If you haven't done so already, mark your calendar for April 13. And if you know a youngster who would like to get out in the woods and pursue a wary gobbler with the help of an adult, mark down April 6. The first date is the general opening of spring turkey season. The second is when a special one-day early season is held called the Youth Spring Turkey Hunt Day.
This date is for hunters 15 years of age or younger to get an early crack at un-spooked and less wary turkeys. They must be accompanied by an adult who cannot carry a gun, but can help with calling, locating birds and setting up.
Whichever date you plan to be out, or maybe both of them, you should get started now preparing for this important time of year for outdoorsmen and women. Other than shooting a few groundhogs or traveling to Canada or out West for a bear hunt, this is the major hunting available until fall seasons open. And it's an undisputed fact that the hunter who does the most preparation and puts the most work in before the opener is the one who will likely be carrying out a hefty gobbler when turkey season arrives.
Winchester's Jim Clay, founder of Perfection Calls and a champion caller, tries to locate several dozen gobblers before the season opens, both in his home state of Virginia and neighboring West Virginia. He's learned that the better he prepares and pre-scouts, the better the results he'll have when the opener arrives.
Not all of us, of course, have good enough areas that we can locate two dozen turkeys. But if you can locate three or four birds, you're ahead of most hunters when the opener arrives. But being ready for turkey season means more than simply pinpointing a few gobblers. Before even hitting the woods you should take a number of other preparatory steps. Here's a rundown on what you should do to be total ready for spring turkey season.
Get in shape. For starters, you need to be physically up for the task. Hopefully you've already started this with an exercise program or maybe some shed antler hunting. If not, start with a few walks and stretching exercises. Then gradually build up to your maximum capability.
Turkey hunting can require lots of walking, sometimes in steep, rugged terrain. If birds aren't gobbling well, you may have to cover miles to find a cooperative tom. Be ready by getting in the best shape you can ahead of time. You'll also enjoy the sport more if you've not huffing and puffing up every hill.
Get your Gear Ready. If you just put away your gun hastily last year, get it out and clean and oil it. Then take it to the range and test-fire it with several brands of ammo and different shot sizes to make sure you have the optimum load for your shotgun. Fire the gun at turkey head and neck targets to see how many pellets hit the vital area at different ranges.
Clean and check your decoys to see if any need replacing. Get camouflage out and make sure it's ready to go or replace it if it's faded or torn. Make sure that you have camo or drab colored clothing to cover every part of your body, including socks, gloves and face coverings. Think of the backgrounds you hunt against, too. You may need two different sets if you hunt early with no foliage out and late with lots of green vegetation growing.
Practice calling. Everyone needs a little brush-up before the season. Practice on your old standby calls and also try a few new ones either inside or away from the turkey woods where it won't matter if you make mistakes. It's better to get your sour notes out now, rather than during the season when a three-year old bird with a 12-inch beard is hanging just out of range.
Next Week: More tips on getting ready for spring gobbler season
Award-winning outdoors writer Gerald Almy is a Maurertown resident.