by Steve Hickoff
Want to get away from the crowds, and find un-pressured spring gobblers? Hunt big country. To look at the big picture, break your hunting property down into sections back at camp. Use all available map options, from old-school print sources to computer-generated custom options.
(1) First, determine how far you need to go on four wheels.
(2) Second, decide on a base point where you’ll leave the vehicle and begin hiking in.
(3) Third, isolate turkey habitat into even smaller parts. These include roosting trees, plus feeding and strutting zones where you find fresh sign such as droppings, tracks, feathers, and dusting areas.
Wild turkeys will sleep, feed, breed, and later nest along open areas near wooded areas. Eastern wild turkeys prefer big hardwoods, often in agricultural zones. Osceolas haunt Florida cedar swamps on private ranches and bigger expanses. Merriam’s hens and gobblers establish preferred habitats in coniferous mountain ranges, or big cottonwood river bottoms. Rio Grande turkeys in our mesquite Texas flatlands utilize so-called oak motts, small stands of such trees near open areas and water sources.
By combining your ability to get to a big country hunting habitat safely and surely using an all-terrain vehicle, then walking to penetrate a turkey’s preferred comfort zone using terrain to hide your approach, you will find yourself calling fresh birds in un-pressured situations.
On a personal note, I’ve chased Merriam’s mountain turkeys in Wyoming using a three-pronged strategy that involved a truck trailered all-terrain vehicle, then four-wheeled up a muddy two track, before walking the rest of the way into a remote area.
In Texas, a Yamaha Rhino Side-by-Side once helped my fellow turkey camp buddies access remote areas in the pre-dawn hours, before easing in and setting up on roosted Rio Grande gobblers before fly-down time.
Florida cedar swamps -- full of snakes, gators, and Osceola longbeards -- are made less formidable when you’ve got four wheels beneath you.
Eastern wild turkeys -- particularly in remote ridge top settings -- can also be accessed this big-country way.