Turkey Info

I slipped out to Bull Creek Ranch to add some corn to one of the feeders I had left out there. I should have pulled it instead of just leaving it hang empty for so long…when I opened the feeder motor compartment, Bull Ants went  e v e r y w h e r e ! There must have been a couple hundred of them.  Got it topped off with corn and operating so I should have hog harvest video to post soon.

The cooling afternoon showers make this prime time for some evening hog hunting. I drove up on a brown shoat rooting up some St. Augustine grass on the edge of the hammock on the way in. He was a little small to shoot, guess he was about 45#. There seems to be plenty of hogs around.

I remembered I still had a trail camera running out in the pasture that has been there since the end of gobbler season. I pulled the card in it to see what has been going on. The camera is in no particular travel route, nothing to funnel them, no enticements to get them close to the camera but for some strange reason, almost every turkey that has passed by has walked so close to the camera it fills the whole frame? It was the strangest thing.

Anyway, the young jakes are getting some pretty decent beards on them now and there was a number of mature gobblers.

The grass in the pasture has gotten a little tall but I did not notice any young poults with any of the hens. They sure seem to take a beating. I guess it did not help that we had a couple severe storms systems this spring right during the main part of the hatch.

I wanted to share some of the pics with everyone of what’s been hanging around this spot.

BC-Collage-2

 

UPDATE on the Raspy Red Reactor,

Feb. 2, 2014

It looks as though Woodhaven has solved this sticky problem!

Not long after receiving the replacement call that had some of the same issues as the first, I received a follow up email from Scott Ellis himself wanting to verify that my problem had been resolved. Scott is the Head of the Pro Staff for Woodhaven Custom Calls and Pro Competition Caller. After relating my story over the phone and a number of email exchanges Scott had Woodhaven forward another replacement call and this one performed as designed.

-What Went Wrong?

Scott related that their tape supplier had received a bad batch of adhesive and that the problem has since been corrected! That was good news to me because I really liked the quality of the sound from the Red Reactor call.  I was planning on this being my new go to call for this coming spring.

-What I Like About the Reactor?

As I stated in the beginning of this review, I’m no competition caller but I have been using diaphragm calls for my entire turkey hunting career. I have always had difficulty trying to blow a three or certainly a four reed call and just stayed away from them for this reason. Personally, I found that it took so much air to make a sound on them that I couldn’t really call soft on one. I first heard about the “Raspy Red Reactor” when I saw Scott Ellis demonstrating it on Youtube. He is an awesome caller and it really got my attention when I saw him reproducing every call in the book on this thing.

I am having a bit of trouble with a kee kee on this last reactor for some reason but hopefully I can over come it. Other than that, I can handle anything form soft tree calls to really aggressive cutting on this call. It purrs really well also.

I really appreciated and was impressed with Scott taking the time to follow up and make sure this problem was resolved. Matter of fact…..I just sent out an order for (2) more Red Reactors and (1) Yellow Venom.  I’ll make a post on the Yellow Venom when it arrives.

If you need some help with your calling from someone that I would personally recommend as a top notch caller, contact Scott on face book or on his web site….http://www.scottellis-eliteturkeyhuntingandcalling.com/default.html. I would recommend you get a copy of his “Mouth Call Magic” DVD.

Scott Ellis - Mouth Call Magic

Best of  Hunts,

Larry S.

 

 

 

 

Initial Review

June 10, 2013

Recently I was watching champion turkey caller Scott Ellis demonstrating his signature call, the Raspy Red Reactor by Woodhaven Custom Calls. Scott is an awesome caller and I was impressed with the sound of the call and the fact that he could make every sound made by a turkey using this call.

I decided I needed to give the Red Reactor a try. At $10+ it is at the upper end of the price range for diaphragm calls, especially given the short life expectancy of this type call when compared to other turkey calls.

My preferred call is the simple double reed call with no cuts and I have killed a pile of turkeys with one of these. As a matter of fact most of the turkeys i’ve taken have fallen to this call.  However, this type call is a clear sounding call that produces very little, if any rasp. I also find a little rasp desirable. The rasp comes from the way the reed is cut or split.

On the next to the last weekend of the season, I cut some sign of a gobbler that had strutted down a dirt road on the edge of the lease. This bird had been heavily hunted and was only alive because he spent most of his time across the fence.  The next morning I set up on him and I decided to put some “Raspy Red Reactor” on him. Exactly 2 minutes after hearing his first gobble, he was standing 30yds in front of me looking at my decoy! This Tom had been hunted hard by some pretty good hunters and was one of the few remaining mature Gobblers left in the area. I dubbed him “The Last of the Mohicans!” Click the title link for the whole story.

Woodhaven Raspy Red Reactor 1 sm

Though the sound of the call and its performance on the first field test was super impressive, I had a problem…..about the third time I used the call I noticed the tape was coming off.

I was torn on what to do with the call given the issue of the tape coming off. The call sounded so good I did not want to give it up for a replacement.

After the season was over I called Woodhaven to discuss the matter. They asked me to send the call back to them and they would provide a replacement at no charge.

