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Attention! Turkey season begins March 15

CIMG5067Preseason scouting is now nearly complete, with wild turkey hunting season beginning at dawn on March 15 – be there or be square. Although March came in like a lamb, cooler temperatures have continued, which bodes well for hunting in March. With wet month of February, mosquitoes will be present with warmer weather. Insects and migratory songbirds are just part of the sights and sounds of spring, which are punctuated by the strutting and gobbling of wild turkeys.

One of the preseason events for Colletonians is the annual conservation banquet of the National Wild Turkey Federation. The Salkehatchie Longbeards chapter of the NWTF held their 15th annual event on March 9, and was recognized with a chapter excellence award for having the most sponsor members of any chapter in South Carolina. Besides eating and raising funds, there is always plenty of talk about what the wild turkeys are doing in the wild.

With the cooler temperatures, it seems that the larger flocks of turkeys have yet to break up. With the onset of mating season, the gobblers will break off into bachelor groups. For instance, during the mild winter of 2012, this automatic split up and ranking of the top gobblers and hens was already underway. Until the flocks disperse, hunters can expect to see multiple turkeys when hunting, including jakes, hens and gobblers.

A turkey hunter’s checklist starts with a South Carolina hunting license and SCDNR turkey tags. Hunters will want a full camouflage outfit complete with facemask. A call that makes the sounds of a hen turkey is essential, and a hen turkey decoy to accompany that call is recommended. A good dose of patience and a strong desire to try to fool a male turkey rounds out the sportsman’s tools.

Remember that young male turkeys, known as jakes and identified by their short beards, are new to the woods and deserve some special consideration. If a jake comes readily to your gun, perhaps the sporting solution is to pass on the shot, allowing the bird to gain some seasoning and become a boss gobbler in years to come. One must consider the long-term threat of coyotes in the Lowcountry when considering the harvest of any juvenile male turkeys.

Harvesting a mature wild turkey is the true goal, and is always the culmination of a plan to outwit this majestic figure in our springtime woods. A boss tom is not likely to do what you want him to, so your plan should be to react to him. These reactions will help to reveal the beauty of a wild turkey hunt. How did you measure up in the arena with the spring monarch? More than likely, the tom teaches you a lesson that leaves one empty-handed, but even the experience of a close call can be valued and not easily forgotten.

Hunting a wild turkey often calls for moving about in the woods. There are more folks in the Lowcountry these days and hunting areas are subject to crowding, which makes it a good chance that you may see a fellow turkey hunter in the woods at some point. It may be that more than one person is hearing a tom’s gobbles and is sneaking in on its position, but that situation does not create an excuse to cross any private property or hunt lease boundary. Sportsmanship can indeed play a role during turkey season.

Turkey hunting is a fine sport to introduce to a youth or female hunter. When that boss tom issues a knockdown gobble it won’t be dismissed as idle talk by any nearby witnesses. When you are in the field and a mature gobbler with a glowing white snowball for a head comes strutting through the woods towards your calling position, think of the generations of sportsmen before you who witnessed the same spectacle.

Making memories of positive experiences in the turkey woods is what it’s all about. One favorite story involves roosting three gobblers before the opening day of the 2004 season. Those three longbeards decided to roost in the trees right alongside me, and I ended up face down in the dirt throwing a sufficient number of fallen leaves over me to blend in until I could execute a stealthy escape from the woods at HARD dark. My father and I harvested an opening day gobbler that year, but the heart-pounding close call on the eve of that season is the sporting memory that sticks with me.

Jeff Dennis is a Lowcountry native. Read his blog at www.LowcountryOutdoors.com

Jeff Dennis, Contributor (360 Posts)

Jeff Dennis is a Lowcountry native. Read his blog at www.LowcountryOutdoors.com