By Passion for the Hunt
Hunters love turkey hunting in large part because of the interaction between hunter and bird. A never-ending challenge where birds respond to calling and decoys with a range of emotions that span from aggressiveness to nonchalant. Getting a turkey to posture and respond in your face is all about getting a bird fired up and there are few hunters who have fired up as many turkeys as Bruce “Wickerbill” Crist.
Wickerbill, as his friends call him, is a hillbilly with an easy smile who has spent an entire life devoted to dog training, taxidermy and guiding. Growing up hunting turkeys in the Ozarks and never having a traditional nine to five job, the man is a throwback of sorts. The man has also killed a lot of turkeys over forty years of guiding.
“As I have gotten older, I am using a blind much more and kill a lot of turkeys using blinds,” explains Crist. Blinds just hide so much movement and are exceptional for introducing kids and beginning hunters to turkey hunting.
“I typically leave blinds out for the season, so I can get into the location as quietly as possible in the morning, but you can set up a blind the morning of your hunt and kill a turkey,” states Crist. Any blind that allows for shooting while concealing your movement will work and blinds work great in conjunction with decoys.
Decoys work best in locations with good visibility. Classic locations include clear cuts, meadows, field edges and ridges. Seemingly designed for turkey hunting, many hunters are excited to test the new Primos Double Bull SurroundView 360 Blind this spring because you can see through the blind fabric 360 degrees around the blind with no blind spots.
Admittedly, decoys work best on private ground where there is not as much pressure. High pressure public land can create decoy shy birds. “If you are hunting public land where the birds see a lot of hunters, stay away from decoys and just use calling but also remember that less is more with pressured birds,” stresses Crist.
When you have situations where birds will or do respond to decoys, realistic is almost always better. “Decoys seem to work best in high visibility areas and turkeys have excellent vision. I used to use stuffers, but they were difficult to transport and hard to take care of. With some of the new decoys like the Dakota Decoy and Avian X, the realism is pretty close to what we had with the stuffers.
Crist offers some additional tips and insights. Early in the season, focus on using hen decoys. Satellite gobblers are much easier to kill when the birds are still bunched up but remember to call to the boss hen.
As the season progresses, jake and gobbler decoys begin to work more effectively. Late season long beards often get aggressive and decoys can fire up a response from a dominate bird. Hens typically begin to lay around the middle of April in the upper Midwest and this process takes about 15-18 days to lay the entire clutch. As the season progresses, hens will leave for their nest around mid-morning and the middle of the day can be a prime time for killing a long beard gobbler. “When the hens are on the nest, there isn’t as much competition and you aren’t fighting the allure of real birds, so these gobblers can be much easier to kill,” stresses Crist.
Regardless of whether you are hunting early season or late with the combination of blinds and decoys, remember to use patience. Get comfortable and set up for the duration of the day. If you put in your time in a good location, you will get some interaction in due time. Be patient and don’t over call. “In South Dakota where I do a lot of hunting, we don’t have a lot of roosting areas so you really have to be careful with the roost. If you burn a roost, you are done. Typically, I like to hang back at least 500 yards from a roost and wait the birds out. This insures that I continue to have good hunting year after year,” explains Crist.
As turkey populations continue to expand across the Midwest and new opportunities emerge where there were none just a generation before, more hunters are discovering the magic of love-stricken gobblers and the spring woods. For introducing new and young hunters especially, todays blind and decoy tactics provide both entertainment and success.
Passion for the Hunt Television airs July through October on Fox Sports North at 9:00 am Sundays. More information can be found at www.passionforthehunt.com