DiFATTA: Word of advice while planning turkey hunting trips

By PHIL DIFATTA,

If you love turkey hunting as much as I, here's a piece of advice you might want to stick under your cap, particularly if your season isn't going so well: Listen to what both the weather man and turkey biologists have to say about gobbler activity on any day you intend to hunt.

Study meteorological facts carefully. Find out if there will be sunny or cloudy skies. Check weather forecasts so you'll know if you can expect rain, if it will be hot or cold, or mild when you take to the woods. Monitor the current barometric pressure, too - whether it's steady, rising or falling. Check the phase of the moon. And last, know what researchers say about turkey activity under the current conditions.

Alas, when all conditions indicate the birds should be out and about, gobbling their heads off and responding to your every call, pick up the ol' rod and reel … and GO FISHING!

Actually, you shouldn't take me literally on that one. Nonetheless, a few years back I charted my every hunt, and I found that prime conditions produced no more birds than mediocre or even poor conditions. Therefore, I came to the conclusion that you should only hunt … every chance you get because you never know when you're going to defy the odds.

“There's no reason to even leave camp early this morning,” a world-class caller and professional turkey hunter told me (I won't mention his name because it still gets off with him to this day). “Turkeys won't fly down until the fog lifts, so I'm gonna go catch me a mess of crappie.”

I rolled out of my bunk and went huntin' anyway. In fact, I went to a field Preston had told me about (oops, I let the cat out of the bag!).  And he was right about one thing; it was foggy. The fog was thick, thick, THICK, and it hugged the ground like a huge blanket of snow almost three feet deep, and I could see why a turkey wouldn't want to risk flying down into that and being greeted by a hungry coyote.

Still, I made a locator call, then started to sit down and wait for the “smoke to clear” when a deep gobble rang out across the cut soybean field. I figured the bird wouldn't fly down for some time, but I made a few soft calls just to let him know a “hen” was there and waiting.

To make a long story short, the silly turkey flew down and was coming. He'd gobble at my every call , but I simply could not see him until he was a scant 10 yards away, and I could really only see the tips of his fan. In full strut, he finally made the mistake of stretching his head above the fog and I let him have it.

Now folks, both of you, I know you're not gonna believe this, but I literally could not find my bird. Had he limped off under the dense shroud, or had I missed? I began to panic, but finally found him by the sound of his flopping wings. And then it was Alka Seltzer time – “Oh, what a relief...” (Only old folks like me will understand that analysis!). Turned out the gobbler had the best beard and spurs I had ever taken in my young turkey hunting career, which just goes to show you that sometimes, even if the odds are stacked against you, that could be the very time to go.

This is not to say that turkeys don't have an aversion to flying down into fog or even a thicket, but there are always exceptions to every rule. So, if you check the weather, the moon and stars and they all say not to go, if you wanna go, GO! Just be safe, obey the law (I knew my turkey had a legal beard because of his full fan), have fun, and take a kid with you … every time you can.

And, speaking of kids, my young friend Gunner Smith, from over around Monticello way, didn't wait for the regular Spring Turkey season to get his fine gobbler. Since Gunner is only 15, he hunted the Youth Turkey week to get a fine gobbler with almost a 9-inch beard. One spur was an inch long, while the other was slightly shorter. Congrats to Gunner.

PineBelt News outdoor writer Phil DiFatta may be reached for comment, stories and photos at pdifatta@hotmail.com. You may also text photos, with contact info, to 601-596-4475.

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