know that they have fallen victim to hype and are handicapped before they head to the turkey woods.

In the past I’ve written on these pages about the proper chock tube choice for a turkey shotgun. I also have written a feature length article in one of Canada’s leading hunting magazines about detailing a turkey shotgun.

With that said, for all you that haven’t read the previous articles on the subject let me rehash the important steps in finding the perfect marriage between chock tube and gun load that will yield the consistent pattern needed to make a clean kill shot on any turkey from point blank out to 30 yards and beyond.

With everything being equal the choice of the perfect choke tube is one of the most important decisions you can have to make in order to achieve a reliable pattern. The process of choosing a choke tube begins long before the turkey hunting season begins. It begins with choosing the brand of ammunition you want to shoot. Purchase several boxes of loads with shot sizes considered effective for turkey hunting (No 4, 5, and 6), and of each pellet size get boxes containing 3 inch shells and 3.5 inch shells (provided you gun is chambered to hold 3.5 inch shells).

Try a few shoots of each load combination at distances between 15 to 35 yards with one choke tube. I usually start with a moderate choke tube and then move up to a full choke. If I do not get the desired result. Only if none of the regular available choke tubes performs to my satisfaction do I move on to  specialty turkey type choke tubes. The performance of the load-choke combination also depends on the length of the shotgun barrel. For example my Mossberg 535 has a 28 inch barrel and performs perfectly with a regular full choke and Federal Premium Mag-Shok High Velocity, whereas my Mossberg 535 Turkey Special with a 22 inch barrel requires an extra full turkey choke tube with the same ammunition to give me the same performance as the Mossberg with the longer barrel .

The bottom line is this. To achieve the best pattern for your gun-load-choke combination you must experiment until you get a satisfactory result. To kill a turkey instantly you need at least 6 pellets in  the vital area (brain and spinal cord) of the bird. The general rule of thumb is 100 pellets in a ten inch circle. However rather than relying to the 100 in ten rule I prefer to shoot at life-sized turkey targets with the vial zone highlighted and then just count the pellets that hit the kill zone.

When you pattern the shotgun you also want to pay close attention to pattern holes. My preference for a tight pattern has less than 3 inch holes, any larger and you may miss the vital area of a turkey completely. If you encounter one load with large holes in the pattern despite changing choke tubes move on the next lower pellet size, smaller pellets often provide a more even spread that larger pellets.

Don’t ignore the choke tube at the business end of your shotgun barrel this season as it can spell the difference of holding a turkey in your hand or seeing it running from you.

To find out how to create the ultimate turkey shotgun read my article “Detailing Your Turkey Shotgun”.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Hunting Turkeys In High Elevations

© By Othmar Vohringer

Hunting alpine turkeys is different from hunting lowland turkeys. The first thing you will notice in the alpines is that birds are much more scattered throughout the landscape than you would encounter in the lowlands. Flocks of alpine turkeys are much smaller too. While it is common in some lowland areas to encounter turkey flocks of up to 60 birds their alpine cousins prefer to live in small flocks that number seldom more than ten.

High-country turkeys can be amazingly adaptable. There are records of turkey sightings as high up as10,000 ft. above sea level traversing steep mountain slopes and traveling many miles between feeding and roosting sites. If you ever feel the urge to pursue Merriam’s wild turkeys in the alpines here are a few tips to keep in mind.

In the mountains turkeys use canyons, saddles, gentle slopes and other features in the terrain that permit them relative ease of travel. Key in on these features and look there for turkey sign.

On the sunny side:
In the spring nights still can be frosty and days are cool. High-country turkeys don’t like frost and cold, therefore they prefer to travel on the sunlit side of a canyon and that is the side you want to set up when calling. In the morning the sunny side of the canyons and other depressions are on the northern side.

Be mindful of the wind:
In the mountains it is almost always windy. In the morning the winds are uphill as cold air rises and in the afternoon, as the air cools off the winds blow downhill. Keep the prevailing winds in mind when you call or use locater calls. Turkeys will hear your calls much better if you call with the prevailing wind then against it.