Against my better judgement but thinking that the replacement call should sound basically the same, I shipped the call back to the manufacturer. After about a week and a half I received a package in the mail from Woodhaven……my new call!

I considered not using it until next season but couldn’t resist giving it a run. Boy was I disappointed! I could hardly do anything with the new call and the calls that I could get out of it did not sound that great.

That wasn’t the end of the bad news…..you guessed it, the tape was beginning to show signs of coming off after only an hour of use. I don’t know what to think about these calls but I can’t use them if the tape is going to keep coming off like this. I cannot ever remember running into this problem before. I will contact Woodhaven again to let them know about the problem but I can’t see myself wagering more money on one of their calls. When I’m guiding another hunter, I need to be confident in my call and know that if I have to go to a new call in the middle of the season, the new one will sound and preform just like the previous. So far, I am sorry to say that Woodhaven is not living up to that expectation.

So….the hunt for the best diaphragm call goes on.

Here are some photos of the original failing call. However, I must say that this did not seem to affect the sound of the call.

Woodhaven's Raspy Red Reactor 1

Woodhaven's Raspy Red Reactor 1

 

If there are any updates on this product I will post them as they develop.

If you have had any similiar issues, please add a comment to share with others.

Thanks,

Larry S.

 

If you would like more information on the “Raspy Red Reactor” call, just click on the link.

 

Man by his very nature, is a Hunter, a predator by design. To deny this fact is to be dishonest with ones self. Though the desire to hunt is instilled in all of us to varying degrees, the ability and knowledge of how to hunt, must be learned.

Starting your young hunter on the right foot is critical to their development and future as a hunter. Hunters above all and by far carry the majority of the burden for care of the wild places and the creatures that reside there. The recruiting of  young hunters into the sport is very important to its future and thereby also, the future of the wild places.

Adventures in the Outdoors!

I can’t say that I have any real memories of my first hunts with my dad and grandfather. They were more than 40 years ago now. However, they served as the foundation that so many futures adventures would be built upon. What those experiences accomplished was to instill a love for the outdoors that I will carry with me to the end of days.

Dad couldn’t leave the house to go hunting or fishing without me, and it was a rare occasion when he did. There wasn’t any adventure in the outdoors that we did not embark on and we were in the woods or on the water on almost every day that he was not encumbered by work.  We hunted anything that would run, trapped coons and wild hogs, ran trotlines, cut bee trees, gigged flounder, crabbed, cast netted mullet off the beach at night, fished both salt water and fresh, stayed out all night gigging frogs, shrimped, you name it, we did it!

All of these experiences served to instill a great appreciation for all things wild. I have hunted from the mountains of Idaho to the swamps of Florida and seen sights that no hand and canvas could match. I’ve have witnessed wild creatures embroiled in their most secrete of  habits and of course, learned of both life and death. All experiences that I would not trade for the world!

If you are reading this article I guess I really don’t need to sell you on the benefits of spending time in the outdoors with your son or daughter. You should already have a handle on that, as well as the rewards that are to be gained. Though hunting may not necessarily be a skill we now need for survival, a more grounding experience you will not find. I do not feel that people that grow up involved with hunting and fishing have questions of what life is all about.

It should also be evident that I have a special passion for turkey hunting. The point of this article is to give you some tips that may help you plan a successful turkey hunting adventure that you can share with your young son or daughter thereby passing your knowledge to the next generation.

Hunting is an experience which has no end to what can be learned. The following information covers most of the basics and some advanced ideas in both gear and “how to” that will help to get the novice hunter started off on the right foot in the sport of turkey hunting.

  • What Is An Appropriate Gun For A Young Turkey Hunter?

Most young hunters will not be able to handle a full size shotgun. For very small hunters I would recommend a single shot 20ga shotgun in 3” magnum. They are some of the lightest weight style guns and have a simple action which are both equally important qualities for the novice.

Magnum turkey loads can kick like a mule! If the punch from a magnum load is a concern, a high brass 2 3/4″ shell could be used. For that matter even a low brass game load in 2 3/4″ could be used, however you should shorten the shot range accordingly based on how your gun patterns. I would start at 20 yds and advance until the the number of shot in the kill zone dropped to less than 5-8 pellets. That would be the guns max effective range.

For the mid-sized hunter a semi-auto or pump action 20 ga, in 3” magnum may fit and carry with them for a number of years. The semi-auto produces a little milder kick due to the gas operation which is a welcome result.

I would recommend practicing with 2 ¾” #8 dove shot but hunting with 3“ magnum in #5 or #6 shot.  In the excitement of  shooting a turkey, the extra kick from the magnum load shouldn’t be noticed but it surely will be at the range!

Homemade Remington 870 Stock 3-9-13 028The gun should be a youth model gun with the shortest barrel length available. The extra weight of a longer barrel is difficult for most youths to handle. The shortened butt stock is typically mandatory also. Most Youth stocks have a LOP (length of pull) of 13” but most could be altered if necessary.

