Outdoors With Craig Robbins

Next weekend brings the spring turkey season with a special season for youth hunters, April 26 and 27.

Youth hunters 12-15 years of age that have a small-game license and turkey permit are allowed to take part in this special season. Young hunters 12-13 must be accompanied by a parent, legal guardian or person over the age of 21-with written permission from parent or legal guardian. Hunters 14-15 must be accompanied by a parent, legal guardian or person over the age of 18-with written permission from their parent or legal guardian.

The adult must have a current license to hunt spring turkeys. The adult hunter is there only to help the youth. The adult may not carry a firearm, shoot a firearm or admit to killing a turkey. The adult is there as a mentor to youth, to help set up and call.

During the special youth season, a youth is allowed to fill one of their tags.

Some advice for the youth hunters and all hunters is that it’s a well-known fact that the best way to be successful in the spring turkey woods is not to overcall. Let me repeat that, to be successful in the spring turkey woods is not to overcall.

As one that has guided for spring gobblers for more than 20 years and hunted turkeys for more than 30 years, I have learned that there are no hard-and-fast rules in the spring turkey woods. There are many lessons I have uncovered in the spring turkey woods, but one of the lessons that I used over and over is not to overcall.

The successful gobbler hunter knows when to call and when to shut up.

This spring, New York State hunters will be finding spring hunting different than the past few years. The hard winter has had a effect on the wild turkey population. From field reports and personal observations, it seems the birds are a couple weeks behind their annual ritual.

With all that being said and possible challenges we have to face this spring, I am excited about this season. I truly love spring turkey hunting and especially all the challenges. There is nothing I have experienced in the hunting world that gets my heart pumping more than hearing a gobbler at first light and then putting together a plan to outsmart him.

Knowing what the birds are doing in your hunting area is an important piece of the turkey-hunting puzzle. Without birds in the area you are hunting, all the calling, setups and fancy equipment will be naught. The recent grip of cold Mother Nature has had on our area should keep the gobblers from getting too fired up too early.

While we as turkey hunters are attempting to tag a longbeard with hen calls, this is backwards in nature because the hen goes to the gobbler. Hence, making use of calls and which call to use is very important.

As most spring turkey hunters do, I carry a variety of calls but a couple of my favorites are a box made with American black walnut on one side and curly maple on the other side with a purple heart paddle and the Copperhead. The Copperhead is a camo poly pod call with a copper sandblasted surface. The Copperhead has a range like no other friction call I have seen. From soft purrs to locator yelps, this call has it all. For some reason this new pod call is a great distance call.

In regards to mouth calls, like most folks I prefer a rasp call with some range. There are a couple that I have – a BWR quad and the T Bolt. BWR quad is batwing design that has the cut on the right and is a four-reed call. The T Bolt offers a quad with a thunderbolt-style cut on the top reed.

No matter what call you attempt to use, mouth call, slate or aluminum, knowing where the birds are going to is the key.

The growth of a spring turkey hunter can be gauged by the mistakes they make. Talk to any successful spring turkey hunter and you will find a hunter that does his homework and shares his mistakes. Like anything in life, learning from your mistakes is crucial to your future success.

Spring turkey hunting is more than mouth, slate or box calls; it’s knowing when to use those tools and when not to. Often times I find it is best to sit back and not call and just let the birds do their own thing.

There are very few hard-and-fast facts in the wild, but a couple I use are a soft, sexy purr will get a gobbler to take those last few steps and a loud box call will get a distant gobbler to answer. Beyond that, everything else is first-hand experience.

Understanding that the eastern wild turkey has some of the best eyesight and hearing in the woods will help you be successful. Knowing what birds do and when they do it will make you a better turkey hunter and will make you all the turkey hunter you want to be.

As always while we are hunting, it’s important to remember before you pull the trigger to identify your target and beyond.