Use optics:
In the wide open country of the alpines and mountains you can save a lot of walking time with a set of quality binoculars or spotting scopes. I like to get high up in the morning and glass the landscape below me for traveling turkeys.

Call the tom uphill:
In my experience and from what I heard from other mountain turkey hunters, it seems that toms are much more responsive to calls if they can approach uphill, rather than having to come downhill to the calls. Of course there are exceptions to this, but still many hunters seem to have better luck coaxing a bird uphill than downhill, something to keep in mind when you set up on a gobbler.

Get a rest:
In the alpines and mountains is not always possible to rest your gun on your knees to steady the gun for a good killing shot. A gun rest comes in very heady in these situations. I use wooden cross-sticks that I made myself, they also serve as a very sturdy hiking stick in steep country.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Preparing For Opening Day

© By Othmar Vohringer

As turkey hunting season approaches avid turkey hunters are raring to get out in the woods. The following these tips will help you to get the season off on the right foot.

Shoot Straight:

It’s always a good idea to spend time shooting your shotgun at the range before the hunting season opens to stay in good shooting shape. If you purchased a new gun make sure you spend the appropriate amount on the shooting range to pattern the gun, you don’t want to do that a day before the season opens. Here is one of my articles on how to properly detail a turkey shotgun.


Calling turkeys is like speaking a different language. If you do not know what to say and when to say it nobody will understand you. It is no different when you call to turkeys. Every sound these birds make has some kind of meaning. To understand what turkeys talk about it is imperative to learn their language and learn how to replicate the sounds on the call of your choice. If you are a beginning turkey caller listen to natural sounds of the birds and then try to produce them on your call. When I started turkey hunting I spent hours and days sitting near filed edges listening to turkeys communicating and deciphering the meaning of the sounds. You will notice that turkeys not only have special “words” they use but also change cadence and rhythm of the calls. Practice your calling cadences and rhythms until you sound like a real turkey and not just almost like one.


The most important aspect of hunting success is scouting. Let’s face it you can be the best shot and the best caller in the world, but it all will be for nothing if you do not know the birds daily routine, where their roosting trees, strutting zones and feeding areas are. For me scouting begins at least a month before the season opens. I walk the woods and fields looking for turkey sign and from a distance observe the bids daily routines. Come opening day of the season I know where the birds roost, what route they take from the roost to the feeding area in the morning and the route back to the roosting three in the afternoon.

Check your Gear:

A few days before the hunting season check all the gear you intend using and getting it ready. The morning of opening season is a bad time to look for your decoys or your lucky hunting hat. The day before the hunt my turkey hunting vest is loaded with all the gear I need, the gun, ammunition, camouflage clothing and boots are ready too right next to the vest.
Here is a pack list of things I use on any given turkey hunt.

Keep these tips in mind and you should be well on your way to fill your turkey tag this coming season.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Afternoon Turkey Hunting Tactics

© By Othmar Vohringer

The prime time to hunt turkeys are from dawn to midday. However, hunting can be just as good in the afternoon. It needs to be said though that it is illegal in some areas to hunt turkeys in the afternoon because that is the time when the hens that are already laying eggs return to their nests. Having an afternoon hunting ban in place provides these birds with some measure of security from hunters roaming around in their territory. With that said. Before you plan on hunting turkeys in the afternoon make sure to read the hunting regulations pertaining to the area you hunt to see if it legal or not.

To be perfectly truthful, sometimes afternoon hunts can be more productive than morning hunts. For two reasons. Firstly, most hunters go home around lunchtime which means you have the woods to yourself. With fewer hunters there is less hunting pressure which in turn makes for less spooky toms. Secondly, as the season progresses more hens sit on the eggs in the afternoon and toms search frantically for the remaining hens and become susceptible to calling.

