Steve Hickoff is the Realtree Turkey Hunting Editor and Blogger. He’s been beaten by more birds than he can remember. Still he kills enough to eat well, and fool with beards, spurs and fans until the next season. Pennsylvania born and raised, Maine is his home base now. A full-time outdoor communicator with a couple university writing degrees, he chases spring gobblers and fall flocks around the country. It's "all turkeys, all the time" on the Realtree Turkey Blog.
January 26, 2012 | By Steve Hickoff
Turkey hunting is easy, some say. All things considered, it’s pretty simple:
- The spring gobbler wants to breed hens – as many as possible.
- The spring hen wants to feed, breed and find nesting habitat where she’ll later graze along with her field-bugging brood.
- The hunter, you and me, we want to ruin her little party and kill the gobbler. With any luck, she’s already bred him, so he’s done the job at this point, right?
Often enough though, we tag a gobbler who also wanted to breed as many hens as possible, but hadn’t been, and came running to our calls and died for it.
If it’s so easy (especially with the kamikaze birds) then why’s it so hard sometimes?
The thrill of victory doesn’t always last long. Often enough, if we hunt a handful of states, we don’t kill jack in a few of them.
One reason? Hens.
Pretty ones – birds that couldn’t get out of the first round of a calling contest. Ugly ones – scraggly sweet talkers who could win it all. Hens with feather-covered heads and others with beards (I’ve seen my share over the years and even killed a few in the fall).
The gobbler wants them all and isn’t all that picky. We want HIM. She’ll put a stop to it if she can.
Yep, she’s our main turkey hunting competition. She’ll steal our gobbler away and hold his hand as they walk right on down the hollow.
He may even courtesy gobble a goodbye.
She’s also got a big role the future of the turkey population, so we tend to be forgiving – especially after killing some gobbler, any gobbler, maybe not the one she’s running with, but . . .
And sometimes she’ll drag the gobbler right in to you as she challenges the new hen in the area (you).
Yep, turkey hunting is easy. And hard as steel shot. And we love it – even the gobbler-stealing hens.
– Steve Hickoff
January 23, 2012 | By Steve Hickoff
We caught up with some turkey pros to get their Super Bowl predictions.
Josh Grossenbacher, Zink Calls NFL Team: Cleveland Browns. Pick: Giants 24-Patriots 13.
Pete Clare, Turkey Trot Acres NFL Team(s): Buffalo Bills, New York Giants. Pick: Giants 21-Patriots 17.
Shane Simpson, Founder, TurkeyHuntPublicLand.com NFL Team(s): Carolina Panthers, Green Bay Packers. Pick: Giants 27-Patriots 21.
So that's Giants 3, Patriots 0 . . . but wait, here's more:
Steve Turpin, Turpin Custom Game Calls NFL Team: Indianapolis Colts. Turpin is a self-proclaimed college football fanatic (SEC). He’s a University of Tennessee fan, so when they drafted Peyton Manning, he became a Colts backer. Pick: Giants 27-Patriots 21.
And just when things were looking grim for the Brady Bunch:
David "Big Daddy" Smith, Knight & Hale Pro-Staffer. NFL Team: New England Patriots. Smith likes to say with a grin, “There are two kinds of NFL fans: Patriots and Hatriots.” Pick: New England Patriots 27-New York Giants 23.
Shawn Kotchey, Millcreek Valley Game Calls Pro-Staffer. NFL Team: Pittsburgh Steelers. Pick: New England Patriots 23-New York Giants 20.
And finally, I should know better than to issue more Super Bowl predictions. Last year I regrettably made turkey hunting history after losing a Super Bowl bet (my Steelers went down to the Packers and the photo tells the rest of the story).
All bets are off this Super Bowl, but here’s my take:
Steve Hickoff, Realtree Turkey Hunting Editor NFL Team: Pittsburgh Steelers. Prediction: Giants 24-Patriots 21.
Okay, so that's Giants 5, Patriots 2 . . .
Who do you follow in the NFL? What are your Super Bowl predictions? Let us know in the comments section below and thanks.
January 21, 2012 | By Steve Hickoff
Turkey hunting tip of the day? Grab those calendar dates while you can, man.
