April 20, 2016
In today's modern world, bigger is said to be better and time is almost always a wasting.
But don't believe that when it comes to spring turkey hunting, a time-honored pastime where small parcels of land can pay huge dividends for hunters willing to adjust their tactics.
A case in point is a spot a friend of mine has hunted for a number of years. It's not very big and lies only a few minutes outside of town, but the place is always home to a fair number of Rio Grande turkeys each spring.
While many turkey hunters in the southern Great Plains like to practice the art of run-and-gun turkey hunting on big acreages where the key is plenty of movement and a lot of calling until a gobbler is struck, that can't happen on my friend's hunting ground.
At less than 100 acres, you have to make educated guesses about where the birds will be on a particular day and where they are going to be going – perhaps traveling near the creek, maybe moving across the edge of a northern treeline or even crossing an open hay field to get to a deep bottom.
It doesn't always produce a goldmine of bearded treasure, but on a number of occasions down through the years, it's been more than fair in its allotment of tagged gobblers, including a couple of giant toms.
With that backdrop in mind, what is the key to finding such small-property turkey hunting heaven?
In plain and simple terms, such spots have got to be the right patch of ground.
Remember the imagery of a wildlife habitat stool consisting of the three legs of water, food and security cover (roosting sites and/or loafing cover for turkeys)?
If the property you want to hunt on has these needs covered for longbeards, then you could be in business. If not, you might want to look elsewhere.
Sometimes the property that you hunt lies between two patches of ground that feature these items. When that is the case, you may be able to hunt the turkeys as they pass through from one place to the next.
If finding the right patch of small-turkey hunting ground is one key to success, then not being too zealous in your hunting strategy is another.
"Don't call and run around as much when the place is small," said one of my turkey hunting mentors, Texan Kenny Klug. "Call from a spot in 30 minute increments."
"When I'm hunting an area where I know there are birds – or it's a smaller area – I'll just sit and be patient. When they're with hens and aren't gobbling, it's a great time to do that (and just wait)."
Being patient isn't just a method of hunting gobblers that are henned up and hushed up.
It also can be made entirely necessary in many cases because of the terrain that such a property features.
"In Texas, the terrain is generally open," said Klug. "Even in places like South Texas where it can be thick (and brushy), a lot of times, the understory growth is thin and turkeys can see movement and they'll nail you (if you move)."
A third key for small-hunting ground success is to be there at the best possible times.
This includes days with the best weather (look for calm days when you can hear a bird gobble for a mile); the best time of day (if the birds don't roost on your property, mid-morning and mid-afternoon hours are great times to catch a lone gobbler wandering through); and the right portion of the season (in my mind, right after the peak of breeding is good when gobblers still want to breed but many hens are already sitting on a nest).
That being said, a final key is not to overhunt such spots. Put too much pressure on a limited piece of land and the turkeys will be more than happy to relocate themselves at your expense.
The bottom line here in this turkey hunting tale is small patches of ground might not be the end-all turkey hunting heaven most of us are seeking, spots where an endless stream of gobbling birds can be found strutting around from daylight until dark.
But they can be small little veins of gold, producing memorable hunts, a trophy beard and spurs for the wall and a great meal to grace the table.
Especially if you understand bigger isn't always better and sometimes, leaving the stopwatch behind is a good thing to do.
"Patience, especially in smaller areas, is very important out there for turkey hunters," said Klug. "In such a place, get in a place convenient to a turkey's needs and then be patient."
If you are, there's no telling what kind of turkey gold you can find.