How you hunt turkeys in the afternoon? Morning tactics work well, with the only difference that you don’t have to be so aggressive to bring a tom in to your set. Instead of a full flock of decoys you do very well with only a jake and hen to arouse a tom’s full attention. Throw in a few soft calls and he will come running. In the afternoon toms react in general faster than in the morning because there are fewer hens around to distract him.

Start with hunting typical strutting areas, like you would in the morning, close to roosting areas. Be careful in your approach to your setup. At this time of day the birds are out and about, slowly working their way back to the roosting trees, unlike in the early morning when they are still all in the trees. It is good advice to stop frequently and call a bit to “detect” birds that you can’t see but are close by. This way a gobbler will often respond before you reached your planned set up. In this case set up quickly on the most appropriate spot available and keep calling, the tom might be on his way in.

If nothing is happening get up and continue. In the afternoon I like to walk a lot, or as I call it, the run-and-gun method. Stopping every 50 to 60 yards to call and hope to get a response. Sometimes toms respond right away and other times they sneak quietly in. Always be prepared for a tom to appear out nowhere. When you walk keep as much as possible just inside the edge of woodland to disguise your movement, remember turkeys have eagle like eyesight. When you stop to call look first for a setup such as a small clearing or fields with adequate trees nearby to sit against. If you have time you can set out a decoy or two fine, if not just sit tight and wait.

As mentioned earlier the calling should be light. Content clucks, purrs and soft yelps with the occasional cluck to two thrown in to mimic a feeding hen often provide the desired result in bringing a wandering tom within shooting range. A true run-and-gun tactic is to observe turkeys from a distance. Observe what direction they are heading and then try to get undetected ahead of them, set up and wait for the birds to parade by you. In this case it pays to know where the birds roost as they slowly work their way back to the roosting trees.

Monday, April 07, 2014

The Latest Craze In Turkey Hunting - Gobbler Fanning

© By Othmar Vohringer

For those of you that haven’t heard about this “new” turkey hunting tactic. Let me explain what gobbler fanning is. The tactic entails using a gobbler fan that you hold in front of you and crawl up to the birds. Since you’re hidden behind the fan the gobbler thinks you’re another bird looking for a fight. I’ve seen videos of this tactic and it is truly amazing how close the hunter can get to turkeys, almost to within touching distance. From what I have seen there are two types of gobbler fan decoys on the market. One style attaches to the gun barrel and the other is a handheld version that comes with a stand to use like a blind. (See Mojo turkey decoys for examples.)

This new decoy marketing hype is not as new as some would have you believe. Historical evidence shows that Native Americans have used that type of hunting tactic often as a deception to get close to game animals. However, back in the “good old days” there were a lot less hunters out and about, not unlike these days were we see often more hunters than turkeys. I think that this “new tactic” is contrary to everything we teach new hunters in hunter education courses.

My concerns with gobbler fanning are that it requires a hunter to belly crawl through the landscape while holding up a gobbler fan decoy. In other words, he could easily be mistaken by other hunters as a turkey and be shot at. In my long turkey fever years I’ve seen and heard about hunters that have been sneaked up to by others hunters, shot at simply because they called turkeys and were mistaken for the real thing by those that shoot at sound rather than sight. I still get chills running up my spine when I think a few years back when a hunter sneaked up on my decoy and shot at it without warning from about 50 yards away. I was lucky that day because my decoys were set up at a 45 degree angle from my position and not direct in front of me.

My thinking is that for as long that there are hunters that shoot at decoys and sound, and there always will be such hunters, it really is not safe to employ the gobbler fanning tactic, especially on public land. Even on private land that you share with other hunters, unless each hunter knows where the other is and what he is doing.

Rather than looking for more gimmicks and gadgets that promise success, no matter how questionable from a safety and fair chase point of view they are, I would encourage hunters to work harder to get their bird. For me part of what makes turkey hunting fun, or all game for that matter, is to learn and figure out the animals habits and behaviours. Learn how to call and what the different sounds turkeys make mean - speaking and understanding turkey language in combination with diligent scouting and choosing stand locations accordingly. That to me this is the true art of turkey hunting.