Sure it's snowing right now where I write this and maybe it's a little warmer where you are, but one way or another, it's coming. Yep, we'd all rather be turkey hunting.
Believe it or not the spring turkey season kicks in late next month. Maybe not where you live, but . . .
Where? Florida. Zone A. Youth turkey. So if you have a kid and live nearby, the wait won't be long now. Some of you hardcore hunters might even fly there to first put your son or daughter, nephew or niece, on an Osceola. You might even extend the trip and hunt birds there yourself on March 3 when it kicks in for all A Zoners.
The last day you can chase spring turkeys in the country is June 2. Where? Maine. It's the latest running spring turkey season in the country.
And when you break it right down, that only gives us three months and change to satisfy our turkey fix. Plan now.
If you're like me, you try to strike a balance between time on the road and time with the family. My wife's locked in some dates where she's got plans, and my daughter has track meets I'll attend (and other school functions), so time with the calendar is a priority around here.
Haven't plotted out your spring turkey hunts yet? "Failure to plan is planning to fail," the saying goes.
Maybe this turkey hunting tip is just old news to some of you hardcore turkey hunters. I've got a half-dozen spring turkey states locked in right now. How about you? Let us know in the comments section below and thanks.
January 18, 2012 | By Steve Hickoff
Turkey hunting tactics get thrown around in camp like leftover biscuits in a food fight.
You’ve been yelping to a gobbler for an hour and he answers most of your calls. Suddenly he gets lockjaw. What would you do?
- Sit tight and watch for him to come in.
- Call aggressively with yelps and cutts to get him fired back up.
- Move closer to him since he’s lost interest in your calling.
- Leave the area and try to find another gobbler. Your hunt is over.
(NWTF media photo)
After working a turkey for what seems like a long time (on your watch), he’ll sometimes quit gobbling, leading you to believe he's lost interest in your calls or has left the area. It takes patience and confidence to wait, but sometimes the gobbler has started walking to your location. You just have to chill out, man.
The most paranoid bird on the planet may take longer than you imagine to reach your position. He may not gobble even once while coming in. Regardless of this, a soft yelp or two from you might clinch the deal. Then again, this might make the turkey pop back into strut and hang up some more.
Move closer and reposition? Maybe. Sometimes though an approaching tom will spook when an impatient hunter moves from the original calling position too quickly – you’ll hear running or flying and then the game is definitely over. For now.
Let us know what turkey hunting tactics you’d use in this hunting situation. Hit us up in the comments section below and thanks.
– Steve Hickoff
January 16, 2012 | By Steve Hickoff
Wild turkey scouting can start now or later.
In the coming months, hens will stake out spring spots to breed, nest and later raise their broods. Gobblers, being male turkeys, will follow – then hang elsewhere in gobbler-only flocks as poult-tending by hens begins. On all this, more later.
The great debate about wild turkey scouting is always when to get serious about it.
Why stop? Sure enough, some of us do it year-round. Others manage tight work and family schedules by wild turkey scouting later, when it counts most: after birds have established new seasonal ranges. They might be right as far as quality scouting for hunting goes.
Read enough management studies and it's pretty clear of one thing: the turkeys you see now will likely move somewhere later. Some will stay; some will move to nearby habitat holding birds each spring season. This is especially true for jakes, the juvenile shortbearded males. They've often got roaming on their minds. Some studies indicate they may move as much as twenty miles or more.
That's key to healthy flocks of course and part of the turkey management success story.
For me, hanging out with turkey flocks (winter, spring, summer and fall) is a compulsion – you too? The scouting, hunting and killing is equal.
I recently photographed of a flock of Easterns feeding as January sleet fell and fog rolled in – winter birds just trying to survive the winter. The gangly jake in this image ran with some 30-plus turkeys. I knew a good flock favored the area, and heard them softly purring and clucking on the approach. It never gets old. Wild turkey scouting is sometimes enough to keep you going until opening day.
So how early do you start turkey scouting? Let us know in the comments section below and thanks for checking in.
(Steve Hickoff post/photo)
- » Wild Turkey Hen Defends Brood from Red-Tailed Hawk
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- » Trophy Longbeard or Recipe Jake?
- » Turkey Hunting Tip: Get Tight to the Roost
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