Understanding Your Prey
You can increase your chances of connecting with a longbeard this spring by understanding your prey. As turkey seasons continue to open across the U.S., some turkey hunters are already telling their stories of conquest and failure. With tales of success permeating through hunting circles, there are also plenty of hunters who still cannot believe they were outsmarted by turkeys. When you are dealing with wild turkeys, nothing is absolute. I could go to the trouble of creating a list of things to do and not do that may help boost your odds, but I will take a different route. Instead, I am going to discuss the normal daily life of a wild longbeard during the spring turkey season. My intentions are to help you understand the things that make him tick.
For the majority of the year, wild longbeards have very few things to do each day. For three quarters of the year, longbeards simply have to eat, sleep, and survive while communing with other turkeys, and survival is extremely high on their list. You have to remember that from egg to adult, predators have been trying to kill and eat them. Longbeards have acute senses of hearing and sight, and both remain on full alert. Many hunters believe that if a longbeard had the nose of a deer too, you would never bag one.
As winter gives way to spring, a wild longbeard’s daily routine changes day by day and, in some cases, hour by hour. During deer seasons throughout the U.S., longbeards reside in bachelor groups, and hunters frequently encounter large groups of toms. As mid-March nears, longbeards begin interacting with jakes and hens, as well as, other longbeards, and as the days grow longer and temperatures begin to climb, the urge to reproduce takes over. With most animals, the strongest members do most of the breeding, and turkeys are no different. Longbeards start fighting to establish dominance and begin gobbling to attract and assemble harems of hens, but do not forget that a longbeard gobbles to draw hens to his location and into his harem. This means longbeards are not supposed to come to your calling. However, I can safely say the desire to reproduce and his simple curiosity are your best allies when hunting longbeards, as both can cause them to respond with reckless abandon.
Turkey hunters often hear that patience is a virtue. If a longbeard feels like taking two hours to walk fifty yards, that is what he does. When you are hunting longbeards, you are on turkey time, and there is nothing you can do to change that. So if you have to leave the turkey woods at a particular time, you are taking a risk of missing out on that longbeard that strolls through your area right after you leave.
Something that a lot of hunters do not understand is turkeys can change locations from fall to spring. This transition is solely based on where the hens decide to nest. You can guarantee that wherever the hens are during that spring breeding season, the longbeards will surely be there too. It is very common for their fall and winter areas to be completely different from their spring breeding areas. This is why you may see turkeys using an area during deer season and do not even hear a single yelp or gobble in the same area in the spring. This means you need to do a little scouting before the spring turkey season starts, and you need to keep an eye on their location throughout the hunting season. It is common for turkeys to move around a little between opening day and mid-season, but when the hens nest up for the majority of the day, longbeards will start searching for more hens. So keep your eyes open and watch out for roaming toms. Many times, longbeards will frequent some of the same areas where they previously saw hens.
Turkeys are fairly different creatures from deer. They do not tolerate much human intrusion during the breeding season. The turkeys you can get near during the fall and winter will exit the area like a rocket during the spring. They generally react to movement more than sound. So you have to learn to move stealthily in the turkey woods and become a turkey ninja. Just about any fast movements on your part will be quickly spotted by a keenly-eyed longbeard, and the party will be over. Hunters have to grasp this truth and understand every time you enter the woods, check your trail cameras, slam a car door, or talk loudly you are alerting a longbeard that there is something changing in his territory. You will quickly learn that longbeards do not do well with this type of change.
Typically, hen turkeys feed and walk through the woods quietly. In most cases, they only make soft purrs, clucks, and yelps. Occasionally, hens will get a little excited and belt out some louder cuts and yelps. This means the hunters running up and down the roads screeching with box calls are simply alerting longbeards that something unusual is happening in their areas. Do not think for a second the turkeys are not paying attention. They know everything going on, and they get extremely suspicious of too much intrusion. This is where the turkey ninja skills will come in handy. The less noticeable you are, the better chance you have a bagging a longbeard.
Well there it is. A quick look into the normal day in the life of a longbeard. Understanding the things that make him tick can greatly increase your chances of harvesting this magnificent bird. Remember you are under scrutiny each time you enter the turkey woods. Just make sure you are listening to your teacher.