Now I am not one to point fingers, because I too think of ways how to make it easier on myself. I’ve no objections, other than the safety concerns I voiced above, with any hunter using the gobbler fanning tactic. Sometimes moving in on a hung-up gobbler seems like the only option left. But often times that is not possible, especially when the gobbler hangs up in an open field. There have been more times than I care to remember when a hung-up gobbler drove me crazy when after an hour calling he would not advance a single step toward me. But is gobbler fanning the answer to this dilemma?

What is your opinion on gobbler fanning? Do you think it something worth to try out, provided it can be done in a safe manner? Or do you think that good calling and decoy set ups are the true art of turkey hunting? I am looking forward to read your comments below in the comment section.

Friday, April 04, 2014

What Is A Turkey Slam?

© By Othmar Vohringer

I’ve been asked a few times, “What is a turkey slam?” A turkey slam is when a hunter shoots one tom from several turkey subspecies, what subspecies are required for a slam is determined by the type of slam the hunter is aiming for. The National Wild Turkey Federation recognizes six different turkey slams. These are: Grand, Royal, World, Canadian, U.S. Super and Mexican. The completion of a slam does not require completing the feat in a single calendar year.
Below is the outline of each slam and what subspecies it requires to be officially recognized.

Grand Slam consists of:
Eastern Wild Turkey, Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Merriam’s Wild Turkey and Osceola Wild Turkey.

Royal Slam consists of:
The same subspecies as the Grand Slam in addition to the Gould,s Wild Turkey.

World Slam consists of:
The same five subspecies listed above in addition to the Ocellated Wild Turkey.

Mexican Slam consists of:
Rio Grande Turkey, Gould’s Turkey and Ocellated Wild Turkey. All three subspecies must be taken in Mexico.

Canadian Slam consists of:
Eastern Wild Turkey and Merriam’s Turkey. In order to be recognized as “Canadian Slam” the birds must be taken in the following provinces; Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, Alberta or British Columbia.

U.S. Super Slam consists of:
One turkey of every state except Alaska. This is without question the most challenging wild turkey slam to complete. James, Wilhelm of VA is the latest of three turkey hunters to ever achieve this incredible feat.

For more information about the National Wild Turkey Federation visit their website.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Hunting Turkeys In Wet Weather

© By Othmar Vohringer

The early spring turkey hunting weather can be fickle. Often times hunters get up before dawn only to be greeted my miserably rainy weather and promptly go back to bed. Turkey hunting in wind and rain does not have to be futile. True, hunting turkeys on a beautiful sunny day is nice for the hunter and can make for much livelier turkey action. But in wet weather the hunting can be just as good and you do not have to content with a lot of competition from other hunters.

The common opinion is that turkeys shut down on rainy days, but that is not always the case. Some rainy conditions make actually turkeys more active and gobble more. While a heavy downpour and cold can shut gobbler activity completely down, a light drizzle and overcast skies seem to have not much effect on gobbling activity. When it stops raining and the first rays of sun break through the clouds gobblers become very active, making up for lost time.

On the other hand when it rains steadily, especially on cold days, the turkeys shut down. The birds sit longer on the roost as normal and huddle together. What can you do? Go out after sunup and hunt fields and openings with low growth vegetation. Turkeys prefer short vegetation to keep their feathers dry, rather than slogging through high grass and underbrush that gets them wet. In the open turkeys also can hear much better than under the trees where the noise of the rain hitting branches and foliage makes hearing approach predators harder.

What I like to do in rainy weather in to look for turkeys in open fields, use binoculars from a distance to prevent been spotted by the birds. By watching the flock for a while I usually can determine what direction the turkeys travel and then try to get around and ahead of them. Set up and stake out a decoy or two and then start calling. Be patient as the turkeys may not respond as quickly as they would on sunny warm day, but they will come.

Keep the calls you’re not using in a sealed plastic bag to prevent them from getting wet, a wet friction call becomes useless. Keep the call you’re using close to your body and upside down in order to keep the call surface dry.