My 10 year old daughter went on her first turkey hunt this year and since I had neglected to deal with the long stock issue of her weapon until the last minute, I had to build a cut down stock to fit her Remington 870 from a piece of 2X8 yellow pine I had in the shop. I could not bare the thought of cutting off the walnut original. I robbed the softest butt pad I could find from another shotgun and the job as complete. The little 16 ga. Pump fit her like a glove and she downed her first turkey within an hour of the coming of daylight, on the opening mornings hunt.

I would also recommend having the youth hunter practice on a life sized target to learn what the sight picture should look like when the moment of truth comes. You can easily sketch out your own full size turkey silhouette onto a piece of cardboard or even purchase some pre-printed copies.

  • What Is The Best Choice In Camo Clothing?

Camo for youths is not as readily available as adult sized camo and is available in less of a variety of patterns.

Also, there are not a lot of camo patterns with a substantial amounts of green in the pattern for spring turkey hunting. Currently my personal preference is either RealTree’s – “all-purpose green” or Mossy Oak’s – “Obsession“. It can be a good idea to use a browner pattern on the upper body as this will blend with the trunk of a tree better. I personally like to miss-match my camo, using a different pattern on top.

Mossy Oak Obsession®

Mossy Oak Obsession®

Realtree APG ®

Realtree APG ®

Realtree Xtra ® Green Camo

Realtree Xtra ® Green Camo

Of course turkey hunting requires top to bottom total camouflage so you will need gloves and a head net that fits as well. I prefer a ¾, mesh type head net as a rule.  I always prefer to cut the tips off the fingers of my gloves. At least for the thumb, index and middle finger’s. The others can remain and do not hamper your feel or use of your fingers.

If there is a thing I hate, it’s wet feet! A pair of light walking boots that are waterproof are mandatory in my book. I do not like rubber boots if I can avoid them but when hunting wet woods they are pretty valuable gear and beat wet feet. Rubber boots tend to also be heavy but the worst problem is stepping in to deep and over topping the boot! They don’t dry out.

Though I don’t personally give them a second thought…..snakes may be a consideration when hunting in the south. Turkeys here are typically associated with wet areas, particularly in the early season. A young hunter with little woods experience may not pick out that coiled moccasin before he steps on it. A pair of snake boots or gators might be worth the parents piece of mind.

Coiled Cottonmouth Moccasin

The photo above is of a Moccasin I ran across while turkey hunting this year. This snake is more dangerous than the average as he is about to begin shedding his skin. Though difficult to see in this photo his eye is beginning to take on a blue hue and that is the first indication that they are about to shed. When this happens their vision is impaired and they are less apt to run. This is a snake that would let you walk right up to him and then strike with no warning.

I would also recommend a turkey vest for the young hunter. Having his or her own gear just like dad will go a long way towards making them feel a part of the hunt as opposed to just an observer. I guess there is a cool factor in being completely outfitted with all the necessities. Of course a dry seat is of utmost importance and a waterproof cushion is a must, at a minimum.

  • Which Turkey Calls Are Best Suited For A Young Hunter?

I would definitely recommend you purchase your young turkey hunter his or her own call. There is a great deal of satisfaction to be had by mastering your own call. Also, it gives the young hunter something to do when trying to out wait a longbeard. Allowing the young hunter the ability to call affords him or her a larger more active roll in the hunt. A box call is probably best but a slate or glass call is also a good choice. I would consider some of the small diameter slate type calls to fit the youths hands better. One of my favorite box calls is the Lynch box. The smaller single sided, Fool Proof, model 101 call would be a great choice that he or she would never out grow.

Children have a heightened ability for learning and if your son or daughter expresses the desire to learn to use a diaphragm call that would be an outstanding achievement and worth the effort. However, they should master all the basic calls on a box or slate call first so they have a feel for not only the sound they are trying to mimic but the cadence as well.  The diaphragm call is an advanced and much more difficult call to master but comes with some real advantages.

If you decide to give a diaphragm call a try, depending on their build, you may need to select a small frame type call made for women and youths. I would start out with a simple, single or double reed type call. They typically have little rasp to them and are a clear sounding call but easier to learn on. I can’t tell you how many turkeys I have taken with a standard twin reed call! it’s a pile!

I would also recommend outfitting them with an owl and crow call. They are easy to learn to use and there is nothing like hearing a distant gobbler respond to your call from his roost. Even if they cannot quit get the turkey call down in time for their first hunt they can at least experience the excitement of fooling a tom into a response with a locator call.

  • Things to Consider When Planning a Youth Hunt!

Another very important consideration when planning to take a young hunter afield for their first hunt is to remember that they have a shorter attention span than an adult. They will not have developed the drive and enthusiasm for the hunt that you may have. A 3 hour stint in a turkey blind with nothing to do may seem more like an endurance test than a enjoyable adventure to a beginning hunter.

When afield, it is important to not just take the prospective hunter hunting, but to make an adventure out of the entire occasion, teaching them everything about the natural world that you can. The average person knows little of the world that exists in the woods and on the water and therefore can never really understand or appreciate the  love for the outdoors a hunter develops over time. Doing this will keep their mind occupied and fill the day with interest.

