I’ve hunted many states over the years, but I am especially looking forward to this spring because the last week of March I will head to Florida to turkey hunt. I will be trying to harvest an Osceola gobbler, one of the 4 subspecies of the wild turkey needed for the Grand Slam of turkey hunting. The four subspecies for the Grand Slam are the Eastern, the Rio Grande, the Merriam and the Osceola. Now there is also the Royal Slam which includes these four and the Gould’s turkey (found in Mexico and now huntable populations in Arizona and New Mexico) and the World Slam which includes the five mentioned before and the Ocellated turkey found in the jungles of Central America.
I have harvested three of the four subspecies of the Grand Slam lots of times. I have harvested the Eastern in lots of states (especially here in Missouri), the Rio Grande in Kansas and Oklahoma about every year and the Merriam’s twice in New Mexico and once in South Dakota. Planning for this hunt is key. The Osceola is only found in southern Florida in a limited area and most people have to go through an outfitter or roll the dice and travel that far to hunt public ground that gets hunted pretty hard from what I understand.
I have been trying to work this hunt out for several years and it is all finally coming together this year. I have heard these birds can be as finicky as an old Eastern and don’t usually gobble as much as our birds here in Missouri. I am already getting all my turkey gear together (along with refills for my Therma-Cell, which I hear is a must) for the trip in just a few weeks. I am super excited to see how these Florida birds react to Ozark Ridge Calls and to finish one of the items on my bucket list: Harvest the Grand Slam. I will keep everyone updated on the hunt; just check in on Ozark Ridge Calls’ Facebook page.
ORC Pro Staffer-Kevin Hess
Well after the winter we have just gone through I am so ready for spring and all the fun that comes with it like spring turkey hunting. We are less than a week away from the Missouri Youth Season opening day. I think one of the greatest things we can do as hunters is to introduce all the youth we can to the great outdoors and the wonderful sport of turkey hunting. In today’s world there is so much competing for the kid’s time, like video games, that it is amazing to me how many kids right here in the Ozarks have never heard a wild turkey gobble at daylight in the spring woods. What I want to cover in this blog post is just some real quick tips when taking a youth spring turkey hunting to keep it fun for them and for you.
If you are taking a young kid, let’s say someone under 12 especially, I would highly recommend hunting out of a pop-up blind. It makes it so much easier for the kid to move around and not get busted by the turkeys. It’s hard for adults that I have guided to stay still and not get busted little lone a 9 year old. Also when hunting out of a blind you can bring snacks, games, they can take a nap or whatever to keep them interested and out there in the great outdoors. Another bonus of a blind is if it is raining or cold it will keep the weather off you and help you stay out there longer.
Another tip is when you are getting ready for season and begin to practice shooting the shotgun they will be using, don’t use turkey loads when they are shooting. Worst thing you can do is put in a #5 turkey load, let them shoot a target and it kicks the crap out of them. You can make a kid “gun shy” real quick. Let them shoot low brass #8 shot when practicing, if you need to pattern the gun with turkey loads you do it. Only have them shoot the turkey loads when hunting.
Also let them take part in some of the calling. Buy them a call they can use, like an Ozark Ridge Push Button (which is one of my go to calls). That way the feel like they are just as much a part of calling the turkey as you are.
My last tip and main one is regardless if you kill a gobbler or not make it FUN. You want them to enjoy their time with you and in the great outdoors. We as hunters get caught up sometimes too much in getting the “kill” and push the kids past the point of having fun. Take a kid hunting this spring and you will have as much fun as they do, I guarantee it.
It is February and the weather man is calling for up to 5 inches of snow tonight. I have cabin fever so bad it’s a wonder I am not going around saying “redrum” to myself, well ok it’s not that bad but I am ready for the redbuds to start blooming, morel mushrooms to start popping and those ridge top monarchs to start gobbling.
It’s about this time each year I start getting myself worked up about the upcoming spring turkey season or seasons in my case since I try and hunt a few different states each year to make spring turkey season last as long as I can. Here are a few things you can do between now and this spring’s season to help you cure some of your cabin fever and start to get you ready for spring turkey season.
