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Turkey hunters like myself, are already thinking about our Spring Gobbler hunt, and it is not very long before the spring turkey season will be upon us. If you are like many of us die-hard turkey hunters, you probably are counting the days.Spring turkey hunting can be one of the most exciting sports known to man or it can be one of the most frustrating walks in the woods that you can imagine.

A successful spring hunt requires some pre-season preparation in order to get the jump on the birds and have a plan before you head for the field.The first thing you are going to need to do is to know where the birds are because traipsing around in the hills, hoping to stumble across a turkey is not what turkey hunting is all about.

If you think you know where the birds are today, because you saw them this winter, then you could be in for a truly rude awaking.In the winter, turkeys, much like other wild animals will head toward their food source, herding up in certain areas because of the abundance of food found there.

Just because you saw them in the winter, I would not count on them being in that spot when the sun rises on opening day. They maybe in the general area, within a half to one mile away, but that is a huge area to cover when you are trying to set up on them opening morning.

As the weather warms, these large flocks will start to break up and as the hens move out, the Toms will follow.The dominant Toms will start to show their authority, whipping the feathers off the younger birds, showing them who’s boss and their place in the pecking order.

This is the time of the year that you need to grab your binoculars and head for the woods to try to locate the birds.Once a Tom has established his territory, he will fight to keep it and will be found in that area throughout the breeding season unless something catastrophic happens to force him out.

Now that you have your big Gobbler spotted, you will need to figure out his routine, to make a mental map of where he roosts, travels, struts, feeds and likes to hangs out.

Like all of us, wild critters seem to do much of the same things day in and day out, sleeping, traveling and eating in a certain place.By observing where they roost, fly down and eat, you can set up between these areas and get a shot at them as they go about their everyday routine.

If the birds fly down on the east side of the trees and then wander off to feed in a field in the same direction, you are not going to get them to come to the west, no matter how good you are at calling.Pattern them, set up along their travel route and your success rate will increase.

OK, so you have the birds figured out, know where they are heading, your decoys are set out and your calling is impeccable but the Tom still does not come within range, then what?

My hunting partner and I use a few tricks when things get tough that seem to turn the tables on many of these wise old birds.If you are hunting with a partner who will do the calling, have him set up 20 or so yards behind you, setting against the tree but off to the side.

In other words if you’re facing south, have him face east or west, depending on which side the bird is coming in from.Place your decoys between you and your partner, off to the side, so the incoming bird will be looking past you.

This way, if he starts to get suspicious and hangs up, chances are he will be close enough to you to give you an opportunity for the shot.If the bird hangs up way out in front, the caller setting off to the side of the tree behind you can turn his head away from the bird and call. 

This makes the Tom think that the love of his life has now lost interests in him and is moving away.Many times, the bird will keep coming toward the caller hoping either to regain the hen’s attention or to catch up with her.

Another thing that we have done years ago, long before the plastic and nylon imitation fans came out was to make a fan from a set of Jake tail feathers and take them to the field with us.If a Tom is hung up and refuses to come to the decoy, we will gently wave this scrawny little fan at the hung up bird.

Many times, this would be just enough to force a jealous Tom to come charging in to kick the stuffing out of this little fella.Of course, you want to make sure that you are the only one hunting on that land because if you are not some sticky finger hunter might take the fan and part of your hand off when he takes a pot shot at it.

As with any type of things you enjoy, whether it be the outdoors or some other hobby, to get good at it you have to spend time doing it before you become an expert. By preparing before the season, you will become more proficient at it.

By getting out in the woods before the season and spending time watching all that is happening, you will become a lot better hunter and learn to enjoy the outdoors more than ever!

Gary Howey.