If the wind is howling on a rainy day were you can’t hear the birds, and they can’t hear you the birds become a little spooked. On these days turkeys seek refuge in wind shelters hollows and depressions out of the wind, where they can hear again. Find these wind sheltered places, set up and call very loud and strong. Make the calling sequences short then pick up your gun and be ready, chances are you won’t hear the toms gobble back at you –let alone hear them coming in- in all that noise from the wind.

The bottom line is that with work and all the other commitments we only have so many days in a given season to go turkey hunting. With that said, we might just as well go out whenever we get the chance, regardless of the weather, and make an effort. You can’t shoot a turkey sitting in camp.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Are You Ready For Turkey Hunting Season?

© By Othmar Vohringer

All winter long we have been sitting indoors waiting for the spring turkey hunting season. Now it is almost here and the question is; Are we ready? Here are a few tips to prepare for turkey hunting.

Getting in physical shape

There is no doubt that most of us gained a few pounds during the winter months and only moved when we had too. Turkey hunting is a very active undertaking that often involves long hikes, even short sprints to get ahead of a turkey flock. Getting back into shape by exercising regularly is important. For me this means going hiking around our home and it usually starts right around after Christmas. That is also the time when I start scouting for turkeys and do some shed antler hunting. Being in good physical shape will go a long way to make the hunting season more enjoyable and getting to places where other hunters don’t go, or can’t go. A few years ago a hunting buddy and I had to hike a fairly steep hillside to get away from the other hunters and to where they turkeys had moved to evade hunting pressure. Having had a good regime of physical training for weeks before the hunting season I had no problems climbing that steep hill side. For my hunting partner it was a different story. More than ones we had to stop in order for him to catch his breath again. When we finally reached the top of the hill the turkeys had moved off to the next ridge, this meant another long hike. We finally caught up to them but my partner was completely exhausted and ended up with blisters on his feet. In other words; it was not an enjoyable day for him and he stayed in camp the next day to nurse his sore leg muscles and blisters.

Practice your turkey calling

The way I look at it turkey calling is like playing a musical instrument. You only can maintain the required quality of calling by regularly practicing. As the spring turkey season approaches I make a point of making every day at least a half hour time to practice with all my calls. You will be surprised how fast you lose good calling form when the calls stay boxed up from one to the next season. This is also the time when I check all my calls for flaws, wear and tear. There is nothing worse than taking a call on a hunt and then realizing it needs to be tuned or fixed. Often times the difference of getting a big mature gobbler is the difference of sounding like a turkey, or just like almost a turkey. A mature tom that has survived a few hunting seasons can tell the difference, it’s what kept him alive for so long.

Getting you and your gun into shooting shape

Spending sufficient time on the shooting range to pattern your shotgun will pay off when the time of truth comes. Make sure your gun is patterned well and that you practice shooting in various situations you would encounter in the turkey woods. DetailingYour Turkey Shotgun is an article I wrote for the Western Sportsman Magazine. This article explains in detail how to turn any shotgun into a gobbler harvester and provides information of a useful practicing schedule to shoot like a turkey hunter.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Using A Push-Button Call To Entice A Gobbler To Take The Last Few Steps

© By Othmar Vohringer

A mouth diaphragm turkey call is a great way to get a gobbler to take the last few steps to come within shooting range. However, if you are like me, suffering from a rare allergy to Latex that prevents you from keeping a diaphragm call for a extended time in your mouth, or simply have not the time to learn to use such calls, here is a trick that use with great success.

Mount a push-button call onto your shotgun barrel. With a few minor modifications this is a great way to call to a tom with the gun shouldered and ready to shoot. Attach a string, about two to three feet long, to the push beg of the call. Next glue a strip of Velcro® around the body of the call with a few inches standing free on either side to wrap around the shotgun barrel. That is all that is needed.

