Turkey hunting down to a science

By Bailey Kozalla, staff writer

Whether you yelp, cluck, purr, kee-kee, or cackle, those turkeys will be running your way. The statewide annual spring turkey season started on April 30, and it attracted a variety of hunters to try to entice a lonely gobbler into shooting range.

On the first day of the regular season, eighth grader Josh McWright downed a gobbler with a ten inch beard. His dad called in the bird with a slate call while hunting on the ground.

“I liked that the turkey was strutting the whole time and it was putting on a good show.” McWright said.

Sophomore Ryan Peters made a gobbler with a nine inch beard fall prey to his 12-gauge shotgun fitted with a full choke on opening day.

“It probably took ten minutes when I saw it until I shot it. It took a while to come into range because it was strutting the whole way.”

Turkeys can be the toughest big game animal in Pennsylvania to hunt, so having a game plan will increase your odds against these “thunder chickens.” Most hunters choose to get into the woods before the first rays of sun crest the treetops. The turkeys sleep, or “roost” in tall trees in flocks to stay safe during the darkness of night. Turkeys wake up with the sun, give a few kee-kees and cackles, and glide down from their branches to begin to feed.

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Josh McWright shot his turkey on the first day of the regular hunting season, April 30.

They usually stay in the woods during this time and migrate to fields or other open areas to strut for the female hens around 8-9 a.m. Hunters are allowed to stay in the woods until 1 p.m., but they must be done hunting by noon. This is because the hens need a grace period to nest. In the last two weeks of the hunting season, hunters are permitted to hunt until sundown, since most of the eggs have hatched.

Whether you are a traditional turkey hunter or strictly modern, you must choose which weapon you will use to down that tom. There is a vast selection of shotguns available for hunters to choose from, including the most popular 12-gauge and 20-gauge. Many choose to fit their guns with chokes to control the spread of the shotgun pellets. Other hunters like a challenge, so they will hunt with crossbows and compound bows.

A variety of turkey calls are available on the market, including box calls, slate calls, diaphragm calls, push-button calls, and wing-bone calls. Perhaps the easiest calls to use are push-button and box calls. These are perfect for beginners, but many hunters go for a more realistic sound. Slate calls can be easily manipulated, but are often not as loud as others. The most experienced turkey hunters prefer to use diaphragm or ‘mouth’ calls. They come in many different types including the “Double Cut,” “Cutter,” or “Bat-Wing.” They are the most versatile calls because they are weather-resistant and compact. Some primitive hunters only use wing bone calls. They are made from the wing bone of a turkey. If they are carefully crafted, they can effectively call in a gobbler.

Seventh grader Wyatt Ewing proved the box call worthy and called in a mature turkey with a 9 ½ inch beard on the junior hunt day on April 23. “It took about five minutes to come in,” Ewing said. It was his second turkey while hunting with his dad.

Being well prepared is key in achieving success on your turkey hunt. Practice your shooting skills and turkey calling to increase your odds against these bearded birds. Stay persistent and keep your mind open to trying new techniques this season.

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