It doesn't feel like all that long ago we were asking ourselves important questions after a tough deer season. Well, here we are at the end of a short, tough turkey season, and guess what? We should ask ourselves some more tough questions. If your season was a drag or if you messed up your only chance at getting a bird (cough, cough, I'll include myself in the latter), you have to reflect on your season to get anything meaningful out of it. Heck, maybe you did luck into a bird, but you don't know exactly how you pulled it off. If you are that guy, you would benefit from this question and reflection method as well. Before we dive into the questions specifically, it's important to understand why asking them is important. Like I discussed after deer season, reflection of failure is where learning happens. Not only knowing that you screwed up but why you screwed up is greatly beneficial. When compared to deer hunting, it is more reasonable to point towards extracurricular reasoning for your lackluster turkey season. Declining bird numbers, shifting breeding cycles, and increased hunting pressure all negatively affect hunter success. But just like in deer hunting, in order to be successful, you have to take some of the blame and tighten up the aspects that you can control.
1. Did You Do Efficient Preseason Scouting?
Efficient preseason scouting is nothing short of necessary if you are trying to harvest turkeys every year. A lot can change from year to year, and what was good last year might be terrible this year. Contrary to popular belief, pulling the trigger doesn't kill turkeys quite like finding the turkeys to hunt does.
Remember, preseason scouting involves more than just driving around and looking for birds in the field. Listening before the season helps find roost sites that the birds are using on a regular basis. It is true that turkeys don't roost in the same tree every night, but if you go out enough before the season and listen, you can narrow down a roosting range for the birds you are hunting.
Maps and apps can always help, but boots on the ground scouting in your chosen hunting area is the icing on the cake. You might find extra roosting sites, dusting areas, commonly-used trails, or possible food sources. The main thing is to get out and learn your area. When it comes to turkey hunting, you have to do efficient preseason scouting, and a lot of it.
2. Did You Adapt to Change?
As the season progresses, a lot can change in the turkey woods. Hunting pressure, breeding cycles, and weather will move flocks around and change their daily behavior. When these changes happen, are you changing up your strategy or location to keep yourself in the game?
You can't just sit in the same ground blind every day hoping that a bird will just walk by. I'm not saying that isn't a good way to kill one, but without an incredibly high turkey population, it is very unlikely to pull off every year. Move around to find out where the birds have gone and figure out what their daily routine has become. You might encounter a few slow days while you are catching up but it could very well be worth it.
3. Was Your Equipment Up to Snuff?
If there was a way to calculate it, the number of lost opportunities and missed turkeys due to equipment deficits would probably be staggering. And trust me, missing a turkey due to equipment malfunction or poor diligence stings! You don't want to be on the bad end of this situation.
Did you pattern your turkey shotgun this year? Did you check for holes in your turkey vest? Did you chalk and prep your calls? If any of the steps above were skipped, it could cause disaster on your turkey hunt. Turkey hunters should make it a point every year to do an equipment check prior to the season and, honestly, periodically throughout the season, too. If you go into the field with faulty equipment, it is on you! Ask yourself every season, is my equipment up to snuff?
Addressing the Hard Questions
In order to grow and get better you have to be willing to ask the hard questions. There are a lot of variables in turkey hunting that we as hunters cannot control, but on the other hand, there are many that we can. It's just a matter of being proactive and diligent.
This season may have been tough, and that's okay. Tough seasons happen, and with the state of the national turkey population in decline, they will probably happen more and more. That doesn't mean that you can't give your best effort and make something happen.
Start out by asking the hard questions and make changes for next year. Could next year be tough as well? Possibly, but you will be more prepared on how to tackle it and hopefully make steps toward having your best season yet!