Turkey Hunting: Scouting now may pay off opening day

Where will you be the morning of May 1, opening day of the New York state spring turkey season?

Where will you be the morning of May 1, opening day of the New York state spring turkey season?

If you answer right where you shot your bird last year, that’s the correct response only if you have already scouted it out for this year. It’s unfortunate many of us will enter the turkey woods for the first time this spring on opening day, relying on a repeat of what happened last year.

Good luck! Wouldn’t it be nice to enter the woods an hour before sunup, slip into a spot that you know is 100 yards or so from a roosted long beard and definitely know he’ll hear your yelp call at dawn? Here’s how to make all this happen.

If you were successful in that spot last spring, by all means, that’s an excellent place to begin. If the birds are there, keep an eye on them and learn their habits, especially where they are in late afternoon before roosting. But don’t stop there; find more spots for backup.

Actually, the best way to watch these birds is through binoculars. Don’t use any calls other than those that imitate a crow or ostrich, and do it at a distance. If you have time, find as many spots as you can. The more you have, the better it’s going to be for you, and the better the chances for success.

Once you have located a tom or toms and patterned their routines, it is a good idea to locate and prepare an ambush. Pick a spot 75 to 100 yards from where the birds are roosting. It isn’t a good idea to get very close. If you’re not familiar with the woods where you will be setting up, use reflective tape or tacks marking your route into your setup spot. And use a green light to locate the tapes/tacks on your way in. Things can look very different in the woods when it’s pitch-black.


Like most turkey hunters, I set up sitting on a cushion with my back against a big tree or heavy brush, and although I’m in head-to-toe camouflage to cover my outline, I’m not completely concealed. This year, however, I’ve found something to wear that’s definitely going to add to my concealment. The new Quaker Boy Vest-a-Blind from the pro staff Orchard Park is one of the most innovative turkey vests I’ve ever seen. A built-in blind is part of the multi-pocketed turkey vest.

The attached ultrapackable blind quickly covers the wearer from head to toe in seconds. The blind is designed with cut-out leaves that totally break up an outline and lets a hunter blend into the surroundings and look like just another bush.

The blind is positioned high on the back of the vest. To use, just reach back, give a quick pull on the draw string and unroll it over your head, slip your arms through the holes and sit down on the vest’s attached cushioned seat. The vest includes shell holders, special pockets for calls, two large cargo pockets and a larger interior pocket. I really like the comfortable backrest cushion and game bag with its orange safety flag. The vest’s pattern is Mossy Oak Obsession, and it retails for around $140. Check out the video at www.quakerboy.com.


Have you shot your turkey gun yet this season? I know you killed a tom last year, and it was right on. So did I, but I haven’t shot it for a year now, and chances are you haven’t fired yours, either.

Go to your club range, set out turkey silhouette paper targets at 20, 30 and 40 yards, sit down as if in the woods and take a shot at each target. The rule of thumb is to be able to place 200-plus pellets in a 30-inch circle, but a turkey’s head is not that big. I like to place at least a half-dozen pellets in its head and/or base of the neck area. If your pattern is left, right, or high, you may need to try different ammo or a new choke tube. I really discourage changing your aiming point on the turkey to adjust for an irregular pattern. Having to remember to aim a little left, right, high or low is not what you want to do in the turkey woods. And my last reason for shooting before opening day is, for me, to get used to the bump those 3 1⁄2-inch magnum loads are going to give me.


Last year, the spring turkey harvest in New York was 34,600 birds, a 5 percent increase over the prev­ious year.

The local counties with the highest spring harvests were: Washington, 850; Saratoga, 619; Columbia, 538; Schoharie, 523; Rensselaer, 508; Albany, 384; Montgomery, 380; Fulton, 187; and Schenectady, 132.

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