It is also important to remember that your son or daughter does not have your stamina for a 5 mile prospecting adventure. It is best to start off with relatively easy hunts and preferably in a dry area.

Keep in mind the comfort of your young hunter. This is another important aspect that will make the hunting experience a failure or success. Of course, if you are hunting from an enclosed blind you will need chairs to keep you high enough to see out and shoot. You may be there a while…..get a chair with a back and avoid stools. A prolonged and  uncomfortable position could ruin the hunt.

A compact pair of binoculars can also be a big plus. Searching for game with his binoculars is a good way to pass the time. Also, there is usually almost always some kind of bird or animal activity to watch, even if only a fluttering redbird.

  • How to Close the Deal – Taking the Shot!

This is one place where you can make or break the new hunter. You want to stack the deck on his side as much as possible. Hunting a location with few turkeys is not the best way to start off. You want them to be entertained and see as much game as possible.

Consider their shooting limitations. Set your hide for a relatively close shot when possible, 20 yds is ideal. From your target practice, He should already have a good feel for the sight picture he will be looking for.

One thing that can make a big difference in the enjoyment of the hunt and the success is an enclosed blind. A blind affords the young hunter the ability to move a little without scaring off the turkeys. Little things like being able to thump a mosquito when necessary helps keep the hunt from being more like a torture test.

A shooting stick can also be a big help for smaller hunters that have difficulty with the weight of the gun. As a rule, the gun may have to be held in shooting position for some time before a shot at the turkey is offered. The young hunter can’t be rushed on the shot.

One last important thing to consider when turkey hunting is how to actually sit during the hunt!

Unless you have some physical limitations that prevent this, you should always sit with one knee up, the left for a right handed shooter, with the gun resting on your knee. Of course this does not apply if you are in an enclosed blind. For a right handed shooter you should sit so that the birds approach is left of center. Sitting in this manner provides for the least amount of movement prior to the shot. Hunter movement is the number one reason for missed shot opportunities when turkey hunting.

Sitting at the swell butt of a big cypress 4-13-13 sm

Turkey Hunt - Oak Tree Set Up 1 SM

If you are hunting with a very young hunter you shoulder consider having them sit between your legs. You can whisper instructions readily and even help them with the gun a little if necessary.

  • Safety First!

Last, but one of the most important issues with this sport is SAFETY! Hopefully your young hunter comes to love and appreciate the outdoors as much as you and these early trips afield will shape how they handle themselves and a weapon, probably for the rest of their life. It is extremely important to teach them all of the aspects of both gun and personal safety. I find that the best way to accomplish this is with repetition. Each time your son or daughter handles a gun you should be reminding them what to do or quizzing them with questions. For example, just before they pick up their gun I like to ask…..o.k., what’s the first thing you need to do when you pick up a gun?  Then comes….Where should your barrel always be pointing?  Eventually gun safety will become second nature and done without need for thought.

 

With some preplanning and a few tools of the trade your son or daughters first hunts can be an enjoyable experience that will provide memories for years to come.

Passing on the knowledge and love for the outdoors is the best way I know, to ensure that our hunting heritage is preserved for the future.

If there are any questions or advise you need help with that I did not cover here, don’t hesitate to contact me using the contact form. I’d be glad to help in any way that I can. Any comments that you may have are greatly appreciated as well.

Best of Hunts,

Larry S.

I almost hated to pull the trigger on this bird! There was so little turkey sign to be found this weekend he reminded me of the movie “The Last of the Mohican’s”! He was like….the LAST ONE. At Least it sure seems that way anyway.

High pressure Gobbler!

This was the next to the last weekend of the Florida Spring Gobbler season here in central Florida. The last couple of weeks has been some really tough hunting. The hens have been nesting and the gobblers have shown little interest in responding to calling. The gobbling has been reduced to next to nothing compared to the first two weeks of the season.

This weekend was not looking to good. Not only has the activity been slow but we have a front passing us.

I actually hunted in 3 different counties on Saturday! No telling how many miles I put on my ole’ Chevy.

One of the larger tracts I hunt is being timbered right now (good timing) and there is right-of-way work going on as well?

I spent three hours scouting there on Saturday and saw very little turkey sign. It had rained Friday so that did not help much. I finally cut a gobbler track on a hard sand road on the westerly edge of our tract of land. The bird had worked down the road strutting every so often but he would only leave a strut mark about 12″ long. He was on top of the rain from Friday so I knew he had been there that morning. One vehicle had run it over but had not noticed the tell tale marks in the road!

Only seconds to live!

Only seconds to live!

There were several things working against me on this one. For one, this bird had been heavily hunted!! He was actuallyliving and roosting across the fence so I was limited to making him come to me….good luck! Secondly, I only had Sunday to hunt him before the loggers would be back. Third, he’d been hunted real hard for weeks.If you haven’t’ noticed, daylight is coming pretty early now and gobble time is about 6:15 AM. I am about worn out from weeks of chasing turkeys….. guiding, videoing, roosting, running trail cameras and trying to keep my design business going. I was a little late this morning.