First grab that turkey vest and take everything out of it. If you are like me you will find things you forgot you even had. Check all your decoys and stakes, all your Ozark Ridge friction calls and strikers to make sure all is in good working order. You don’t want to find out something is not working right on opening morning. Would also suggest putting in an extra pair of camo gloves and an extra facemask, funny how I always end up losing those things.
Next would be to head out to a local outdoor show or National Wild Turkey Federation banquet to see what is new in turkey hunting gear this year. This also will allow you to get out of the house for a day or evening, talk turkey with guys and gals feeling the cabin fever just like you and if at a NWTF banquet raise money to help “Save the Habitat and Save the Hunt” for the future generations to enjoy.
Also, on those late winter days that are nice get out to your hunting spot and do some preseason turkey scouting. It is never too early to start scouting and getting to know the property you hunt better to help improve your woodsmanship. You can also do some shed hunting at the same time, which is great to do with the kids!
I hope this will give you a start on some things to do to get you through the last bit of winter and ready for the best time of year, at least in my opinion.
Kevin Hess, ORC Pro staff
During my past 35 years of turkey hunting in Missouri and numerous other states I have had my great days, good days and bad days in the turkey woods. I have tried to always learn something from each time in the woods, great or bad, and what happened to make it a great hunt or a not so great hunt. When I do turkey hunting seminars for Ozark Ridge Calls, I try to always stress that I learn something new each year of turkey hunting if not each hunt. During these seminars I tell them over the years I have learned there are 2 KEY THINGS to becoming a more successful turkey hunter.
Key number one is learning the “language” of the wild turkey. What I mean by that is turkeys have their own language just like ducks, deer and us; they don’t just walk around and randomly make noises it is all with a purpose, so you need to call with purpose. There is the assembly call, lost call, tree calls, mating yelp of the hen, cutting, purrs, putts, clucks, gobbler yelps, fighting purrs, gobble and the list goes on. So the more you know what you are saying to that ole’ gobbler the more likely you are to put your tag on him.
I recommend getting an instructional cd or dvd that explains what the calls are, what they mean and what each call should sound like and listening to it or watching it over and over. For example the assembly call of a hen is a call the hen uses in the fall to tell her young birds to come to her and when used in the spring you are telling that gobbler basically to come to you, you are being that old bossy hen. That may be just what he wants to hear and come marching in like he was told.
Also if you can get a cd that has actual recording of these calls from a wild turkey that is great, not only do you get to hear the calls as they are actually done by a wild hen but you get to hear the rhythm of those calls which is very important also.
Key number two is woodsmanship. What I mean by that is knowing the lay of the land, where the birds want to be, use the terrain to your advantage, when to move and not move on the bird, and anything else you can do while hunting to put the odds in your favor to kill that longbeard. I learned woodsmanship at very young age first by squirrel hunting with my dad and then turkey and deer hunting with him. Really the only way to get better at this is to spend time in the woods, whether it is squirrel hunting, scouting/hunting for deer or turkey or just going for a stroll in the woods to become more familiar with the property you hunt.
That longbeard is on that property(s) day in and day out and he knows all the little ins and out of the land he is living on and so should you if you want to try and put the odds more in your favor of carrying him back to the truck. That can be as simple as knowing where part of an old woven wire fence is still up on the ridge you have set up on and it is between you and that gobbling tom. You know you need to at least get to that old fence so he doesn’t hang up behind it strutting and decide not come on down the ridge to you but wait for that hen to come to him. If you are set up at the fence or at least in shotgun range of the old fence it won’t matter if he hangs up there or not.
Another example of good woodsmanship is knowing when to move on that bird using the terrain of the property you are hunting. You know that bird is heading to a certain spot to strut and you need to get there before him without spooking him so you are able to use the “lay of the land” to get there. Using the hills, hollows, cedar patches or whatever to get there undetected and be ready when you see that big fan pop over the rise. If you are at the right place at the right time turkey hunting seems so much easier.
That is my two tips for today: learn the language of the wild turkey and improve your woodsmanship. Put that to use this spring and you’ll be digging in your pocket for a tag soon.
Ozark Ridge Calls Pro Staff