- Chris Campanelli
The Spring Strut is Here
Photo by NWTF/Wide Open Spaces
The long awaited spring turkey season is finally upon us!
If you're checking in from anywhere north of South Florida, you're probably looking at that opening line with a puzzled look on your face. Your second glance was probably to the calendar on your phone or computer to make sure that you aren't missing out on something.
While spring turkey season may be a distant dream for many hunters around the country, turkey season is a reality for those in South Florida. Members of our hunting brotherhood kicked off their spring turkey season on March 3 south of SR-70 in the Sunshine State. Florida's chase for the infamous Osceola subset of wild turkey bats lead-off annually in terms of US spring turkey seasons.
Spring turkey season ends what has likely been a slow couple of months for most outdoorsmen and women around the country. Sure, shed hunting, hog hunting, and predator hunting are great and all. But nothing, and I mean nothing tops spring turkey season for those of us with spring fever.
Deer season will always be America's favorite hunting past time, but there is just something special about chasing spring turkeys.
The land is booming with new growth, fresh spring air, and all of the sights and sounds we dream of as outdoorsmen. Turkey hunters dream of those crisp but comfortable spring mornings where the skies are clear and the birds are hammering on what feels like every call we make.
The interactive aspect of turkey hunting is what truly puts that cherry on top. Hard gobbling turkeys are the perfect companion for all of those special spring sights and sounds. That first hammering gobble that climbs out of a block of timber to answer your call on opening day is almost a spiritual event. It cleanses the hunter's soul after a long winter and maybe even a long deer season before that.
While it surely does not take long for the turkeys to put us hunters back in our place in showing us how tough they are to call in and kill, the failure even tastes good in turkey season. Just hearing the birds calling and having some work in to your call can be rewarding enough for the turkey hunting nut.
There is not much bad about turkey season other than the fact that it is unquestionably too short. Typically about one calendar month for most states around the US. A month that seems to blow by in the blink of an eye.
So as we envy our friends in South Florida as they begin the spring strut, we can all take notice that turkey season is officially nearing. Those of you across the South have just days and maybe a couple of weeks to prep for turkey season. Unfortunately, those of us up in the North have quite some time. Well over a month.
Nonetheless, it's time for all of us to make those annual pre-season preparations as our friends in Florida kick off the real thing. That means rounding up all of your turkey calls, vests, shotguns and everything in between. For those of us who are too busy hunting pre-rut whitetails in the fall to chase turkeys during the fall season, it also means knocking off nearly a year of rust.
Deer hunting and turkey hunting are two very different things. The hunting styles, gear, and the skills necessary differ greatly. Deer hunting is typically passive as we hold tight to our treestands and rely on our positioning to get the job done. You may throw out some grunts and do some rattling during the rut portion of the deer season, but calling will not make or break most deer hunts.
Fast forward to the spring and the game is much, much different. You're now off of that 20-foot perch and face-to-face with turkeys on the ground. Worrying more about camouflaging every inch of your body to fool the keen eye of a turkey rather than playing the scent control game. Relying heavily upon your calling skills to bring that big long-beard into shotgun range.
Spring turkey hunting may take something of a back seat to deer season for most hunters, but it's important to respect the process in the spring as well. That may not mean prepping for months doing the wildlife management projects that you do for deer season. It could be something as simple as rounding up your gear and getting back into that turkey hunting frame of mind.
Throw that diaphragm call in your mouth and do some yelps while driving on your way to and from work. Keep it up for that month prior to turkey season to knock some rust off. Throw your turkey vest on and clean out all of those Honey Bun wrappers you left in there from 2017. Pattern that shotgun! Something that far too many turkey hunters neglect.
That hard-kicking, high-brass turkey load takes some getting used to after toting a compound bow and a deer rifle all fall and winter. Even if your gun is dead on the nuts and has been for decades, what do you stand to lose from popping a couple shots at the range? It may just give you that extra push of confidence when that big gobbler hangs up at 40 yards.
The moral of this story is that we can all kick turkey season off right here and now, regardless of where you are and what your state DNR says your hunting dates are. That may mean hitting the swampland of Florida and actually chasing some birds, or it could mean dusting off your gear and making those preparations.
Because turkey season is coming your way no matter where you are. Florida's annual kickoff is a like an alarm clock for the rest of the turkey hunting country.
You will be sitting on a bright green field edge before long. Shotgun on your knee and call in your mouth. All will be right again at that moment, but that moment never lasts long enough.
So make sure that you are prepared and ready to soak it all in, because there is simply nothing quite like the spring strut.