By the time I got to where I planned to hunt it was about time for the birds to be on the ground. The only way to really hunt this spot is to hunt the road which I do not like to do. It’s a good way to get your hunt ruined.

I stood in the road and listened for a gobble. There were various owls, crows, etc. going off but no gobbling. I owl’d and crowed and got no response. I decided to do some loud aggressive yelping and cutting on a new mouth call I just added to my call arsenal. I know that seems to go against what you would do when dealing with a highly pressured tom but my gut told me that was the thing to do. I wanted anything within hearing to know I was there and then I’d shut up.

I ran a series of aggressive yelps and followed up with a cutting sequence……nothing! I was committed to putting some time in here so I set up a decoy on the edge of the road and found an oak tree that I could tuck back in about 20yds off the road. It was a great set-up with good visibility.

I had not been there long when I heard a bird free gobble across the fence about a hundred and a quarter. I called at him real quick with some raspy yelping and he immediately answered. It sounded closer than the initial gobble.

I decided to let him make the next move. I wouldn’t have to wait long! The next thing I know he gobbles again and now he’s just on the other side of the fence. I remember thinking, he must be coming on the run to cover that much ground that quickly.

I readied for the confrontation that appeared eminent!

Just then a big black bird with a flaming red head emerged from the bushes! “THERE HE IS!”

gobbler down 4-14-13He looked at the decoy and checked his wings, usually a nervous reaction. He was just to my left but if he moved to his right, getting a shot might get a little dicey! I decided to call at him and take my shot! Needless to say the video is going to be a little short but that is real hunting and if you want to go home successful, you need to take your first best shot!

At the report of my 11-87, the wary old tom hit the ground and the hunt was over, just that easy. There is no telling how many hunters this bird had eluded but there is also something to be said for catching a tom in the right mood.

I spent some time taking pictures to honor the bird and another great hunt. If I could I’d breath life back into him and do it all over again tomorrow.

The Tom was one of the smallest mature gobblers I can remember killing. Though he was a three year old bird with sharp 1″ spurs, he only weighed 14.48 lbs! He did have a nice, fairly heavy beard at 9 3/4″. I haven’t reviewed the video yet but hopefully I had the record button pushed!

Awesome Osceola Gobbler

Best of Hunts,

Larry Stephens

I have to say that I really get a lot of use and enjoyment out of my trail cameras. I run them year around in one state orPrimos DPS Time Lapse Camera 1
another and every year collect some really special pictures.

Since my back ground is of a technical nature, I have always believed more information is better than less. Trail cameras provide a lot of valuable intel that you can incorporate into your hunting. With the advent of  the new “Time Lapse” feature and being incorporated into the latest trail cameras, a whole host of new intel can be gained.

I recently add a new Camera to my stable of Trail Cameras…..the Primos DPS Time Lapse Camera!

This is a really neat little unit and can provide information that a conventional motion triggered camera just cannot do.

On one of my leases there is a historic turkey roost where the birds roost every night. This is a spot in the corner of a pasture that borders a creek swamp and I have never been there and not seen turkeys roosting there!

I have been running a Bushnell Trail camera there and decided to move the DPS unit there as well for a test run. I discovered that the birds are coming from a different direction to enter the pasture and are not using that roost right now. Since this camera is set to take a photo every 5 seconds, I get a clear sense of where the game came from, when, how long they were in the area and which direction they left in. The beauty of the camera is you collect data even when the game is too far away to trigger a standard motion sensing camera.

I found the photo’s to be pretty clear depending on the lighting. I would say the photo quality is average to slightly above.

The camera was easy to program and set-up. It requires (8) AA batteries for power.

One of the best aspects of this camera is the PRICE! You can buy (4) of these for what you’d pay for a plot watcher!

One negative is that this is a daylight camera only and does not take photo’s at night.

You can set this camera to take a picture every 5 or 10 seconds. I prefer the 5 second setting myself. A lot can happen in 10 seconds and an animal could walk past the camera without getting his picture made. You can always delete pictures but a missed opportunity is lost for ever!

You will need a pretty large card to store all of these pictures. The unit will handle up to a 32gb card and you definitely want to go with the 32gb. Otherwise, you will be servicing the camera every couple days if you use something like an 8gb. I am using the “Sandisk ULTRA” but the “Extreme” or “Standard” will do a good job also. The Kingston “Ultimare X” or “Standard” cards work well with the DPS camera also. As far as class of card….class 10 is great but I have used class 4 also and cannot tell any difference. For individual photo’s, the class is probably not a factor.

The camera comes with software to watch each days time lapse. You can watch a whole days activities in 3 minutes or less! The software is fairly intuitive and you’ll get the hang of it without to much trouble. Set up was the only place I had any issues with the software. There was not much instruction on installation.

