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Hunter’s Corner: On the hunt for turkeys

Last weekend was nothing short of incredible. Trout fishing, youth turkey weekend hunting … it just doesn’t get any better.

The first pair of turkey hunters I ran into where a pair of proud fathers whose sons had taken a 19-pound and a 17-pound turkey. There where a whole bunch of smiles at the result of the morning hunt. I next checked in with the Barn’s Store in Salisbury and viewed a 19½-pound tom that was an incredible trophy, another happy youth with an impressive trophy. All toms were taken early in the morning and were successfully called in.

Turkey season opened half an hour before sunrise this past Friday. The daily end hour is noon. I will be hunting in the same back field that I have hunted in the past and know there is one boss gobbler in the area. It will be up to me to call him in.

Many hunters make repeated mistakes that limit their opportunities to bag a tom. Mistake No. 1 is the failure to pattern your shotgun at various ranges. Many hunters think they are good to go at extreme ranges and have no idea what they have for a pattern. My personal choice is 12-gauge, 3-nch magnum Hevi-Shot in No. 6 shot. Hevi-Shot in No. 6 has the knockdown power of No. 5 shot, but being smaller there are more pellets per shot shell. My Benelli pump is capable of handling 3½-inch shells, but I don’t think the additional yardage is worth the additional recoil. I have several friends that swear by their 10-gauge shotguns, but I will stick with what works best for me.

If you ask, all I have is a 20-gauge, will that work on turkeys? Absolutely! A 20-gauge is a perfect choice for youth and women. Using 2¾-inch or 3-inch, 20-gauge shell with premium shot will work well to bag a turkey. The only difference will be that you will have to call them in closer than if you were using a 12-gauge.

Mistake No. 2 is the failure to adequately gauge distance. I don’t leave anything to chance and use a Bushnell Scout 1000. A push of a button and you have immediate yardage, no guessing at all.

Mistake No. 3 is the overreliance on one turkey call. I carry three and they are all simple to use. I like simple. The first is a push-pull call that snaps on to my shotgun barrel; easy to use and it produces soft cuts and purrs. My second is a mini boat paddle. My third and favorite is the Quaker Boy Sidewinder G.P.S. (Gobbler Positioning System). This is a slate call equipped with a directional sound chamber. The diabolical feature of this call is that you are able to convince a gobbler that you are a hen that is moving away from him.

All three of my calls are Quaker Boy. It just happened that way. There are other equally excellent turkey calls, but in settled in for Quaker Boy.

Mistake No. 4 is leaving the area too soon. Gobblers have a tendency to go silent when they get close to a hen. If you are not receiving a response from a tom, it doesn’t mean he has given up on the chase. If you feel a tom has given up on you, don’t be too quick to move on. Stick around. The additional time spent may reward you with a shot at a boss gobbler.

New York and Maine have issued a turkey virus alert. The virus is Lymphoproliferative Disease Virus (LPDV). LPDV causes Elephant Man-like lesions on a turkey’s head and legs. The second disease is Avian Pox Virus and has been present in southern states for decades. Neither disease poses a threat to humans, although caution is advised when handling a diseased bird. And thoroughly cooking the meat to an internal temperature of a minimum of 165 degrees is also advised.

Biologists in New Hampshire are gathering evidence to monitor the status of these viruses in our turkeys. As part of this effort, biologists will be present at 10-12 turkey registration stations early in this spring’s gobbler season and will ask hunters to donate a 4-inch leg bone section above the spur up to the leg joint. The goal is to collect 50 leg bone samples (five from each of the state’s 10 counties).

These samples will be sent to the Southeast Cooperative Wildlife Disease Laboratory in Georgia, where the bone marrow will be analyzed to help determine the prevalence of theses viruses in our wild turkey population. Hunters are urged to cooperate with this study. The potential impact of LPDV and avian pox on wild turkeys in New Hampshire and other states is currently unknown.

(Bob Washburn can be reached at

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