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Spring Turkey Activity

By T.R. Michels, Trinity Mountain Outdoors

Even though the first day of the spring turkey hunt was cloudy, and a cold wind was blowing I headed for the soybean field where I had seen a flock of turkeys appear just after daylight for the last two weeks. I was fairly sure the birds wouldn't show up because of the weather. Just to be on the safe side I drove to the field forty-five minutes before daylight. I parked on the road, got out of the suburban, and owl hooted loudly. When I didn't get an answer I hooted again. Still no answer. I waited several minutes as the sky grew lighter and then blew a flydown cackle. No answer. The birds were either not there or not talking.

Luckily, I had been researching this particular flock for more than two years and I had a good idea of where I could find at least two of the fourteen jakes and toms in the area. I got back in the Suburban and drove to a small bean field that protected from north and east winds by the surrounding woods. By the time I got there the sky was already turning gray, so I grabbed my bag of Feather Flex decoys and quickly made my way to the edge of the woods on the west side of the small field. When I reached the gully that ran into the field from the north I put out two hen decoys and two toms decoys, one in a semi-strut the other in a full strut.

I chose a large tree at the edge of the woods, checked to make sure I had a clear line of sight, sat down, and yelped softly on my Haydel's box call. With the wind blowing I wasn't sure if I could hear the birds, or if they could hear me. I called intermittently for the next fifteen minutes without getting a response. Then I heard a double gobble. I called one more time and waited. I knew the birds were calling because they kept gobbling every two to three minutes, and each time the sound was closer. A half hour after I set up two long bearded toms walked down the gully, into the field and approached the decoys. If I had been hunting the birds would have offered an easy shot at fifteen yards.


As a guide, writer and seminar speaker it's my job to know when and where to find game animals on a regular basis. After hunting for more than thirty years I have learned a bit about animals. Reading magazine articles and attending seminars also helped. Then I began to talk to researchers and biologists throughout the United States. After reading several of their research papers I realized there was much more to learn. So, I decided to begin doing my own research.
Like most hunters I have had days when I felt I had chosen the right day, the right spot, and the right time to hunt, and still didn't see anything. I was fairly sure the weather had a lot to do with game movement because of some of the research I had read. I knew that turkeys often roosted on the downwind side of a hill to get out of cold winds, and from my own experience I knew that they often flew down later than normal on cloudy days. But, I wasn't sure when or where the birds moved when the conditions weren't right.

That's when I began watching the flock of thirty-four birds a half mile from my house. For two years I watched, listened and learned the movement of the birds. From the middle of March to late May I would go out in the evening to find out where the birds roosted. The next morning I would arrive an hour before daybreak. In a notebook I wrote down the date, temperature, wind speed, wind-chill, sky conditions and precipitation. Then I would record the time and number of all the gobbles, any other calls the birds made, how many hens, toms and jakes I saw, what they did and when they did it, how long they did it and where they went, from sunrise to as late as 1:30 PM. What I learned has allowed me to see more birds, find the birds on a regular basis, and get closer to them.

My studies show that several different meteorological conditions affect when and where turkeys move on a daily basis. These conditions include; the temperature or wind-chill (whichever is lower), the wind speed, amount and type of precipitation, and the cloud cover.



If you are interested in more turkey hunting tips, or more turkey biology and behavior, click on Trinity Mountain Outdoor News and T.R.'s Hunting Tips at www.TRMichels.com. If you have questions about turkeys log on to the T.R.'s Tips message board. To find out when peak turkey gobbling can be expected in your area, click on Peak Turkey Gobbling Dates.

This article is an excerpt from the Turkey Addict's Manual ($14.95 + $5.00 S&H), by T.R. Michels, available in the Trinity Mountain Outdoor Products catalog.

T.R. Michels is a nationally recognized game researcher/wildlife behaviorist, outdoor writer and speaker. He is the author of the Whitetail, Elk, Duck & Goose, and Turkey Addict's Manuals. His latest products are the 2003 Revised Edition of the Whitetail Addict's Manual, the 2003 Revised Edition of the Elk Addict's Manual; and the 2003 Revised Edition of the Duck & Goose Addict's Manual. For a catalog of books and other hunting products contact: T.R. Michels, Trinity Mountain Outdoors, PO Box 284, Wanamingo, MN 55983, USA. Phone: 507-824-3296, E-mail: TRMichels@yahoo.com, Web Site: www.TRMichels.com

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