As far as using the photo’s you collect…..That’s a whole other issue. The photo’s use an extension that is not supported by many photo editing software’s. I was able to use a free photo editor called “Irfanview” to edit the photo’s but you should make a duplicate copy of them before you open them with Irfanview as it will change the file extension. Once that happens, the DPS program software can’t read it anymore.

I was able to make the videos below from the time lapse collection by doing a simple screen capture with “Corel VideoStudio Pro x5“, a video editing package you can get for about $49. The DPS software has a share button but I could not get that to really do anything and there were no instructions that I found on how it works.

Here is a hot link to the technical data on the Primos DPS Camera. This is a link to Amazon. In the interest of transparency I do receive a minuscule commission if you decided to make a purchase. However, if you can find a better price somewhere else, by all means, save some money! You may even want to consider a used unit on eBay, just be sure it is the latest version as earlier units had problems using certain cards.

Here are a few videos made from the DPS time lapse photo’s….

Best of Hunts,
Larry Stephens
.

I Drove out to the Bull Creek Ranch to Service feeders and trail cameras this afternoon. I arrived just at dark so all the turkeys were already on the roost down in the creek swamp. I had a couple deer try to come up to the feeder as I was filling it up in the dark and blow at me. I felt like I had just opened a Christmas present and found a pack of underwear inside when I opened the trail camera and found it had taken no pictures in a week! The card was locked and could not be written to! %$!$)%!$…. Returning to your cameras after being out for a week or two to find that the camera was never turned on or the batteries died, etc. and did not capture any pictures is one of the most disappointing things I can think of. I H A T E it when that happens!!!

Anyway, only one of the three cams had taken pictures but that one had nearly 350 on it. Most of them were turkeys including a nice flock of gobblers. I can’t wait until Spring Gobbler season gets here!

Here’s some pictures from today…..

Larry S.

The following pictures really don’t need any fancy description, they pretty much speak for thmselves……..Awesome!

Have a look at some of the great pictures I have been getting lately of the Gobblers livingat the ranch right now.

Larry S.

Bull Creek Lease today to check the feeders and trail cameras. I have just recently got the feeders going and the green & whites falling off the live oaks are all played out so the place is not the zoo that it was 2 months ago. I am still seeing a bunch of deer in the evening walking in to the feeder though none with horns that I could tell.

There has been a few trophy gobblers  and a flock of Jakes using the feeder I just charged up. Of course there are the usual deer but the hordes of hogs have petered out. Hopefully, I can get some more showing up with the feeder running.

Here are a few pics of the game using there.

If you have any recent good trail cam pictures, send them to me and I will post for all to enjoy.

Larry S.

The beard of a turkey is a curious oddity. Actually, it is not a beard or hair at all. It is a modified feather that forms kind of a stiff bristle. Since the cluster of bristles resembles a beard of sorts, people began referring to it as a beard.

To a hunter, the  beard is considered one of the trophy parts of the turkey that is saved for display as every beard is a little different and it is easily preserved. Beards  vary in length and thickness and can have various curls and kinks.

  • What determines the length of a turkey’s beard?

As a general rule of thumb, the beard can be used to roughly age a turkey though the spur length is a more accurate measure.  A young male turkey that is born in the spring will be almost a year old by the time hunting season arrives the following spring. He is referred to as a “jake” and his beard length will vary from barely visible to a maximum of about 4-5 inches long. By the next spring he will be a 2 year old and sport a beard up to 9-10″. Beards over 10″ are typically found on birds of 3 years or older though few toms will grow a beard longer than 11-11 1/2″.

A Wide Eastern (left), Thin Osceola (right)

  • Non-Typical Turkeys!

On rare occasions some gobblers can grow multiple beards.  Generally, most turkeys will only have one beard though a small percentage can grow multiple individual beards. They will all be aligned vertically with a small separation between each beard. Typically, There will be one primary, normal sized beard with multiple smaller, thinner beards above. These extra beards will usually vary from a few hairs to approximately 1/4″ in diameter and be significantly shorter than the primary beard.  I have personally harvested (2) toms with triple beards.  Toms with more than 6-7 beards have been reported but are very rare.

An Osceola Gobbler with 3 Beards!

rick edwards triple bearded turkey

Triple bearded turkey

  • What is Beard Rot?

There is another factor that can effect the beard length of a turkey. It is known as Beard Rot and is caused by malnutrition rather than parasites as many believe. Beard Rot is an interruption in Melanin production which gives the Beard it’s color and strength.
A turkey suffering from a Melanin deficiency will develop a light colored band or ring around the beard. Some birds may have a completely blond beard under severe cases. With the Band or Ring situation, when the turkey begins producing melanin again, the beard will return to its healthy black color. However, this band is weaker at this point and as the beard fatigues from flexing, it will eventually break off and the beard will have a truncated end with a blond to reddish coloration to it at the tip.

Turkey Beard with Beard Rot!

Turkey beard with signs of beard rot

  • What is the Purpose of the Turkeys Beard?

