A few hours of preseason preparation can save turkey hunters haunting memories for years to come. A little too much, though, can be very damaging.
Even a guy like Will Primos who has made his living and his fame from building and marketing turkey calls knows it’s best to leave his calls at home.
"I’d say that was basically good advice,' said Primos of Primos Game Calls. “It is not a good idea to be using the calls on a gobbler that you will be using once the season opens.
“If you call the gobbler in, and he doesn’t find a hen, then he’s less likely to come to that call next time.”
The exception, Primos said, is using locator calls to make a gobbler gobble.
“It’s perfectly OK to take a coyote call, a crow call, an owl call or even a duck call and use those to make a gobbler give himself away,” Primos said, adding that keeping your distance is very important. “One of the things you have to be aware of is that this time of year, with the lack of foliage in the trees and on the ground, he can see you a long way off.
“The last thing you want to do is be walking through the woods and let him see you. You don’t want to bump him at all.”
Scouting is important, but shouldn’t be taken to extremes, and too much emphasis shouldn’t be put on gobbling.
“There are a lot of days that they just don’t gobble,” Primos said. “What if you go scouting, or listening, on a day when they won’t gobble. Does that mean a turkey’s not in the area? No, it doesn’t.”
Primos recommends using your eyes as much as, if not more than, your ears.
“You walk down an old logging road and find a track, then you know you’ve got a gobbler in the area,” he said. “That’s the only way that track could get there. “You can also look for droppings and other signs, like scratching in the straw and leaves where they've been feeding.”
A good way to locate gobblers is to check fields after a rainy day.
“When the rain stops, they are going to go to open fields to dry off,” Primos said. “You can count on it. And as it gets warmer and the bugs start coming out, they'll be going to the fields looking for that protein-rich food source.”
Primos said that by wandering the terrain, being careful not to bump the birds, you can accomplish another important objective.
“Part of your scouting should be learning the lay of the land,” Primos said. “Knowing where fences are, roads, creeks, sloughs, ditches, that’s very critical when the season opens.”
Mississippi’s spring turkey season opens March 8 for youth and March 15 for everyone, and in the weeks in between, the state’s legion of turkey hunters will begin scouting.
Veteran hunter and outdoor videographer Ronny Jolly suggests that it might be best to fight the urge to scout too early, and instead use this time for taking care of other preseason business. Then scout in March.
“The perfect situation is to locate a turkey six to nine days prior to the season,” he said. “Then I’ll go back one time and check him again, maybe two or three days later. If he answers again, and he’s in the same neighborhood, then I feel safe he'll be there on opening day.”
Jolly recommends spending at least a couple of hours during the preseason getting to know your shotgun, or at least re-establishing the relationship.
“That means more than just shooting it a couple of times,” he said. “Shoot a box of 6s, 5s and 4s and see which patterns best. Try different brands of shells. Know your effective range. You can’t find that out unless you take the time.”
Jolly also said to check camouflage to be sure it hasn’t faded out.
“Be honest with yourself,” he said. “If your camo has faded, a turkey can find you easier. It’s easy to say it’s good enough, but be honest about it.
“Think of it this way. How many good chances does a hunter get to get a boss gobbler?”