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How To/Pro-Tips

Change Your Pattern

Shotguns can be picky about loads, shot sizes and choke combinations, shooting some well and others poorly. The highly specialized and tightly choked modern turkey guns are no exception. If you have acquired a new choke tube, changed brand of shotshell or changed shot size, basically all bets are off on pattern and perhaps point of impact performance. The new combination won't necessarily improve things; it may even perform more poorly than your previous setup. You need to re-verify that your turkey gun is up to par with a trip to the pattern board. Use full-size patterning paper large enough to catch all of your load. Those small 8 1/2 x 10 inch gobbler head targets may not tell you the whole story. Modern super-full turkey chokes are capable of shooting a very small pattern out to 30 yards and farther, so it is also important to know exactly where your point of impact is. Remember to aim where the neck meets the body, not at the head. This will reduce misses and losses tremendously.

Food Plot Fertilization

More and more people are starting to plant wildlife food plots to make an area more attractive to deer, wild turkey and other wildlife species. Basic farming principles can make these plots more productive and efficient. Have the soil tested. This can be arranged through a local county agent or representative of the state agriculture department. Many forest soils are acidic and need lime for best plant growth. You can waste a lot of time, seed and fertilizer when an application of lime was what was really needed. The soil test also can clue you in to what specific fertilizer blend is right for your area. It is well established that deer prefer and selectively feed on well fertilized plants. Also consider what you plant. Warm- or cool-season plants and shade-tolerant species for small forest openings are available. Consult with state wildlife agency biologists as to which plant species local wildlife utilize and are compatible with in your region, climate and soil type.

Fishing North By Northwest

Those first warm but still pre-spring days before winter finally lets go for good can be a fishing bonanza. Fish, dormant all winter long, "wake up" when the waters begin to warm, and they wake up hungry. Early spring fishing reverses the summertime advice to fish in the shade. Seek the sun for best fishing results. Because the sun is still traversing the sky at a rather low angle in the southern sky, look to south-facing coves and other productive structure on the north and northwest sides of reservoirs to warm up first. Banks of natural rock or of rock rip-rap are particularly good because the rocks efficiently absorb and hold the sun's heat, helping warm the adjacent water. Fish will suspend along these rock banks looking for both favorable temperatures and food. Virtually all species of game fish are affected by this early warm-up and some of the spring's best fishing can occur before spring actually gets here.

Shed Search

Late winter deer scouting can be the most productive scouting of the year. First, vegetation is at a minimum, making any deer sign easily seen. Second, you can locate and really investigate potential hotspots without having to hold back for fear that you will spook a trophy buck out of the area just before season. Major deer trails stand out like interstate highways and even well-hidden buck trails are easier to pick up. With most foliage gone, you can get a good look at buck core/sanctuary areas, which are usually found in the most forbidding, brush-choked areas available. While there, try to get a handle on the buck's entrance and exit areas. If the sanctuary is too tough to hunt, stake out the "bedroom door" next season. With luck, you can find shed antlers. These tell you that that particular buck survived the season and will likely still be around next year.

Get Ready For Gobblers

It's none too early to break out the turkey calls and start practicing for the hunting season. While there are lots of important factors in turkey hunting besides calling, it never hurts to be as good as you can be. A hunter with confidence in his calling may be more effective than a hunter having absolutely perfect calling skills. It's preferable to practice outside. Besides not getting on the family's nerves, calling in the open lets you hear what calls sound like in the outdoors. Many, particularly the friction calls, sound different at a distance. Set up a tape recorder 20 or 30 feet away and tape your calling. The same goes for the diaphragm. Since it is inside your mouth, you don't hear it exactly the same way it sounds some distance away. For basic calling instructions, most major call makers offer tapes and videos. The Realtree turkey hunting video series also offers plenty of calling tips and techniques.

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