A lot is not known about what purpose the turkey’s beard serves. Many believe it serves no purpose but nature does not create features on animals that have no purpose. From my own observations, I believe the beard is a visual cue, an identifying part of the turkey that allows other turkeys to recognise him as a male from long distance. If you have ever watched a gobbler strutting in a field or other place where he can be seen from a long distance, his beard projects out and is very much more pronounced then when he is feeding or milling around. Every so often a strutting bird will break out of strut and stretch out tall and make his beard stick straight out. He will almost always be looking at or for another turkey and I believe this is a signal just like the turkey’s fan and increased size when he blows up into a strut.

  • A Hen with a Beard? That’s Just Wrong!

Another oddity among turkeys is the phenomena where a Hen will actually develop a beard. This is also fairly rare but can be found in up to 20% of the Hens in some populations. I have found it to be more rare than that in my travels. Personally, I have harvested three hens with visible beards that I can recall and that is after 30 years of hunting.  Two actually had a pretty nice beard that measured about 7 1/2″. As a rule, the beard found on a hen will be very thin and seldom be thicker than a quarter of an inch. I did film a hunt a couple years ago where a good friend of mine missed a bearded hen. Be sure to verify your states game laws before harvesting a bearded hen!

Bearded Eastern Turkey Hen

Larry’s Bearded Hen by Bow

  • Preserving your Trophy’s Beard!

There are several ways to remove the beard off of your trophy tom if you plan to preserve it. Obviously, you can remove it with a sharp knife. To do this you need to cut only the fat and soft skin from around the end of the beard. Do not cut through the tough gristle type section that the beard bristles attach to. That is what is holding the whole thing together. I prefer this method myself.

The second method is to just peal it off the birds chest but you run the risk of damaging the beard with this method. If you look closely where the beard attaches you will notice a slight change in color where the base of the beard attaches to the skin and this is where you can peel the beard off. This will leave enough of the beards base to keep the bristles from falling apart.

Once you have it off the bird you need to apply some drytan taxidermy preservative to it which will include a bug proofer. Let the beard dry until the butt end is completely hard but do not place it in the sun. After it is completely dry I like to apply some spray on polyurethane to the butt and base of the bristles for added protection.

That’s pretty well covers all there is to know about a turkey beard. Hopefully, you can add a few more beards to your collection this spring.

Best of Hunts,

Larry Stephens

P.S.  If you have any turkey hunting questions or comments, take a few moments to jot them down and I’ll be glad to respond with any help I can provide, L.S.

Hen Turkey Roosted in a Cypress Tree
Photo by Larry Stephens

There is one technique when it comes to turkey hunting that is responsible for producing more turkeys than any other! It requires a considerable amount of extra time and effort but you will learn more about turkey hunting and woodsmanship than you ever dreamed!

I am talking about Roosting and if you are not implementing this into your turkey hunting strategy  you are missing out on some of the most exciting turkey hunting you can imagine!

If you are following my writing, you probably are picking up on the importance that I place on Roosting. It is the keystone of my turkey hunting strategy.  It’s hard for me to imagine turkey hunting without roosting. Truthfully, I think I have as much fun tracking roads and roosting in the afternoon as I do actually hunting. When you cut a big set of gobbler tracks walking down a graded road, headed for a roosting area and it’s on top of all of the recent vehicle wheel sign, you know your in the drivers seat for the mornings hunt. It is that much more exciting when you know you have that waiting for you when you wake up. Of course I will always go to a bird I actually heard gobble from the roost over the set of tracks. After all, there is always a chance that the tracks could belong to a jake though as a rule jakes will travel in small groups so a lone set of tracks is a real good bet. I am always suspicious of 3-4 tom tracks traveling together. These are seldom mature gobblers. I would only hunt this kind of sign if I did not have anything more promising.

Big Gobbler Track on a Sand Road

There are two schools of thought or primary methods for hunting turkeys. The first is to locate yourself in a location that turkeys frequent and try to call them to your location and the other is to take the fight to the bird, roost him and move in as close as possible for the kill!

  • Whats in a Turkey’s Head?

Roosted turkeys always have a plan for where they are headed when they fly down! This is a very important point to understand.  If you are dealing with a flock of turkeys and you can’t locate yourself in between the roosted birds and where their headed you have lost the fight before it even began. I won’t say you have no chance at all at this bird but you won’t kill very many gobblers with this setup, especially older Toms. If you are lucky you might pull in a two year old satellite tom but the mature tom that rules the flock is headed where the flock is going and you will very seldom persuade him otherwise.

  • Rely More On Your Woodsmanship and Less On Hunting Gear for More Success!

However, If you are familiar with the woods you are hunting and roosted the birds you should have a good idea where they are going when they pitch down. If you can get on that side of them and get set up without blowing them up you will more than likely get a shot at the gobbler. You probably don’t even need to call. When you start to rely more on your woodsmanship and less on calling and gear you will see your results improve without question. When you make it to this point you can consider yourself a Master Turkey hunter. Any hunter that can harvest turkeys consistently with just his woodsmanship skills and intelligence has truly mastered the art.

  • What call is more important to turkey hunting than an actual turkey call?

