Monday, April 17, is a day many area hunters have looked forward to for several months.
That date is the opening of the spring firearms turkey season – Missouri’s second-most popular hunting event (trailing only the fall firearms deer season).
Thousands of hunters will be in the woods on opening day looking for those skittish, but hormone-driven, gobblers.
Missouri’s spring turkey season runs from April 17 through May 7. Hunting hours are one-half hour before sunrise (CDT) until 1 p.m. each day. Shot larger than No. 4 is prohibited.
It also should be noted that youths who took a bird during the April 8-9 youth season cannot harvest a bird until April 24. This is because the bird taken during the youth season counts as that hunter’s first bird for the first week of the regular season.
With the April 17 season-opener almost here, that means the days leading up to it are a time for final preparation. Hunters are making sure their equipment is in working order, their shotguns are properly patterned and their camouflage clothing still fits. They’ll probably head to the woods this weekend to check out a few locations that have turkey potential.
While you’re taking care of these details, don’t overlook some of the basic preparations that should be made for a turkey trip or any other type of hunting outing.
For instance, if you’re hunting on somebody else’s property, make sure you have the landowner’s permission to be there. That may sound obvious, but it seems there are always a few people that make presumptions based on a previous hunt. Just because you hunted turkey or some other type of wild game on a person’s land in previous years doesn’t mean you have the green light to hunt turkey there this spring.
Talking to the landowner not only ensures that you have his consent to be there this spring; it also might shed some light on where turkeys have been spotted in recent days.
If you’re going to hunt by yourself, tell a spouse, parent, close friend, etc., where you’re going to hunt and what your approximate schedule’s going to be. (Even though shooting hours end at 1 p.m., you may decide to stay and look for morel mushrooms or scout some other hunting locations.)
If other people know the particulars of your hunting trip, it will alleviate worries on their end and may come in handy for you if you have vehicle trouble or some other type of unexpected problems.
If you’re checking out a location you haven’t hunted before, take note of where fence rows, creeks, brush rows and other features are. Knowing the lay of the land may help you determine the movements of a gobbler you’re trying to call into range.
If you’re going to hunt on someone else’s property, here’s another tip that seems obvious, but hunters occasionally get into trouble for not doing this: Make sure you know where the landowner’s property lines are. Unless you know where the boundaries are, the seemingly harmless crossing of a run-down fence or an old road may unknowingly transform you from a hunter into a trespasser because you may be entering onto someone else’s property.
Also, make some post-hunt preparations. Have something to carry a gobbler out of the woods in a manner that it’s obvious you’re carrying a harvested bird. (You can buy blaze orange game bags at some local outdoors equipment stores or the blaze orange vest you use during firearms deer season also makes a good turkey toting device.)
When you carry out a harvested bird with wings dangling loosely, you run the risk of having your bird appear to be a live gobbler to an over-anxious hunter.
Pack a hunter orange vest or cap for yourself, too, to wear as you make to your hunting spot and out of the woods after your hunt is finished. You don’t need to wear hunter orange during spring turkey season, but when you’re moving through the woods and not hunting, it’s a good way to make yourself stand out from your surroundings.
By Francis Skalicky
(Francis works for the Missouri Department of Conservation in southwest Missouri. He can be reached at 417-895-6880.)