It’s finally here! Spring Turkey Season is kicking off this weekend in my home state of Illinois. The snow has almost completely faded away and it’s looking as though sweet lady spring showed up just in the nick of time. My turkey property is in what is referred to as the “Southern Zone” of Illinois. Toms are ever present in these rolling hillsides, but the terrain can make for a challenging turkey hunt. This year, the forecasted cold overcast conditions are going to be create challenges for me. Like most turkey hunters, I have had my eyes fixed on the weather forecasts and extended weather models – plotting, planning, and praying for those perfect brisk mornings followed by warming temps and sunshine. This year, it looks like I’m not going to be so lucky – and neither is my gear, game plan, and calling.
Many long beard hunters will tell you that they think turkey hunting is somewhat better in the cold as the turkeys seem a little more active. Just as many people think warmer, more consistent spring days are the best. Personally, after months of horrible weather and never ending snow, I am hoping for the light-weight gear and a slight suntan around my eyes and nose where the face mask leaves me exposed. Due to the wintery spring mix that appears to be in my future, like so many others around the country, having an adaptable plan and gear setup is going to be essential.
2014 spring turkey is going to take some scouting and ground covering recon. As is always suggested, hunting with a friend serves as a great safety measure, but also a great way to collect information. If the weather is going to be cold and windy, with unpredictable sun and temperatures throughout the day, it’s best to set someone on those south facing slopes while at the same time have another hunter in the open fields. Turkeys will look to warm themselves on the slopes. At the same time, if their ability to hear or see effectively is diminished, their defensive needs might override the want of sun and push them to the fields. Turkeys move to fields so they can use their two main lines of defense – their eyes and ears. Food sources might also be more readily available on the slopes if other areas are still snow covered, drawing the birds in. Spreading your hunting party out during inclement weather to determine roosting positions and patterns will only increase your chances for bringing that tom in for the kill. Remember that in snowy conditions, birds will often show up out of the blue (or grey) without responding to the call – so be ready, and never underestimate their sneakiness!
My gear is also going to be altering as the spring weather patterns can happen so quickly and dramatically. I absolutely love my UnderArmour cold weather base layers for deer hunting, and this year I’m going to need them for turkeys as well. The extremely cold mornings that I’m looking at means I’m going to need to stay warm, but the rapid late morning warm-up ensures that I’ll need to dress in layers. This is where quality base layers come into play, as this year’s plan is to wear shirts and jackets that I can easily and discreetly open as needed - via buttons and hopefully very quiet zippers. Quality UnderArmour base layers will breathe and allow my body to cool, even though four hours ago, I would have done anything to find and extra degree or two for comfort. The camo this year is most certainly not going to have the lighter, brighter green tones from last season. Instead, I’m opting for the darker, even hard woods patterns from my typical deer hunts, as the foliage is most certainly running behind this year.
Remember cold weather affects every type of material in the cold, so TEST YOUR CALLS to make sure that old scratcher/call sounds the same in 20 degrees as 70 degrees. Also, cold windy weather is going to minimize the range that your call can reach, so if conditions turn to the worse, make sure your call will throw enough noise to draw in that tom, or be sure to have another backup call with a louder pitch to it. Spring 2014 means changing the game and the gear, all while being able to do it on the fly as discreetly as possible. Do not get caught off guard this year looking for needed gear the day of – when you should have already packed it!