Fall Turkey Hunting Grows Near

There must be something about me and turkey hunting that churns up the bad weather here in the Gopher State.   Recall last spring during my 5–day hunt for turkeys we had some of the most miserable weather all spring.   Only one day out of five provided decent weather that made the hunt enjoyable and seemingly worthwhile.   Well, guess what, I drew a fall turkey tag and tomorrow morning the season opens for me once again.   That’s right…just in time for the high winds, cold, wet and possibly snowy weather.   Just the sort of conditions I dreamt about when I made application for the fall hunt last July…NOT!

Turkey05Truth is the fall we’ve been having this year in Minnesota has been a little atypical as compared to seasons past.   It’s been very windy, colder than usual, and snow has been showing up in the weather forecast much more frequently (and seemingly earlier) than I remember it happening in years immediately past.

Perhaps the one bright spot is my woods is full of turkeys.   Couldn’t make that claim 20, perhaps even 15 years ago.   Almost everywhere I wander these days, however, if I look close enough I can usually detect some form of turkey sign.   That’s the exciting part!

In fact, this turkey picture was snapped just last Wednesday by one of my deer cameras.   This ol’ boy seems to be taking a careful look at the camera mounted on the tree…and that’s good.   It happens to be located right near where one of my favorite deer stands is positioned.   Tomorrow evening I might just have to sit in this stand for awhile towards dusk waiting in ambush as I know these turkeys like to traverse the ridge line.

Actually, fall turkey hunting is a rather new sport for me.   This is the first time I can say I’ve truly had any interest in going out other than in the spring.   It has a lot to do with the turkey population being so healthy that I feel my hunting is not going to affect the population whatsoever, no matter what sex bird I shoot.   In fact, in my particular area the wild turkey is thriving so well that I might even be so bold as to suggest there are more turkeys per square mile than pheasants to be found.   I’ve talked to several other sportsmen who share those beliefs.   Without a doubt the American wild turkey is one of the most successful conservation stories in our country’s history.

My plan is that most of my turkey hunting this fall will be done early morning and late evenings while sitting in the deer stand.   I won’t be deer hunting…but my purpose for being out in the woods will be to start becoming familiar with the travel patterns of the deer while waiting for an opportunity to score on a turkey.   After all, it seems that when you are hunting deer you are more apt to see turkeys.   And vice versa.   So, this time around I will have my camera ready for deer and anything else interesting that presents itself…along with my gun ready for the cagey ol’ turkey that I hope will choose to cross my path.

I understand this is not the traditional or standard way to hunt turkeys in the fall…I am fully aware of that.   Still, just being out there with gun in hand tomorrow will be an awesome feeling…no matter what the weather brings.   I might do a little calling, but chances are it will be kept to a minimum.   My main goal is to blend into the woods and not be too aggressive on trying to make things happen.   I guess you can call me an opportunist, because if I score on a fall turkey that’s what I will likely be…and that’s okay.

It seems the older I get the less important it is for me to achieve some established goal (like bagging a game animal).   Don’t get me wrong…I love to shoot and kill my quarry as much as the next hunter.   But I also have a deep appreciation for just being outdoors and experiencing all that nature has to offer.   It’s a rare day that I go home frustrated for lack of seeing any action.   After all, if you stay put and look carefully, there is something going on in the woods no matter where you look.   You just have to take the time and concentrate hard enough to see it.

Indeed, during the next several days I won’t likely be as gung-ho strategy wise as some hunters will be chasing the wild turkey…yet, I will probably derive as much satisfaction out of the hunt as any other hunter.   It just works that way for me.   Now, let me tell you…if the weather decides to cooperate and be a bit more pleasant than what they are forecasting.   Heck, I can most certainly live with that. 

© 2006 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.  No Reproduction Without Prior Permission.

Don’t Overlook Getting Advice From Farmers/Landowners

This truly is a great time to be out in the deer woods.  Tending to the deer cameras…checking and resetting the trail timers.   Looking for previously undiscovered rubs…and of course, being ever vigilant to discover the sudden appearance of a new scrape.   No doubt about it there’s lots going on out in the woods these days…and it requires a keen eye with often a detective-like perseverance to unlock the mysteries waiting to be discovered with the deer in the woods during these cooler nights.

LandownerContactI live and hunt in a heavily agriculture area so the deer are very adept at existing in the cornfields until they slowly disappear from the landscape.   And, of course, that activity of combining corn is happening now at a feverish pace for most farmers here in the upper Midwest.   Yesterday when I pulled up to talk to my neighbors I no more than got out of my vehicle when I caught a glimpse of two deer dashing through the field in advance of the combine.

When I asked my neighbor if he saw the deer…indeed he did.   In fact, he point out to me that there were four does running and not just the two that I witnessed.

Herein lies one of the big strategies that I feel many hunters mistakingly overlook.   Talk to the farmers…they have lots of helpful information to share.   Oh, sure, get the necessary permission to hunt long before their busy harvest season begins…but that doesn’t mean a farmer won’t take a few minutes to chat with you while they are working.   Just be respectful of their time by realizing they are racing the weather to get the crops in before winter arrives.

