Get out your turkey calls and decoys; spring turkey season opens soon
Thursday, March 26, 2015 9:51 AM
Iowa’s turkey flock had an excellent hatch in 2014, leading to the possibility hunters should see increased opportunities to harvest a bird during the 2015 spring turkey season.
Youth turkey season opens April 4, with the first regular season April 13-16. Fourth season closes May 17. Archery season runs April 13 - May 17.
The younger birds, called Jakes, are often more vulnerable, responding to calls in groups and competing among themselves to see which one can get to the call first. The older Toms can be more cautious and reluctant to respond to the sirens’ temptations.
“We’re still seeing good groups of turkeys in winter flocks, but they will be breaking up soon as we head into breeding season,” said Jim Coffey, forest wildlife species technician for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
Iowa has turkeys in every county, with higher numbers being found in areas where there is a more diversified mixture of timber with agriculture.
Coffey, who participates in spring turkey hunting seminars geared toward first-time and novice hunters, said confidence is key and that confidence comes from talking to other turkey hunters, spending time in the woods and learning from mistakes.
“The number one piece of advice I can give is to pattern your gun before going out. This is the sport of one shot – you need to know what that shot will be when you pull the trigger,” he said. “Don’t get hung up on calling but understand when to call. A common mistake is calling too much. You want to tease the bird. Once you call, stay put because he knows where you are.”
Hunters can help increase their chance of harvesting a bird by sharpening woodsmanship skills – learn when to move and when to stay still and about the biology and habits of the bird.
Coffey said turkeys have excellent vision so hunters who use the timber to blend in to the background may see more birds. He also said scouting is important. Understanding what the bird wants to do biologically is important.
“Watch the turkeys, understand the turkeys and realize we are playing on their home court. Position yourself between where they are and where they want to go is a key to success,” he said.
At the end of the day, only about one-third of spring turkey hunters actually bag a turkey but most don’t use that as a measuring stick for success.
“The experience in the woods with your kids or with friends; watching the timber come alive with wildlife and the newness of spring – that’s what it’s all about,” said Coffey. “It’s really something pretty special, and I would hope that our turkey hunters share it by taking their neighbor or child or spouse along this year.”
An estimated 50,000 hunters will be in the timber this spring pursuing the illusive wild turkey, and while the woods will not be crawling with hunters, there is a chance for an occasional encounter.
Hunters should practice defensive hunting techniques. Hunters should make a loud statement like “hey – hunter over here,” if they see someone coming into the same area. One loud noise shouldn’t scare a bird too much because loud noises happen in the woods. However, don’t make motion or throw something to get the other hunters’ attention.
“Turkey hunters are looking for movement,” said Coffey. “Don’t wave your hand or make a movement because a movement could be misconstrued.
“If you walk in on someone, they’re probably hearing the same bird you hear. Just turn and walk away. Find a different ridge to enjoy the morning.”
The timber will change a lot from early April to middle May, reducing the distance hunters can see, so it will be important that hunters continuously check their distance for their zone of fire.
“You can’t call the bullet back once you pull the trigger, so it’s important to know your target and what’s beyond before taking the shot,” said Coffey. He often recommends setting out distance sticks for reference points. This allows hunters to know exactly how far away a bird is and if it’s within the weapon’s range.
Hunters also should respect other hunters.
“They are out there trying to do what you are going to do. The competition is between turkey and hunter – not hunter and hunter,” Coffey said.
One way to avoid walking in on other hunters is to go later in the morning.
“Rather than try to get out in the woods for the first gobble, go out a little later, like around 9 a.m. You may have the area all to yourself,” he said.
* Avoid wearing patriotic colors – red, white and blue. These colors also are shared by gobblers.
* Bring a blaze orange game bag or turkey vest to use to carry the harvested bird out from the woods
* Avoid using a gobble call
* Using a hunting blind can be helpful if taking a young person on their first hunt or for hunting companions to use
* Make sure you have permission to be on the land and find out if anyone else has permission to the land and which season they will be hunting. Just because you had permission a few years ago doesn’t mean you have permission this year.
Iowa’s spring season begins April 4 with an Iowa youth only hunting season that covers two weekends and allows hunters younger than 16 when they buy the turkey license to participate.
The reason for the season is to concentrate on the development of future hunters. They must hunt one-on-one with a mentor age 18 or older at all times, and the mentor must have a valid turkey hunting license for one of the spring seasons.
No more than one youth for each licensed adult mentor, and the mentor may not carry a bow or firearm. An unfiltered youth license may be used in any other spring season. The season ends April 12.
The first of Iowa’s four regular spring turkey seasons is April 13-16, second season is April 17-21, third season is April 22-28 and the fourth is April 29-May 17. An archery-only license is good from April 13-May 17.
Hunters may purchase two spring turkey licenses with one license for season four. Resident spring turkey licenses are statewide. Hunters participating in the youth only season also may purchase a season four license. Shooting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset.
Successful hunters are required to report their harvest by midnight of the day after it is tagged. The easiest way to report is to log on to iowandnr.gov. Other ways to report are by calling the phone number listed on the tag or by going through a license vendor. Be sure to write the harvest registration number on the harvest report tag.
Our app is now available!