04/03/09 — Time of year has returned for hunters

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Time of year has returned for hunters

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on April 3, 2009 1:46 PM

It's that time of year once again.

You know those quiet mornings in cold, damp forest plots that turn into moments the most-seasoned hunter dreams about. Sportsmen seek that serendipitous second when a prized gobbler steps from between trees, validating their own luck through preseason preparation.

Turkey, like most game species, are creatures of habit. They scour the same home range (4-7 miles) which is dependent on the season. With that in mind, the days prior to the start of the hunting campaign often hold the keys to success.

There are several factors to consider when preseason scouting.

First, and possibly most important, every hunter must understand the terrain that they will be seeing on opening morning. More than simple topography, each hunter must know the foliage, food and water sources.

Prevailing wind direction is also something to review. Studies have shown that gobblers are more likely to respond to a call if they are being worked uphill and into the wind.

Scouting each morning in varying weather conditions can help determine a flock's feeding pattern and habits.

"Weather affects wildlife in the same way that it can affect people's attitudes and behaviors," said Gary Norman, a National Wild Turkey Federation technical committee member. "Hot, cold, dry and wet weather determines our dress and recreational activities. The same weather determines if turkeys sit late on their roosts or fly down to feed."

Remembering the biological factors that make turkey so elusive is also important when picking a place to set up shop.

In the winter, turkey generally concentrate on finding high-energy food sources like acorns and agricultural crops to stay alive. In the spring, their diet changes to insects and green matter, while hens look for nesting habitat.

Wild turkey usually roost in tall open trees with spread horizontal branches that allow them to use their keen eyesight and hearing to their full advantage before coming to the ground in the morning.

Setting up too close to the roosting spot will almost certainly end in an unsuccessful hunt due to the fact that a turkey can see movement much better than a human and hear at approximately the same rate.

In North Carolina and many other southern states with relatively early spring seasons, turkey are more likely to leave the roost pre-dawn due to warm temperatures and damp ground providing quiet cover.

Potential sportsmen should consult a weather chart to determine the sunrise time (preseason and opening day) and plan their scouting accordingly.

The spring gobbler season in the Tar Heel state opens April 11 and runs through May 9. Each hunter is allowed one male bird.