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It has always kinda baffled me. A guy that LOVES to hunt whitetails, waits all year for it! Time in the woods is bigger than the shot. He/she loves everything about hunting but…they totally ignore the turkeys. What a treasure these birds are and absolutely delicious on the table. I truly have never eaten a pen raised bird from the grocery store that can hold a candle to a wild turkey. I think, in my humble opinion, that as the once plentiful turkey in North America plummeted in numbers during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, we went several generations without hunting them and passing those skills and recipes down. Now turkey numbers are good, turkey hunter populations are low.
The bird, native to America, was found to be dang tasty to early settlers pushing westward-so tasty that we nearly ate all of them. It wasn’t until the 1960’s that turkey restoration was noted as successful and working. In 1991 turkey seasons finally were open in all of the 49 states that hold wild turkeys. We all have turkeys outside of Alaska. The great frozen tundra is the only state without turkeys. Yes, you can hunt them in Hawaii! 1960 and 1991 are just a blink in time back from now. That’s not a lot of time to re-establish turkey hunters. A generation is generally thought to be 30 years. If turkey hunting was all but totally shut down in the 19-early’s, that puts between 3 and 4 generations between the 1st North American turkey hunters and the youngster that wants to hunt today. We simply have a nation of folks that didn’t grow up hunting turkeys, don’t know where to start or how to go about it. It’s easier than you think. Turkeys are an exciting and rewarding hunt and a pretty inexpensive way to round up a great meal. So let’s get started, and this spring will be the time to do that. You will need a place to hunt...
• A lot of land owners don’t hunt turkeys and wouldn’t mind you hunting them. Ask! Maybe you have a deer lease and simply haven’t explored what it takes to kill a turkey. Turkey hunters require only a few acres as opposed to the quail hunter that needs thousands of acres or the deer hunter that prefers hundreds. Do your homework. You will need a place that holds turkeys; preferably they roost there on that property at night. Tall trees and creek bottoms are prime places to look for wild turkeys.
• You’ll need camo; turkeys have incredible eyesight. Blend into your surroundings, break up your outline and BE STILL. They will see movement at great distances. This sounds crazy but even with this tremendous eyesight, they don’t mind a pop-up blind. I don’t know if they relate it to a bale of hay or a bush or what, but if you’re regularly seeing turkeys at your deer feeder or know where they likely will fly down from the roost, set up a pop-up blind. When you set up a new blind in an area, the deer typically will shy away for a week or two until they realize it’s immobile and safe. Turkeys on the other hand will walk right into an area with a new blind setup that wasn’t there an hour ago. If you want to take the youngsters, buy a pop-up to conceal movement. You can find them for under a hundred bucks these days. You can actually stand up inside and walk your pop-up blind closer to the turkeys, and it won’t rattle them. Try it when they hang up out there and won’t come any closer.
• You need a shotgun and heavy loads. I prefer a 12 gauge with an extended “turkey” choke and 3 ½ inch turkey shells. These heavy-feathered birds are tough, and I like to throw a powerful punch. Plenty of turkeys have been taken with a 20 and even a 410, but my goal is to kill a turkey, and I place the odds in my favor here. I also enjoy hunting them with a bow. That’s a whole nuther subject and probably not the right choice for the new turkey hunter.
• Spring means love to the tom turkey, so learn to speak the language. You don’t need a vest full of calls to have success hunting turkeys, but after you call in that 1st one and shoot him, you will be hooked and buying an assortment of calls and goodies! To break this down to its simplest form: (1) buy a slate call or box call. These two are easy to use and they won’t require a ton of practice time. (2) Visit the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) website and listen to the recordings of actual birds. The NWTF site is a trove of great information!
Take advantage of that small family owned parcel of land, or that deer lease that gets locked down in late winter and not used again till fall. You will not believe the rush of excitement that a gobbling tom turkey brings at 10 yards!
Remove and thoroughly clean the 2 breasts from your wild turkey. Cut the breasts into strips approximately 2 inches wide. Use an egg wash, then bread them good in flour, salt and pepper. I double coat by using this process twice on each strip of meat. Deep or skillet fry at 350 degrees. Hint: I like Kentucky Colonel seasoned flour for chicken fried turkey breast, and it also makes great cream gravy! The recipe is on the box as white sauce. But its cream gravy.
This is simply a beginner’s guide to the thrill of hunting turkeys. Give it a try! If you enjoy the sights and sounds of a fall deer stand, just wait ‘til you watch spring bloom right before your eyes, and Mr. Tom comes running to your call, stops, gobbles and goes full fan right in front of you!! THAT is when you invite him over for dinner!
January 31, 2020