If you’re a turkey hunter, sooner or later you’re going to want to travel somewhere to pursue turkeys in an area that you are unfamiliar with. What you do in preparation for the hunt can be just as important to your success as the decisions you make during the hunt.
Planning and Preparation, The First Steps towards Success!
I have spent untold hours away from home chasing deer and turkeys and have had some tremendous experiences with the good friends that I shared a camp with. One thing that I have found is that everyone brings something to the table and more often than not, I end up learning a few pointers from everyone I get to spend time with. Take for example my good friend, Capt. Rick Ruebel, his strong point is planning and preparation. He is meticulous in planning a hunt and leaves nothing to chance. Rick scrutinizes every aspect of the hunting location, accommodations, travel, support gear, you name it. Not only does this directly effect the success of the hunt but it also indirectly effects it. When all aspects of the hunt run smoothly you are able to concentrate on just hunting. You’re not spending valuable time with vehicle break downs, travel issues, failed gear, etc.
Personally, I have almost as much fun planning a hunt as the actual hunt itself. I enjoy tweaking my gear and making sure every aspect is ready for battle. Everything from building my own custom arrows to modifying and making fine tuning adjustments to each and every piece of my gear.
Scrutinize every aspect of your gear!
While videoing one of my turkey hunts this year I set the camera up outside the natural blind I had built. I got back in with the camera running so I would have some video to cut into the hunt. When I reviewed the footage I realized the 12 year old camo paint job I had added to my Remington 11-87 had become worn and the gun is starting to shine un-naturally. Before next season it will have a brand new custom camo paint job to remedy this. This is just one small example of the kind of detailed review and adjustment of your gear that you can do that can make a big difference in the out come of your hunt.
There are a multitude of other aspects that you need to pay special attention to if you’re going to have a quality out of town turkey hunt. Here is a short list of the key points to consider:
- Plan your hunt around a location with a high population of turkeys.
- Make sure all the support aspects of the hunt are well planned.
- Fine tune and tweak all you hunting gear.
- Take advantage of Local Knowledge
- Stay in the Woods as long as possible
- Always Roost! Very Important.
- When hunting cold, start you hunt from a vantage or open area.
- Know the area you are hunting inside and out.
- Consider hiring a reputable guide!
Plan your hunt around a place with a good turkey population.
“You can’t kill a bird if they aren’t there” an ole’ timer one told me. Truer words were never spoken. If he’s not living where your hunting there is no chance of harvesting him. You have got to do your research and put yourself in the best possible position for a harvest. Even if you’re reduced to hunting an area with a low population there are still techniques that can put a trophy in your sights. All of your basic hunting strategies area still applicable, you’re just going to work at it a little harder.
When possible, take advantage of any local knowledge you can gain access to.
Always try to acquire any possible intel that you can from Locals that know the area. A classic example of this is the Farmer you are leasing your farm from. He’s probably there every day and gets to see the habits of the game that uses his land. The interesting thing about this is that the deer and turkeys seem to know that a farmer has no ill intentions towards them and reacts to them differently than others that show up on the property. They learn the Farmers routine and become accustomed to see him at certain times and location and don‘t give him the same regard they will you..
Other possible sources of information might be the local mail carrier. You can’t believe the game that one of these guys encounters while delivering mail to all the farm. They are usually happy to share what they have been seeing with you also.
Stay in the woods as much as possible on the hunt!
Hunt until the end of legal shootings times, roost, do some long distance recon in the afternoon. Basically, staying with the birds will put you in tune with what they are doing and tell you where you need to be next.
Having knowledge of the birds daily routine can be a big advantage though you’ll need a few days to figure that out. If you only have 3-4 days to hunt you might not get to figure all that out.
A word of caution about this though. You don’t want to pressure the birds either. This could cause them to change their routine and even roost in a different location. That’s a bad thing!
Do your homework!
You need a good mental image of where you’re hunting. I always start with Google Earth to get a handle on the lay of the land and any key features that could impact the hunt and where the game is using.
Depending on where you are hunting, game biologists can be a valuable source of information on population density, etc.
Make sure all of your equipment is ready for battle, This includes your transportation, Be sure to bring some basic tools, jumper cables, duct tape, electrical tape, tie wire, tire plug kit, DC air pump etc. for emergency repairs. You don’t want to spend your time working on your rig when you need to be hunting. You can’t avoid a breakdown once in a while but the fewer the better and the more time you get to concentrate on hunting.
Consider hiring a local guide.
Hiring a reputable Guide can make all the difference in the world, especially if you are a novice. This takes a lot of the work out of traveling to hunt.
The best guide is one that will involve you in the scouting and locating process. This can be some very valuable experience and give you some insight into other scouting techniques, etc.
Things You Can Do Once You Arrive at the Woods!
Besides gear management, preparation and planning, there are a few things you can do during the hunt to drastically improve your odds for success.
If you are hunting on your own, Roosting is one of the most important things you can do. I cannot stress how important this is. Roosting provides a great deal of valuable intel. Many times it will put you in the drivers seat for the next mornings hunt
Roosting provides another great advantage when a front pushes in and the birds stop gobbling. Turkeys don’t like to gobble under low pressure conditions like they do when it’s high pressure and clear skies. If you have roosted a bird the evening before you already know right where to be whether he gobbles or not!
How to Hunt Cold!
What do you do when you have to hunt cold in unfamiliar woods. Ok., your hunting on your own without a guide or anyone to do all the leg work and put you on a bird….what do you do?
Maybe you’ve draw a permit for a management area or your traveling to some uncharted territory that you’ve never hunted before. Prior preparation before the hunt could make all the difference in the world.
First, you need to familiarize yourself with the woods you’ll be hunting. I like to use google earth. Locate as many key terrain features as you can and mark them on your map. i.e., creek bottoms, swamp strands, power lines, pastures, hammocks, etc.
Once you’ve arrived the first thing you need to do is start covering ground! Drive as many sandy woods roads as you can find, looking for sign. This will get you in the right area. Now refer to your maps to figure out where those birds are likely to roost. From there, keep scouting and locate as many birds as possible. Then return to what you think is the best spot to roost that evening. Hopefully, you hear him gobble on the limb and your in like Flint.
Start your hunt from a vantage!
If you were not able to roost for the mornings hunt, the best thing you can do is to get to a vantage and wait for gobble time. In hilly or mountainous country this would be an open ridge top. In flat country like here in Florida, a large clear cut where sound can travel is an excellent position. You want some place that affords long distance hearing without a thick canopy to block the sound of a gobbling bird. Also, consider the wind direction…you would be surprised how much better you can hear down wind as opposed to up wind.
Hunting in new country can be some of the greatest hunting adventures that you will ever experience. With the proper attention to detail and planning, your chances of a successful hunt will increase dramatically.
You’ve got to love it when a plan comes together!
Best of Luck,