By Mike Willis
It’s that time of year again when outdoorsmen and women everywhere are getting the itch after a long winter to get out and reunite themselves with the great American wildlife.
For those who have cabin fever from the last couple of months, this can be the best time of year.
The sight of new green growth in all of its splendor never ceases to remind us of how fortunate we all are.
Before you fill your schedule with every activity that you have been dreaming about all winter, make sure that you take care of a few essential tasks to ensure that you are ready for turkey season when it inevitably sneaks up on you.
Pattern your shotgun! Once you identify the choke and shot that you will utilize, make sure to field test your gun to understand how it performs with the new combination.
Some may be surprised to learn that there are areas of shot concentration that can be consistent and predictable.
Where these concentrations of shot are commonly found can be essential to know as you encounter various situations during the turkey season.
While it’s always ideal to work the birds in close, sometimes you need to be able to take those longer shots.
This is the exact time when it is critical to know how your shot pattern will perform at those distances. Slight adjustments in your shot placement can mean the difference between going home with a bird or a hard lesson.
Let’s face it; you work hard waking up at crazy hours of the morning, covering large amounts of terrain, and investing hard-earned dollars into gear.
This is why a person would be crazy to not shoot at a cardboard box a few times at multiple distances to ensure that they are ready when that moment of truth comes.
Be sure to freshen the box up with sheets of paper as you change distances.
This will help you understand how that shot is dissipating as it travels towards its point of impact.
Another critical thing to do is to take those decoys out and stuff something inside of them to restore their shape.
Pulling a decoy out for the first time of the year on opening morning is a sure way to set yourself up for a frustrating day.
An entire season of being shoved in a bag or tote puts memory in the material that will show undesirable creases and contours which take away from their presentation.
T-shirts are great items to use to stuff inside of those decoys in the weeks leading up to the season.
For those who have inflatable decoys, filling them with air will suffice.
Using a heat gun, hair dryer, or simply putting them near the wood stove can be an excellent way to soften plastics and encourage creases to disappear.
Just be careful not to overheat the material!
Also, don’t forget to take a stroll to the edges of the woods on those mornings leading up to the season.
Unusually warm days are great times to find those mouthy birds that most hunters wait until opening day to start locating.
Be careful calling during these scouting trips! The last thing that you want is for a bird to come in silent before the season is open.
Giving them this education is how you will ensure that you don’t see them again.
Once the season is finally here, remember that the rapidly increasing amount of foliage can drastically change how far away turkeys sound as they call.
In the early season, Toms will sound like they are right next to you as the sound can travel further without obstruction.
During the late season, it is easy to have a turkey surprise you when you inadvertently assume that they are further than they are.
As always, don’t forget to represent your fellow sportsmen and women well by obeying laws and being respectful towards landowners.
Also, remember that turkey calls could be from another hunter, so it’s important to be cautious during these active hunts.