If I could only use one sound to turkey hunt with, it would not even be a turkey call at all! It would be the call of a barred owl! I have taught myself to owl with my natural voice and without this ability or at least being able to use an owl call, I would not have taken nearly as many turkeys as I have. The reason I would select the owl call is that it plays such a key roll in roosting. You can’t kill them if you can’t find them. On average a gobbler will only gobble for about 20-30 minutes from the limb before he flies down. Once he hits the ground, he may not even gobble again. At best, his gobbling will be cut in half. Within 30 minutes or so it will drop off by half again. What this means is that you have very little time to locate a turkey in the morning before he shuts up. This bird will usually start gobbling a little again, later in the morning but it’s probably over for a while otherwise. Now, the converse of this is the bird that don’t gobble from the limb! If he is not vocal on the roost, he is probably going to gobble good once he’s on the ground. That ones worth remembering!

  • Roosting Provide Valuable intelligence!

Another important thing that roosting does for you is to gain you valuable intel on exactly what the woods are like where the birds are roosted. Once you wait for the light level to get just right which is something you have to learn the hard way, you can approach a roosted bird fairly easily. This also depends largely on the amount of ground cover and leaf canopy above.  As a rule, when I roost a bird that is responding on the limb well, I am going to move in close enough that I can see him! I want to know what I am getting into in the morning…. is there a thicket or small creek or any other obstacle that’s going to keep the bird from being able to come to me. Sometimes, you may only learn where not to be before it gets so dark that you have to back out but that is valuable intel also. I can’t tell you how many long beards I have stood under at last light and watched them trying to shake the mosquitoes off their snood……. big ole beard swinging around!

By the way, I highly recommend a good pair of smaller binoculars, they are invaluable for turkey scouting and roosting. I have been using Nikon’s Monarch in 10×36 paired with a good Bino system for a number of years now.

This Tom pitched right back down to the road that he had flown up to the roost from. Big Mistake!

Most of the time a turkey, especially a mature tom, will roost over an area that is thick at ground level. If it is a wet area it will probably be open on the ground and you can move easily. In places where there are not a lot of open woods (which means a low turkey population) a turkey will fly up from a road and out over an old cut-over.

Here in Florida that may likely be an old bay head that has a few mature pines left  here and there. As a rule, if you don’t disturb him he will probably pitch right back down to the road in the morning.

This is just the kind of situation I fell into a couple of seasons ago. I was tracking some graded roads in my huntin’ club and I cut a pair of fat toed gobbler tracks walking down the road. I could tell they were hot tracks as you could still see the texture from the pads of their toes. I parked the truck and started tracking. About a half mile later they came to a bend in the road that had a short dead end  spur off to the south. To the left was a oak scrub, to the right was a long narrow bay head that bordered a creek strand. The bay section  had been cut over many years ago and grown back into an impossible thicket. I have tracked a crippled deer or two into this tangle and it is one miserable place to be. We call it the hell hole!

The creek strand was approximately a hundred and a quarter from the road and there were some scattered mature pines still standing. About this point, the edge of the road dropped down to a low flat that extend out into the bay. This is where the tracks ended! The creek was thick but not so much that he couldn’t have fluttered down in there if he wanted but up on the hill behind me was a big pasture that the hens like to nest around. I knew that was where he was going to want to go in the morning. That meant he just about had to fly back down to the road that he’d flown up from.

By the way, neither bird gobbled from the limb that evening.

The next morning I set up on the edge of the road about 15 yds back from the edge of the flat and waited for gobble time. Both toms gobbled the next morning but had roosted about 100 yds apart. They had flown up from the same point but angling away from each other. The bird that did most of the gobbling was behind the flat though I never could pick him out in the tree. Finally, he pitched out and sailed 125 yds and landed within 18 yds of my  position. When his toes touched the dirt and he got stopped, I sent a load or Winchester #6 down range and the hunt was over!

Inspecting the black wings of a nice Florida Osceola

Here’s another tip:  when a roosted tom starts to slow down his gobbling or stops all together, you need to be ready, he’s just about to pitch down!

The actual place I had to set up would have been ridiculous for any other situation. Literally, there was no way to get off the road and set-up. I had to just back up into a tiny pocket looking down the road though I did it in such a way that I could only see as far as I could shoot. Boy, was that gobbler surprised when he touched down and saw me sitting there!

  • Did Roosting Really Kill This Turkey?

Here’s the point of that story….. That was not an area that many people would have picked to try to strike a bird in the morning if they were hunting cold, without benefit of having scouted. Had I not roosted that night and cut those tracks, there is a good chance I could have ended up some place out of ear shot of a gobbling tom. That hunt could have easily been a bust. Get the picture?

My hope here is that you will gain a better sense of the importance of roosting and can incorporate this information into your own hunting methods and become a more successful turkey hunter.

Best of Hunts,

Larry Stephens

 

P.S.  If you have any turkey hunting questions or comments, take a few moments to jot them down and I’ll be glad to respond with any help I can provide, L.S.

 

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