Rumblings of boisterous, lovesick, wild turkey gobblers are not the only raucous sounds being heard in the Ozarks turkey woods these days. Hunters have grumbled and mumbled the last few seasons about gobblers being difficult to find and hunt.
The fact is that turkey numbers are down from historical highs, which we all enjoyed a decade ago. There seemed to be a turkey behind every tree, and a lot of us developed the idea that we were superb turkey hunters. The abundance of 2-year-old birds that loved to gobble and run in to any call that sounded like a rusty gate hinge fed our egos.
Matters have changed. Numbers of birds are down and the abundance of young birds that we once enjoyed is gone. We are now dealing with a lot of older and wiser birds. If you want to be consistently successful at bagging your spring birds, your tactics will have to change, too.
There may not be birds in the area you have been accustomed to hunting in the past. It is impossible to kill a bird that is not there. We all love it when we have a honey hole which produces birds year after year. Turkey hunters are passionate about their sport and love to call and kill gobblers. Many hunters often waist precious hunting days by remaining in areas that have produced in the past, but obviously lack birds in the present.
Pre-season scouting is paramount during tough turkey hunting years. If you return to your old stomping grounds, scouting is easy. You know the areas where birds hang out. If you don't find the usual signs in the usual quantities and places, it is time to scout elsewhere.
Look for tracks, droppings, dust bowls and drag marks from strutting, as well as sign along creek bottoms, dirt lanes, edges, pond banks and other open areas. If you are in agricultural areas, check for scratchings around cattle feeding spots.Turkey sign can often be found around cow flops, too.
The next step is formulating a plan for opening morning. The best way to do that is to be there well before daylight for pre-dawn gobbling and the fly-down. Hopefully the turkeys in the area have not been bothered all winter. Stay long enough to determine which direction the gobblers travel after fly-down. Staging your setup in a gobbler's routine travel path is insurance for a shooting opportunity on opening day.
To upgrade your odds for bagging a bird on opening day, make one last scouting trip the evening before opening morning. Pinpoint the spot where you hear that bird fly up. You want to know its exact location for the next morning's hunt.
Tweak Your Camo
Even the best patterns are a dead giveaway if it does not match the surroundings in which you plan to hunt. While on your scouting trips, pay close attention to the stage of vegetative development in the area and dress accordingly. Also be prepared to change your camo as green up continues.