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.
August 26, 2012 | By Steve Hickoff
Need some reasons to fall turkey hunt?
The smell of bacon frying in camp. The sound of coffee filling the pot.
Your breath steaming out in the cold pre-dawn of your truck’s headlights.
Morning sunlight with red and yellow leaves floating down. The sharp scratching sound those leaves make when hitting tree branches on the way to the ground. The short woods nap that follows.
A wild turkey flock just starting to call and regroup after a good scatter.
Fresh scratchings on the rolling spine of the oak ridge you’re walking.
The way that ghost-cut mouth diaphragm you’re running makes kee-kees just right.
The buck skulking through shadowy brush on the edge of the swamp.
Old friends and new, and the funny stories about that one time in the turkey woods.
The way a hard-moving flock suddenly appearing on a hillside jumpstarts your heart.
The way the setup feels just right — a hunting buddy facing one way and you the other, shotguns ready.
Calling a brood hen and just a few young birds in and letting them walk.
The text message saying: Found the ridge flock. Roosted ‘em. Hunt fly-down tomorrow?
Geese moving overhead. Wood ducks squealing on the river. Far-off turkey yelping.
The way your turkey dog gets birdy, casts out of sight, barks on the flock flush and scatters the group for the call back in the states where it's legal.
The note your buddy left under your truck's windshield wiper. It doesn’t include a single word, just a turkey tail feather that says he killed one.
That autumn longbeard making like Dracula with his black cape and ready to thrash the fighting purrs you’re running right after fly-down, thinking it’s a real bird . . .
Haven’t seen it? Don’t believe it? You need to hunt fall turkeys more.
A bird answers, is coming, appears. The turkey is in range. You savor the seconds.
The smell of gunpowder after the killing shot and saving that spent hull in your pocket.
The trash talk you’ll have to hear when you tell the guys back at camp about your miss.
Hunting every day of the fall turkey season and not killing a bird . . . though you brought home plenty of memories.
Thanksgiving dinner with a wild turkey on your family’s supper table.
What’s the reason you fall turkey hunt?
August 21, 2012 | By Steve Hickoff
Six of us killed 14 Nebraska longbeards in three days this past April. Rain-driven hail the size of buckshot and tornado warnings kept us in the truck now and then.
Extreme weather turkeys you kill are among the most satisfying sometimes. You have to earn those spurs and somehow that makes the bird even more memorable.
Watch enough outdoor TV and you might think that wild turkeys only gobble and yelp on bluebird days with sunshine and calm skies. They answer our yelps, come hard, strutting in all the way until they die while beating up a jake fake. Sure, I watch this stuff too. And yep, sometimes it even happens that way. On average though, reality couldn’t be further from that deal.
In defense of the camera guys, filming during tornadoes, rainstorms, cloud to ground lightning and the like isn’t all that appealing, so I’ll give those video production dudes a mulligan. Still, getting out after extreme weather turkeys when other guys choose to sleep in is one of my favorite tactics. Crazy or not, at least you know competition will be whittled down some.
Take the storm-drenched, wind-blown Missouri longbeard that watched me watching it as the drab sky grew darker with daybreak. I knew he pegged me the moment I turned my head slightly and looked up at him on the limb, well in range. I didn’t move for maybe an hour after that. When the sky did break, he sailed out of that tree and sprinted a couple hundred yards up to the high pasture. Yep, he lived.
I did kill a different sharp-spurred Show-Me-State bird not long after that as the tornado warning lifted. This one came running in and dropped at five steps as I shot him sideways while lying on my belly in a high field. Go figure. I looked for the TV cameras but there weren’t any around.
What’s the craziest weather you ever killed a turkey in?
August 15, 2012 | By Steve Hickoff
Nebraska fall turkey season hunters have 138 days to kill a bird. You can even tag two if opportunity and luck provides. A good chunk of the upcoming season pushes well into winter and the new year. Read more below . . .
According to Nebraska authorities, hunters will have an extra month of fall turkey hunting opportunities this year (and early 2013). The fall season has been extended by a month, as the legal dates run from Sept. 15, 2012-Jan. 31, 2013. Permits are now available at OutdoorNebraska.org and Nebraska Game and Parks Commission permitting offices. Other details include:
- A fall turkey permit is valid statewide and allows a hunter to kill two turkeys of either sex with a shotgun or archery equipment. Each hunter may have up to two permits.
- Turkey permits cost $24 for residents, $91 for nonresidents and $6 for resident or nonresident youth age 15 and younger. There is no minimum age requirement for youth.
- Those hunting turkeys during the November firearm deer season (Nov. 10-18, 2012) must wear at least 400 square inches of hunter orange on their head, chest and back.
For more information about turkey hunting in Nebraska, read the 2012 Turkey Guide.
How long is the season where you hunt fall and winter turkeys? Do you think it should be longer or shorter and why?
(Steve Hickoff photo)
August 12, 2012 | By Steve Hickoff
Heat, drought, wildfires and wild turkeys are making the news these days.
In Indiana the story is the same as biologists predict the 2012 drought will affect wild turkeys, especially young birds.
In Kentucky, white and red oaks are being watched closely as acorns are a major wild turkey food source.
In Wisconsin, regular Realtree.com turkey blog commentator "charlie elk" has some thoughts on the subject.
Officials are worried about drought affects in Missouri too.
How are things looking out your window as you read this? Let us know in the comments section below and thanks.
August 8, 2012 | By Steve Hickoff
Do you need a turkey hunter makeover?
My teenaged daughter watches any number of those TV makeover shows. They take a person (usually a woman), dump their old “out of style” look and establish a new one courtesy of a show-sponsored credit card (not that I watch too long, eh). Then the show hosts rave about the new look (their idea, after all) and we move on to some other reality fashion show after the commercial break.
I wouldn’t know this stuff existed if I wasn’t my little girl’s dad and hey maybe broadening my horizons is okay. It does get me back to what I prefer to do, namely, thinking about gobblers and hens in the off-season and hunting wild turkeys in season (spring and fall). My mind wanders a bit these days as we wait. For instance, what would a turkey hunter makeover look like? What if there were an outdoor TV show called Turkey Hunter Makeover? (Remember where you heard it first.)
Would the hosts take a look at your old tried-and-true Remington 870 pump turkey killer and insist you upgrade to a slick autoloading Versa Max? (I killed spring turkeys with both shotguns this past spring season — put in just to show my old and new school tendencies along with my “it’s all good” diplomatic politics.)
Would they, the hosts of this hypothetical show, insist you dump the classic bead sights and use something like a Trijicon RMR sighting system or some other modern option? Would they make you traditional bowhunters trade your tools for a crossbow? How about your footwear? Would your 18-inch rubber boots (a.k.a. “Alabama tennis shoes”) get tossed for a cooler option? Maybe you still only use that old Lynch box with all the notches on it for dead gobblers? Would you ever consider trying something like a three-reed mouth diaphragm? Still staking old decoys instead of the new hyper-realistic models? You get the idea . . .
What about apparel? You old-school camouflage guys may not have opted for more recent Realtree choices. If someone offered to buy you some makeover items at Bass Pro Shop, would you? Should you? And what of you retro guys who don’t wear much camo at all? Would you give up your earth brown and brush green clothes?
If you resigned yourself to a turkey hunter makeover, where would they start? What modern gear or apparel upgrade do you wish you could have? Or maybe you don’t want to fix what ain’t broken?
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