March 29, 2012
The older I get, the better turkey hunter I’ve become. I like to think it’s because, after decades of hunting, that I’ve finally grown wise in the ways of the wild turkey.
But I have this nagging suspicion it is none of that. Rather, I believe I’ve eventually learned how to slow down in the turkey woods — to let the birds come to me. And the ultimate slow-motion turkey hunt is from a blind.
Blind or “hide” hunting, as the British term it, has several advantages over a more run-and-gun style of turkey hunting. First of all, blinds are great ways to introduce kids or even first-time adult hunters to turkey hunting.
Most first-timers don’t realize how still a hunter needs to sit in the turkey woods and for what length of time. A blind makes this requirement much easier, as kids and newcomers can squirm all they want, at least until a bird comes into view. Secondly, a blind is a great way to get wheelchair-bound and other physically-handicapped hunters into the turkey woods.
Where to ...
Blind hunting is most productive when you’ve had time to scout a particular hunting area and choose a strategic location for placing a blind. Pastures, field edges, near food plots, and strut zones are all likely places to consider setting a blind.
Look for those areas where birds normally want to congregate about mid-morning, after flying down off the roost and feeding for an hour or two. But don’t think a turkey won’t come to a blind first thing after fly-down.
When to …
In deciding when to set up a blind, sooner is always better than later. Several weeks before the hunting season begins is ideal, but a few days before, or even during is not too late.
Just keep in mind that anything new introduced into the woods will automatically be viewed with suspicion by wild turkeys. So the more time you give them to get used to a blind, the more they will eventually come to ignore it, accepting it as just another part of the landscape.
An added benefit of erecting a blind early — prior to the hunting season — is that you can use it for turkey and other wildlife photography. Gobbling and breeding activity in wild turkeys peaks in April across most of North America, and capturing those behaviors with a camera is much easier from a blind.
Natural, home-made, or ready-made?
Whether you choose to construct a blind out of natural materials, build one yourself from PVC pipe and camo cloth, or buy a ready-made commercial setup, there are advantages and disadvantages to all three types.
Making a blind out of natural materials is obviously the cheapest way to go and the easiest kind of blind to construct. But even though it may seem as simple as pulling a few downed branches together around the base of a large tree, keeping in mind a few basic concepts will make the blind more effective.
First, use only local materials. That may seem obvious, but brush, sticks, leaves, and grasses gathered from even just a few hundred feet away may not match the surrounding cover, making turkeys suspicious.
Also, remember to pay just as much attention to detail on the back of your blind as the front, as you never know from which direction turkeys might approach. And don’t forget to leave two or three shooting lanes through the brush you’ve gathered.
Finally, give yourself about three feet of space between you and the blind materials in which to swing your gun for an unobstructed shot.
The advantage of hunting from a commercial, ready-made blind, or a similar home-made version, is that you are protected from the weather, particularly rain and wind. Nothing dampens a turkey hunt quicker than a constant drizzle, but if you’re sitting snug in a blind with a waterproof top you can laugh at the weather while eating sandwiches and drinking coffee until the rain clears.
The downside to such blinds is cost, and the fact that they could be stolen if left in the woods. Also, in open, windy country, don’t forget to anchor these blinds securely, as their fabric surfaces catch wind.
No matter what type of blind you choose, adding turkey decoys in front of it is the icing on the cake. Use several decoys, both hens and toms, to make the setup look realistic, and include at least one decoy that moves, increasing the enticement.
Decoys can be used, too, as distance markers. Set decoys at 20, 30, and 40 yards, and you automatically know the yardage to a gobbler once he struts into your decoy spread.
Admittedly, hunting from a blind is not applicable or even practical in every turkey hunting situation. But if you have time to scout birds in an area before you hunt, and place a blind in a strategic location, your chances of pulling the trigger on a nice gobbler increase dramatically.
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