My son Josh and I were online applying for spring turkey bonus tags for this year’s spring turkey hunting seasons in Wisconsin. We were both successful in being drawn for our original season choices for mid April and now we’ve both picked up a second bonus tag to hunt later. Josh wanted to get a third and maybe fourth tag but I chose to draw the line with two tags because of the conflict between chasing spring turkeys and spring fishing in open water. Remember open water? I lose spring fishing time while we are out chasing turkeys. We are also seeking wild morel mushrooms and wild asparagus so I lose more fishing time. You have to draw a line somewhere, but it’s all so much fun and rewarding.
I’m still treading on thin ice, chasing bluegills and crappies as I reluctantly close the book on this year’s ice fishing season as I open the book of spring turkey hunting. The first chapters of that are scouting for turkeys and getting permission from landowners to hunt. Some of that is done already as I’ve cemented friendships with landowners who have no affection towards wild turkeys. But wild turkeys can be very nomadic. They can be in one place one year and completely gone the next.
You don’t want to scout and lock up just one place too early because gobblers are constantly looking for lovely ladies. If old Tom turkey is not successful he will pack up his bags and move until he can fill his harem with happy egg laying hens. Bottom line is that you need the latest up to date information. That is why guides and seminar teachers, like me, use the term, “putting a Tom to bed.”
Once you find turkeys you want to learn how to put them to bed. It simply means going out to your hunting spot an hour or so before sunset to try to spot turkeys heading to roost locations. That’s where they are going to wake up the next day and where you want to hunt without getting too close in the morning and spook them. Of course there is no guarantee they are going to land in your decoys the next morning. All it takes is for one boss hen to go the wrong way and she can lead all the hens and gobblers away.
That’s why you need to focus on where hens are feeding and where the gobblers are strutting. Gobblers will simply follow the feeding hens around until one is ready to receive old Tom. It’s all about being in the right place at the right time. That’s what all the scouting and putting to gobblers to bed is about. If you’re there setting up in the early morning darkness you have increased your odds exponentially of being successful. If for some reason the boss hen leads everyone off, knowing where strut zones are is like drawing an ace to complete a full house in a poker game. Open areas in woodlot ridges or field edges are where old Tom likes to go when the hens go off to lay eggs. Find those strut zones, they’ll have drag marks from gobbler wing tips in the ground or black tipped gobbler feathers. Often around noon when most hunters head in for lunch or a nap is when big old Tom is at his favorite strut zone. If you beat him to that spot and get set up with that seductive hen decoy, he will walk right to you. BOOM!
Jim Bennett is an outdoorsman who lives and worked in the St. Croix River Valley and can be reached at email@example.com