You have some breathing room before the opening bell. Consider these steps to ensure that even if the turkeys do pull a “Crazy Ivan”, you can unleash some craziness of your own to keep a tom in your sights for an opening-day ending.
BE A TURKEY DETECTIVE
Knowing where birds will be on opening morning is your goal. Some flocks roost in the same tree religiously while others vary their night digs like an over-the-road trucker. Do your scouting homework. Turkeys follow patterns and those patterns revolve around secure roosting sites, and consistent food sources. Even if your targeted flock sleeps around in different trees, knowing where they will begin the breakfast hour helps you keep your plan on track.
Scouting should include visits to the property with a binocular in hand to watch from afar. Incursions into properties should be timed to avoid contact with a flock, but get as much intel as possible, especially finding roost sites heaped with droppings. Talking with landowners also aids in confirming the clues you have been uncovering.
Finally, use your scouting to set up trail cameras, cellular or traditional. Consider them as your hired scouting partner as you go on with your busy life. Trail camera coverage should include fly-down areas, midmorning strut zones and food sources. Place the camera at turkey height to capture the best images and visit sparingly if you need to recover SD cards. Spend as much time as possible in the field prior to the season. The information gathered can be used to cement your plan or make a new one on the fly.
ASSESS YOUR COMPETITION
Regardless if you hunt public or private land you need to scout your competition — other hunters. Public land is sure to see hunting activity on opening day and that bustle could cause turkeys to shift their patterns immediately. Private properties even have shared hunting privileges, plus neighboring hunters could prompt a swift change in turkey behavior. Scouting for backup ambush sites will help you stay ahead of the competition, but take it a step further.
Talk with friends, neighbors and hunting partners regarding their opening-morning plans. Ask landowners how many others they have granted hunting rights. The weekend before the opener, visit your public hunting area and see how many others are scouting in preparation for the opener. Note their travel direction and consider an alternative for the opener based on your earlier scouting. Even if you do not have a backup location, arrive early and move farther into a property. The commotion of hunters at dawn could nudge birds in your direction for a midmorning rendezvous.
And if your hunting property is going to bustling like a Costco on Saturday, consider skipping opening day and returning during the middle of the week if your schedule allows.
PREP AND PRACTICE
If you genuinely want to succeed on opening morning, prepare your gear and practice ahead of time. Organize and clean all your turkey hunting gear, especially calls. Check all calls for function, particularly diaphragm calls that can dry out and crack.
Once you have your calls functioning, practice with them to hone your skills. Your calls need to stand out, especially if you plan on hunting public lands.
Call preparation aside, load those calls into your turkey vest. Now sort the rest of the gear in your turkey vest and inventory the contents. Make sure you have a head net, gloves, locator calls, flashlight, extra shotshells, seat cushion, first aid kit and your hunting license with a working pen. Add in other comfort items as needed.
Next, clean your shotgun. It is too easy to put away your firearm after hunting season without cleaning it. Early morning humidity, dust and dirt all can cause a shotgun to work more sluggish than a sloth looking for lunch. After a solid cleaning, visit the shooting range and pattern your shotgun with the exact loads you will be using during the hunt. Note your effective range and curb your enthusiasm to push the limit if a tom hangs up.
After the sight-in stint, practice a few shots from positions you expect in the field and compare accuracy from your bench, pattern session. Most modern shotguns equipped with turkey chokes pattern well to 40 or 50 yards, but shooting from a knee could reduce your accuracy so re-check your proficiency.
BE READY FOR A 5K
Oftentimes, success is tied directly to going the extra mile and that equals being in moderate shape. Some hunts may take place just a few yards from your truck or UTV, but to escape hunting pressure you may be required to do a 5K or more. For the metric challenged, that adds up to 3.1 miles.
In addition to literally going the extra mile on opening day, a good plan is to get up an hour earlier than you normally would. Getting into a roost ultra early guarantees birds will not see your devious form setting up under a roost tree. Your parked vehicle at a trailhead or farm gate also signals to others that they may want to try another location.
Another extra-mile move to consider is being prepared to cross a water obstruction to leave the competition behind. Many hunters avoid crossing waterways such as rivers, creeks and wetlands. Plan ahead by stashing a canoe to cross, bringing along hip boots or locating a fallen log to use as a natural bridge. Think ahead for safety and use flotation devices where appropriate.
A gym membership or daily walks can help you maintain physical fitness. Always discuss workout plans with your physician and then then ready to run a 5K for turkeys.
BACKUP YOUR PLAN
In closing, always have a backup plan for opening day. Stay abreast of the weather forecast using your Moultrie Mobile app. Take along appropriate gear to endure any deviations based on morning weather changeups. Turkeys may spend more of their day in a nearby coulee than an open field when the weather whips up.
It also pays to have a backup hunting location. Other hunters may beat you to your top location. A farmer could kick off early field work or a coyote could chase away your flock. Move on to a backup location and continue the hunt.
Breathe easy. Opening day is still in the future and you have ample time to plan to get the most out of the official kickoff of spring hunting.
About the Author: Mark Kayser is a prolific outdoor writer and hunting television host. Mark spends his falls chasing elk and whitetails from the Rocky Mountains to the Midwest. From solo DIY elk hunts on public land to sitting in a treestand waiting to ambush rutting whitetail bucks, Mark lives and breathes the hunting lifestyle.
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