By Joe Wilkinson, Iowa Department of Natural Resources
The electrifying gobble of wild turkeys will grip hunters, beginning with youth season hunters, who head to the woods as early as Saturday in pursuit of Iowa’s big game bird.
“It should be a great year. We had an excellent turkey reproduction during the 2012 drought year. There should be quite a few two year old gobblers out there, this spring,” forecasts Todd Gosselink, wild turkey research biologist with the Iowa DNR.
Iowa’s youth season runs April 5-13; allowing an under 16 hunter and a licensed, adult mentor, first crack at a spring tom. The first of four regular seasons dawns April 14-17 across the state. Ensuing seasons are April 18-22, April 23-29, and April 30-May 18. Paid combination gun/bow tags are valid statewide in the season selected. Archery-only tags are valid statewide, throughout the four regular seasons.
A late bonus for youth hunters was approved by the Iowa Legislature several weeks ago, allowing that hunter to hold on to an unfilled youth season tag, to utilize it in one of the later seasons. The hunt on that youth tag is still to be treated as a mentored hunt; just as through the earlier youth season.
“Last year we went with the longer ‘two weekend’ youth hunt and set a record for the number of hunters,” notes Gosselink. “This year, we should see another good jump in young hunters who want to pursue turkeys.”
As Iowa slips slowly away from the long winter, hunters should look for active birds. Toms will gobble year round, but that intensity turns up as the calendar gets closer to breeding season.
“You will see a lot more strutting turkeys; more gobbling. They will be ready for spring,” emphasizes Gosselink.
For many of the 40,000 or so spring hunters, that will mean being in the woods well before dawn, to gauge turkey roosting spots and flydown locations to get their decoys out and to start the day.
“I suggest a variety of calls; the box call is easy; but slate calls and mouth calls provide a variety out there,” suggests Gosselink. “Use a mouth call and one of the others and you can create the sound of a couple hens calling over each other.”
Heading into the later seasons, strategy can change; maybe hunting through midday or into the evening, especially as hens become less responsive and move off to nest.
Still, there’s no guarantee that any of that will lure in love struck gobblers. Most turkey experts urge hunters to try a variety of calls, and at various times of the day.
Keep in mind safety through the turkey hunt, where hunters are in full camouflage.
Setting up with your back against a wide tree provides good concealment, but also a safe seat in the woods. Avoid any red, blue or white clothing showing; the shades found on a tom’s head and neck in the spring. And never shoot at a movement in the brush. Identify your target as a bearded turkey, and know what lies beyond the path of your planned shot.
And after taking your turkey, have a blaze orange vest or other item to display, on your way out of the woods.