In this case we chatted for several minutes with the farmers just to get a better idea of what they are seeing.   Remember, the guy driving the big combine sits up high and can look down the rows of corn covering quite some distance.   As they maneuver back and forth removing rows from the fields they get a pretty good idea just what is holding up in those fields.   You’d be surprised how a field that once was 80 acres or more will be reduced to just one or two acres before the deer truly get nervous and reluctantly bolt from the field to new cover.

Farmers see all of this.   Watching the wildlife helps break up some of the monotony of the hours upon hours of doing the same old thing traversing back and forth in the field.   I’d be surprised if a farmer who has picked a corn field hasn’t become quite familiar with how the deer generally like to escape to safety.   Knowledge that might be good for the hunter to know a few weeks from now.

When a crack detective tries to unravel the mystery of a challenging case more often than not they must resort to conducting interviews to get the entire story straight.   Same goes for deer hunting.   Why keep guessing on how the deer will likely react when you can spend a few minutes talking to the people who likely have seen it happen with their own eyes.

If you approach a farmer on the combine be prepared to hear he doesn’t have time to talk right now.   Accept that…he’s likely telling you the truth.   But if that farmer is willing to share some of his first-hand knowledge of the deer behavior in these parts it could turn out to be great advice.   The information you can discover in just five minutes of talking with most farmers could prove to someday be vital to your future success as a deer hunter.   Not only does the farmer likely hold the key to your access on quality hunting lands…but very well they might also possess the first-hand knowledge that could positively add a few more pieces toward completing this exciting fall whitetail puzzle.

© 2006 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.  No Reproduction Without Prior Permission.

Sightin’ In For Deer Season

With the Minnesota firearms deer season now less than 20 days away it was critical that I get my gun sighted in this weekend.   I bore sighted it last weekend, but the wind has been so bad during the past week that finding a day to hit the range has been nearly impossible.   I set up yesterday morning thinking this was going to work out fine…but 20 minutes into the shooting the winds were quickly starting to become a problem once again.

The point is if you want to find out how true your gun is sighted in you just don’t want wind to be a factor during this process.   Oh, sure, under most hunting conditions you’ll need to deal with the wind…but that’s entirely different.   If you don’t know how your gun shoots under ideal conditions (no wind, etc.) then you can never take into account how you might have to correct for, let’s say, a strong cross wind under less-than-ideal hunting conditions.

TargetAs was quite typical for me, after mounting a new scope on a gun, I had some difficulty finding the paper with my first several shots.   I had hoped that laser bore sighter that I had talked about a few posts ago would have worked better…but sorry to report this time around it wasn’t even close.   Best I could tell the first several shots were at least two feet below the target.   Gosh, I hate when that happens.

To make matters even worse…a strong cross wind picked up blowing left to right on the range that certainly could have been disrupting my windage.   I came to the conclusion that I would not get the gun completely sighted-in even this weekend, but get it close enough to tweak it on some better day.

Eventually I put the last six shots (out of 15 total) into a respectable grouping at 100 yards.   I ended my range session figuring that I would wait until a calm day to fine-tune the windage since a decent cross-wind could easily be pushing the projectile slightly off-center.

All in all I was impressed.   Understand that this deer season I will be using my new Thompson/Center Omega .50 caliber muzzleloader shooting a 250 grain T/C Shock Wave spire-pointed sabot bullet.   Punching this projectile at the paper I was using 3 Pyrodex .50 caliber, 50–grain pellets which, as you can see, produce a nice, consistent result.

I should point out that during the regular firearms season (the first two weekends in November for the zones where I hunt here in MN) it is legal to have a scope on a muzzleloader and use this outfitted combination as your firearm package.   Later, when the traditional muzzleloader season rolls around in late November…scopes are then not allowed so then I must resort to the gun’s open sights.   In the more highly populated, agricultural zone where I hunt…the only other firearm option that is allowed is a shotgun shooting slugs.

On my T/C I equipped it with the new Nikon Omega Muzzleloading Riflescope with the BDC (bullet drop compensating) reticle.   It’s really a sweet scope.   By being zeroed at 100 yards the small compensating rings allows the hunter to take shots at up to 250 yards with accuracy.   Now mind you I’m not planning to take shots at those extreme distances with a muzzleloader, but the gun is most certainly capable of handling that range.

Indeed, hunting with a new firearm this deer season is just one of the many reasons I am excited about the hunt to begin on November 4th.   A few of the other reasons you will learn as the season draws much closer.   In the meantime, I’m hoping you have your guns sighted in for this year’s hunt or are planning to do so very soon.   Don’t wait until the last minute.   So far this year I have already had two hunting partners who discovered they have serious gun issues that probably require the services of a gunsmith.   Time to expect any repairs to get done is all but running out for those who have procrastinated.

© 2006 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.  No Reproduction Without Prior Permission.