Setups for Success
March 16, 2004
Fields and planted wildlife openings figure prominently into any turkey hunter’s strategy. Agricultural fields and food plots act as natural feeding and strutting areas where turkeys can be found throughout the day, and because most of them are planted with equipment such as tractors, they are often easily accessible—a bonus when hunting with physically-challenged or older, less agile hunters.
Wild turkeys, like other wildlife species, often feed along field edges so set up just inside the line of trees making sure you have a clear line of sight directly in front of you and to your left and right. Use a pair of ratchet cutters if necessary to clear shooting lanes as a single limb can blow open the pattern on a turkey load and make for a missed bird. If the woods along the field edge or wildlife opening are devoid of low bushes and brush, be sure to use a blind to help conceal any movement you might make.
Open areas are particularly beneficial when hunting on days when toms refuse to gobble since you can often see birds at greater distances across fields and adjust your setup according to the direction the bird or birds are moving. Decoys, where legal (which is almost everywhere except Alabama), can be helpful on days when birds are silent or even when windy or rainy weather drowns out their calls.
“The visual attraction of the decoy can bring a turkey across a field or opening where otherwise it may have yet to hear your calls,” said Doug Howlett, editor of Turkey Call magazine. “When hunting windy days however, make sure your decoys are staked in a manner where the wind does not continually spin them around. A rapidly spinning decoy can quickly turn an approaching bird into a retreating one.”
While agricultural fields are great areas to catch birds scratching for waste grains, seeds and insects, openings planted specifically for wildlife, particularly turkeys, are hard to beat. If hunting public land is in your future, check with the state or your local National Wild Turkey Federation chapter to find out what Super Fund projects to improve turkey habitat have been carried out in your area (the “In Your State” link at www.nwtf.org is a good place to start). Many local NWTF chapters work with state and federal wildlife agencies to improve public hunting areas by planting wildlife openings and clearing roadways.
If you have access to leased land or own a piece of property, planting foods such as chufa or specially-blended wildlife mixes, such as the Strut ‘N Rut, can improve the ability of young birds in the summer to survive, and will help hold birds in the area you plan to hunt. Both Strut ‘N Rut and Turkey Gold Chufa® are available through the NWTF. Even if you have not planted anything by late winter, there are some mixes that include grasses and clovers that mature quickly and, if planted in early spring, can still offer benefits this hunting season. If the land is leased, be sure you have permission to plant or clear out openings first.
The NWTF is a great resource for turkey hunting tips and other wild turkey information. Visit the NWTF’s Web site for information or call 800-THE-NWTF to become a NWTF member and receive one of their great magazines filled with turkey hunting tips and stories.