Preseason Scouting Can Increase Hunter Success

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It's that time of the year again. Iowa's hardwood forests are currently echoing with the distinctive, staccato gobble of the eastern wild turkey. Blood stirring and primitive, it is a sound like no other. For turkey hunting enthusiasts, the deep resonate rattling presents an annual summons that cannot be denied.

This year's hunting seasons are almost here. That's a good thing, because most hunters have been chewing their nails for weeks now, wondering just what to expect from upcoming days in the field.

Regardless of what success Opening Day may offer, I feel like I've already had a pretty good season. During the past several days I've been spending a good share of my free time exploring local timbers and testing my calls on preseason gobblers. As always, the boisterous, crack of dawn turkey shows have been nothing short of spectacular.

Although I've seen other hunters scouting their territories, most have been watching and listening from the road. It's a great time of the year to be outside and that's part of the reason why it seems especially unfortunate that the majority of hunters are so reluctant to enter the woods until the seasons open.

For years now, turkey hunting professionals have been preaching that preseason, mock hunts are a giant No No. Conducting such excursions, the pros claim, will result in educated birds, call shy toms, and dramatically reduced success when the hunting seasons open for real. Often repeated and widely accepted, this time worn theory has been around since Iowa turkey seasons first opened more than thirty years ago.

At first glance, the stay-out-of-the-woods-until-you're-ready-to-shoot concept does sound logical. But in reality, the philosophy merely becomes myth.

The basic premise that the gobbler who hears your call, comes looking, and then doesn't find a real hen will not respond to the same sound another day is just plain ridiculous. Wild turkeys are a highly social, highly vocal, highly mobile form of wildlife. In the real woods, similar scenarios of hide and seek play out on a near continual basis. When such events do occur and a tom doesn't actually see every hen he hears, the bird does not automatically become a hermit.

Getting into the timber in advance of the hunting season provides the hunter with distinct advantages. The mornings are crisp and the predawn gobbling is as good as it gets. When daylight arrives and roosted birds hit the ground, they rarely fail to provide dramatic displays that include more in-your-face gobbling, nonstop strutting, and sparing. It can get rough out there. If you're extremely fortunate, the morning show may even feature a genuine turkey smack down as two or more needle-spurred heavyweights vie for territorial dominance.

Preseason forays give turkey enthusiasts unparalleled opportunities to look and listen as wild turkeys communicate and interact within a completely natural setting. If you really want to know what your calling is supposed to sound like, nothing tops the instruction of a live hen. It's an education that can't be matched by reading, listening to tapes, or watching TV videos.

While serving to acquaint you with the patterns of the birds you'll be hunting, preseason scouting also allows the hunter to become familiar you with every minute detail of the woodlands you'll be tromping. That sort of knowledge can only result in a greater probability of success.