Outdoors with Craig Robbins

It seems Mother Nature has decided that winter is finally over. While the calendar has said it’s been spring for over a week now, the temperatures just haven’t quite caught on. But the good news is this week’s forecast calls for above freezing.

The rising temperatures mean a lot of things to different folks, but to local sportsmen it means spring gobbler season. While chasing ”thunder chickens” around is always a great time, often times we forget the basics. One of the most basic things we sportsmen can do is listen.

The good Lord as given us two ears and one mouth. Over the years I have learned that I should use them accordingly.

Now, some could take that statement and use it for many different situations. For a father, it could mean one thing and something totally different to another. In a work environment, some would say that one should listen more than he talks. As a husband? Well … you all get the idea.

For sportsmen, especially spring turkey hunters, it really means just one thing – spend at least twice as much time listening to the birds than talking to them.

Knowing what the birds are doing in your hunting area is the most important piece of the turkey-hunting puzzle. Without birds, all the calling, setups and fancy equipment is all for naught if there aren’t any turkeys in your area.

Several years back I had been scouting a particular flock of birds and the group had three longbeards and one monster. I had been watching them for weeks and waited for the right time to hunt them. Some have asked, ”Why wait until the right time to hunt these birds?”

Knowing this particular flock had several different places they liked to go after they flew down. There was no rhyme or reason to where they went or when they went there. The best way to hunt these birds was covering their travel routes and not call.

I have never been one to creep so close to birds in the dark that they fly right in your lap. While this is a great way to hunt and, at times, is very productive, it does have downfalls.

History has shown me that attempting to get too close to birds in the dark is not a high-percentage way of killing spring gobblers.

While I feel that I can creep along the woods quietly, doing it in the dark isn’t worth the risk, in my book. It seems that no matter how early I get in the woods or how cautious I try to be, more times than not I bump birds off the roost. Once that is done, generally that roosting area will not be used. Hence, all your scouting has been ruined by one hunt.

For me, its not worth the risk.

This is just one reason I advocate scouting year-round.

During a late-season, last-ditch effort, we felt it was time to go after this longbeard. We had what should’ve been a perfect setup. What we thought and what actually happened is the hens took the longbeards off in another direction, down the hill and away from myself and the guides.

The hen headed to a place we weren’t going to go. We opted to stay put and enjoy the morning with a cup of coffee. We were set up between a field and strutting zone, so I knew they typically would work their way back in the area.

Staying in hunting mode is difficult during these down times. Knowing that the birds hadn’t gone far, we all stayed put and called occasionally.

It wasn’t long before a lone gobbler sounded off. A quick re-setup placed the guide behind me about 60 yards. If the longbeard crossed down from me, the guide would get a crack at him.

In theory, the closest hunter doesn’t call and lets the hunter behind him act as a lonely hen. This generally works only when there is more than one mature gobbler and jake in the flock. The underlining results should be that a mature gobbler doesn’t like to be far from hens and is always looking for a new girlfriend.

The four mature gobblers and three jakes that flew down earlier made this a textbook time to try this tag team set up.

After several series of ”up the hill down the hill calling,” the woods went extraordinarily silent. Experience has taught me that’s when business is about to pick up.

It wasn’t long before I spotted a red thing, which at the time I thought was a leaf, but the ”red leaf” moved. Then it turned into two leaves and then three. I realized that the ”leaves” were turkeys. I purred and all heck broke loose.

As the red heads turned into full body gobblers, I began to understand that I had all four mature longbeards working their way to my single decoy. Another purr on a mouth call sent the birds gobbling and strutting their way within gun range.

What seemed like hours, which actually was only minutes, three of the gobblers worked their way through my ambush.

The result was another turkey tag filled.

What made this hunt special was I began to understand the theory. Listen more than you call. Understanding where the birds are going and what they are going to do after they are done with their annual rite also helps.

But if we didn’t understand and listen to the birds many times before, we wouldn’t have been able to put a plan together.

Spring turkey hunting is tough. It is made tougher with folks walking around the woods once the birds have either shut up or moved to the other side of the ridge. Maybe it’s just me getting older, but if I know there are birds in a given area and they haven’t been bumped, I’ll wait them out.