The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Outdoors

April 3, 2014

Gettin’ ready for gobbler season: Step two — scouting

So you want more hero pictures this year crouched behind a big gobbler fanning his tail out? Either that or the ever popular gripping him around the neck and straining to hold up his 20 plus pounds?

If you want the pictures, the beards, the spurs and the fried turkey breast, you’ve got a little work to do. Last time I talked about the importance of patterning your shotgun to be ready for the king of game birds. This week, let’s discuss doing some legwork, getting out there and looking over the country — scouting.

In truth, if you hunt the same woods every year, the same farm for the past 10 years, you may not have to do much scouting. Mr. Gobbler is going to be there or not, come opening day. No, I am going to take that back, unless you are just intimately familiar with the terrain, how the land lays, then you can learn a lot cruising around the area you are going to hunt.

What do I mean? Any experienced turkey hunter will tell you that knowing the “lay of the land” gives you a tremendous advantage in this game. When season comes in, and you are playing for keeps, you hear the turkey gobble, you answer with a call. Once this old familiar dance begins, you are much better prepared if you know what it looks like in that hollow, or at the end of this ridge, wherever your tango with this turkey may take you. Now if you are hunting somewhere unfamiliar (“strange ground” as my buddy calls it), especially big country like National Forest, the need for judicious scouting increases.

Now, what are we looking for as we go over our prospective hunting ground? At the risk of sounding like Captain Obvious, first we are looking for turkeys. If we see some, that is a good thing, but this will not always happen. So most of the time we are looking for what turkey hunters are always on a quest for — sign.

Turkey sign comes in several forms — scratching, feathers, dusting areas, and uhhm… where they went to the bathroom. (I have pictures of this but didn’t think the paper would print them).

Turkeys just naturally scratch in the leaves as they travel in their quest for food. This makes a readily identifiable mark in the leaves. There is really no mistaking it, and deer make a different pattern in the leaves. Turkey hunters can talk forever about turkey scratching. How old was it? How many was in that flock? Which way were they going? On and on and on. I think I told you before it is a sickness.

Turkey feathers are easy to recognize, the large primary wing feathers are white with black barring. The breast and body feathers are smaller and darker, but may have iridescent color on it. Greens and gold’s may show, depending on how the sun hits them. They can be really beautiful. If you pick up a breast feather, look closely, a gobbler feather will have a black outer edge. Hen feathers will be a lighter tan or beige on the edge.  

Turkey droppings look like well…. droppings. They are large and will be dark colored or green, with white on one end. Gobbler droppings are often “J” shaped, and the hen’s looks like popcorn. You may find dusting areas in old roads or sandy areas; turkeys scratch up dry ground and “dust” their feathers in it to help rid themselves parasites.

Good grief. Almost forgot. While you are scouting, if it is an area that you are going to hunt later, do not take a turkey call with you and call up gobblers to you before season. Every year I have to listen to people’s stories about how many turkeys they have called in before season. After opening day, they have trouble getting them into range.

Gee, I wonder what happened? Folks, I don’t put wild turkeys on the level of omnipotence that some hunters do, but they are a very wary animal, and there is no need to educate them before the hunt.

Go do your scouting before season, and you will be glad you did. Get out and get some exercise and bring me some morels if you find any.

— This is the second in a series of columns preparing hunters for the start of

gobbler season.

1
Text Only
Outdoors
  • 071714 Coda and Callie.jpg Coda and Callie’s excellent adventure

    How is it something that you profess to love so much can cause you so much anxiety and grief? No, I’m not talking about dealing with your children (or your spouse). This is worse. This is about dogs. More specifically, hunting dogs. 

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • 071314 Chris Ellis.jpg DNR’s ‘outdoor summer school’

    Attention all West Virginia hunters and trappers. It is once again time for outdoor summer school and the course materials are hot off the presses.

    July 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • Meet the Eurasian collared-dove

    Back in 1974 a local pigeon fancier imported a flock of about 50 Eurasian collared-doves to the Bahamas. Ultimately he released the birds, and they took to living in the West Indies. By the late 1970s some had reached south Florida, and by the late 1980s, some had been seen in Georgia and Arkansas.

    July 13, 2014

  • July in W.Va.: Recreational opportunities abound

    It’s July in the West Virginia mountains, which brings vibrant orange tiger lilies, blooming rhododendron, and of course fireworks. Usually the heat and humidity is in full force, but so far the weather has been nice.

    July 13, 2014

  • Shotgun 101: Shoot more and live better

    “God is not on the side of big battalions, but on the side of those who shoot best.”
    — Voltaire

    July 9, 2014

  • Fireflies are living lights

    At recent Fourth of July fireworks displays, spectators squealed with delight at the annual spectacle that illuminated the night sky. And I’m sure more than a few compared the spectacular pyrotechnics to the subtler displays of fireflies that punctuate backyards, parks, and campgrounds all summer long. We call these displays “nature’s fireworks.”

    July 5, 2014

  • Get on up, or you’ll get left behind

    “Let me embrace thee, sour adversity, for wise men say it is the wisest course.” —
    William Shakespeare

    July 3, 2014

  • Catfish, it's whats for dinner

    I think for far too long the catfish has had an image problem. They seemed to be the Rodney Dangerfield of the fish world. You know, they got no respect. Fortunately though (maybe unfortunately if you are a catfish), that seems to be in the past. They are a fish whose time has come.

    June 28, 2014

  • It’s more than a boat, it’s an adventure

    Growing up on Elk River, I couldn’t help being connected to the river and its waters. It is where I caught my first fish, learned to swim, paddle a canoe, to read water and throw a buzz bait, killed my first duck, gigged frogs and spent many a Saturday night fishing for catfish. We lived in a river bank community, and the Elk provided us with everything from water for our homes to all the recreation a young boy would need to fill his youthful requirements for adventure.

    June 28, 2014

  • Old friends at the beach

    If your summer vacation plans include a trip to an east coast beach, I can’t predict everything you might see. But one bird that I guarantee you’ll encounter many times is the laughing gull.

    June 28, 2014

Web Special Sections
  • Special Web Sections

    Click HERE for stories about natural gas and Marcellus shale gas extraction.

    Click HERE for stories about the Upper Big Branch mine disaster.

    Click HERE for stories about the passing of U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd.

    Click HERE for stories from The Greenbrier Classic PGA TOUR event.

    August 6, 2010

Helium debate
Helium
AP Video
Six Indicted in StubHub Hacking Scheme Former NTSB Official: FAA Ban 'prudent' EPA Gets Hip With Kardashian Tweet Bodies of MH17 Victims Arrive in the Netherlands Biden Decries Voting Restrictions in NAACP Talk Broncos Owner Steps Down Due to Alzheimer's US, UN Push Shuttle Diplomacy in Mideast Trump: DC Hotel Will Be Among World's Best Plane Crashes in Taiwan, Dozens Feared Dead Republicans Hold a Hearing on IRS Lost Emails Raw: Mourners Gather As MH17 Bodies Transported Robot Parking Valet Creates Stress-free Travel Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament Disabled Veterans Memorial Nearing Completion Last Mass Lynching in U.S. Remains Unsolved Home-sharing Programs Help Seniors Ex-NYC Mayor: US Should Allow Flights to Israel