When you arrive at your setup and get ready to hunt simply fasten the push-button call onto the shotgun barrel. Make sure you run the Velcro strip between barrel and rib, not over the rib (see image). When the turkey approaches your setup hold the string between two fingers of the hand that supports the fore end (forestock) of the gun and start calling using the string. This lets you call without any noticeable movement while having the gun at the ready. It takes a bit of practise using a push button call in reverse, instead of pushing the button you pulling it, but you very soon will get the hang of it.

Push-button calls are ideal for close in calling, they produce perfect soft yelps, clucks and purrs. Mounted onto your shotgun they a deadly. Try it out and let me know how it worked for you.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Boots Made For Turkey Hunters

© By Othmar Vohringer

Turkey hunting season, especially the early part, is notorious for constantly changing weather conditions, rain, snow and cold temperatures mixed with warm and sunny days are not uncommon. Quit often weather conditions can change during a single day from nice spring to cold winter conditions.

Because of that the avid turkey hunter has to be prepared for everything mother nature can dish out. For me this means, among other things, having a good pair of boots that can put up with the worst weather and still provide protection and comfort.

Is there such a thing? Yes there is! A year ago I purchased a pair of Muck boots and have grown so fond of them that I now own several pairs. I use to hate putting on rubber boots in wet weather because they made my feet sweat and cold. Another problem I encountered with rubber boots was that either they provided no ankle support whatsoever or if they did they were so tight around the ankle that you needed Vaseline to get in and out of them.

Muck boots are a very different story. These boots are made of Neoprene, of various thicknesses depending on the model, this fabric has a natural stretch that permits easy on and off despite the snug fit around the ankle. Neoprene also makes the boot much lighter than its rubber relative which in turn makes for less tiresome walking. This is especially important for turkey hunters as a lot of the hunting success depends on walking quickly from one to the next setup. For me a big plus of the Muck Boots is the fact that they a 100% waterproof and yet still breathable, which means, no more sweaty feet. Depending on the model the boots come insulated to keep your feet warm from departures as low as minus 60 degrees. While several features in the foot part of the boot make sure that your feet are comfortable. The aggressive sole of the boots lets you walk on just about any surface from a frozen lake to swamp without worries of losing traction.

Here I introduce you to the two models that I might use on any of my turkey hunts.

In cold weather with snow still on the ground, which happens often around here in early spring, I chose to wear Artic-Pro Muck boots (the brown pair in the image)
  • Fully insulated with 8mm Neoprene. This provides the optimal warmth, comfort, and waterproofing that you expect from a Muck Boot.
  • A fleece liner is added to keep your feet warm in down to -60 degrees
  • We wanted to make sure your feet were warm so we added an extra 2mm of thermal foam in the foot area.
  • The stretch-fit topline binding is snug around the calf to keep warm air in and cold air out
  • The seamless construction allows for easy cleaning with the simple spray of the hose
  • Double reinforcement in the instep, heel and achilles area where you need it most.
  • EVA midsole cushions with every step
  • Our specially designed Bob-Tracker outsole is molded to be rugged, aggressive and durable.
In warmer but wet weather I might wear my all-purpose knee high boots the Elite Stealth Muck Boots (camouflaged boots in the image)
  • Anti-microbial treatment prevents growth of odor causing bacteria
  • Inscentible® scent masking for improved concealment when hunting
  • 5mm NEOPRENE bootie with four-way stretch nylon, 100% waterproof, lightweight and flexible
  • Fleece lined
  • Additional Achilles overlay for added protection
  • 2mm thermal foam underlay added to the instep area for additional warmth
  • EVA molded midsole with contoured footbed
  • Reinforced toe
  • MS-1 molded outsole is rugged, aggressive and durable for maximum protection and stability.

To find out more about Muck Boots visit their website.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

What’s In My Turkey Hunting Vest?

© By Othmar Vohringer

I have been turkey hunting for almost 17 years now, and while some consider me an expert on the topic, I am still learning more every season and improve my equipment. Optimizing the equipment and organizing it in a practical fashion is as important to hunting success as knowing the habits and routines of the turkey.

To get well organized it is in my opinion imperative to have a suitable hunting vest with a variety of designated pockets to store all the equipment one might need in the field. A good turkey hunting vest has to fulfill several requirements: The vest has to fit. Pockets need to be easily accessible, permitting the hunter to stow and retrieve turkey hunting tools with as little movement as possible and without having to avert his attention from approaching birds. Last but not least, a turkey hunting vest has to be equipped with a decent seat cushion and padded backrest to avoid fatigue and sore back when sitting, sometimes for hours, at the bottom of a tree.

What’s in a turkey vest? This is a question I get often and to answer it I will list below what I currently carry with me on a typical turkey hunt. The vest I currently use is the Primos Gobbler ® Vest and it fulfills all my requirements of what I consider a good and practical turkey hunting vest.
  • Hunting License, turkey tags and vehicle keys are stowed safely in a small inside pocket of the vest that can be securely sipped shut.
  • Ratchet limb clippers and a small folding saw. Just in case you have to remove a few branches to get a clear shooting lane.
  • An extra pair camouflaged gloves and a face-mask. I found that these are two items I loose or misplace the most.
  • Decoys. Usually two hens and a jake.
  • Bottle of water and snacks. Even on a daylong hunt I only carry a few chocolate bars and a bag of mixed nuts and dried fruit. This is plenty to get me through the day.
  • Flashlights. Usually I carry a small handheld flashlight and a head mounted light with me.
  • GPS. I consider a GPS a essential tool to find my way around and to log important turkey sign that I encounter during my scouting and hunting trips.
  • Spare batteries for flashlights and GPS. Especially when you out all day from dawn to dusk away from civilization you do not want to be caught with dead batteries.
  • Small pocket folding knife. Every hunter should always carry a good quality knife. A good knife serves many purposes in the great outdoors.
  • A roll of toilet paper. Toilet paper has many uses not only the obvious.
  • A small box of wet wipes. After flied dressing turkeys wet wipes make a quick cleanup of hands and knife without having to use water.
  • Binoculars. My favourite is the Swarovski 10 x 42 that I use for all my hunting.
  • A slate and class pot call. I always carry several strikers made of different wood and other materials. This lets me create different tones with one and the same call.
  • Two paddle box calls. No turkey hunter should leave home without these time tested calls.
  • A set of mouth diaphragm calls. Diaphragm calls are very useful for close calling. However, it needs many weeks, even months, of practice to get good at it. Purchasing such calls well in advance of turkey hunting season and practice often is the key to good calling with diaphragm calls. 
  • Turkey locator call. My favourite is the crow call because crows exist everywhere and they are neither competition nor a danger to turkeys.
  • Federal Premium Mag-Shok high velocity turkey shot shells. Always make sure you pattern your shotgun, using different load/choke combinations to get the best pellet spray pattern that works for your gun.
  • First Aid kit. I never go out without carrying a small first aid kit with me. Nature is full of small accidents waiting to happen, be that a small cut, wood splinters or blisters on the feet, a first aid kit will help to lessen the problems.
This may seem a lot of gear to carry but believe me; as you gain turkey hunting experience the amount of hunting equipment increases accordingly. Could you do with less equipment? Absolutely! There have been times when I just took a call or two, a few shells and the gun. However if you plan an all-day hunt (where legal) a few hours drive from home you don’t want to shortchange your options by not having all the equipment you might need.

To get the most out of a turkey hunting vest it is important that you do not just stuff everything into the pockets as it comes. Plan what goes in which pocket. For example; I am left handed, this means that my most frequently used calls are all stored in pockets on the left side of the turkey hunting vest. It is best to load your vest with the equipment you need, sit under a tree like you would on a turkey hunt and practise a few times getting equipment in and out of various pockets. Do that until you found a system that suits you and lets you “work” the vest without having to look or concentrate where or what you need. While hunting all your attention should be on the hunt not on what you need and in which pocket it is.
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