Even with some of the best early January weather on record and small game seasons underway, the competition of an early winter turkey hunting season is hard to ignore. Before the Northern Neck Counties had a January turkey season, the temptation was strong to travel to other parts of the Commonwealth that had one in place. For those who spent every hour they could afield from November through the first weekend in January to be part of the Deer Firearms Season, it’s hard to find an on-off switch for the end of hunting time. Granted, spending some quality time afield with a feisty rabbit beagle or a youngster who wants to be part of getting what is needed for some squirrel stew can be a positive experience. For me the best way to recover from dealing with the end of another deer firearms season is being able to pursue and hunt Virginia’s premiere game bird the Eastern Wild Turkey. As we approach the second week of this January turkey hunting opportunity, it can be a challenging and yet fun filled time to see who outsmarts who. No matter how familiar a hunter may believe they are with a particular piece of land, field edge or timber, it’s still the wild turkey’s backyard.
How Much Turkey Talk
One of the most detailed and diverse discussions that can take place between experienced turkey hunters, is how much calling is appropriate for a successful hunting strategy. In days gone by calling too much would be termed to be, educating the birds. That point of view remains worthy of consideration, as wild turkeys like any creature or species in the woods can be accustomed to what sounds right, and what doesn’t. Another more contemporary variable as to how much vocalization should be utilized by a turkey hunter is the increased number of coyotes. Some outdoor enthusiasts may share the opinion that as the predator impact of coyotes increased on wild turkey populations, hens imparted a more limited attitude of vocalization to their poults.
Watch, Wait, Listen
While calling too much too soon to get a scattered flock or a boss hen turkey’s attention can be an irreversible mistake, making a decision in the woods based on current bird behavior is a good option to consider. With a combination of patience and quiet, an alert hunter can determine how much vocalization fits amongst a flock of wild turkeys. The right amount of calling can sometimes be as direct as talking just as much but no more than the birds are while hunting them.
Listen to the Boss
If a flock of turkeys has been scattered it is usually the boss hen or in the case of a flock of gobblers or jakes the dominant male bird that calls them back in. Their determination to recall and assemble the flock back together will be tempered by the routine predator threat. So, if there has been a lot of recent human activity in their foraging or roosting areas or if coyotes have been targeting the flock, they aren’t going to call or talk as much. Bottom line is to not match but come close to the level of vocalization turkeys are using in the wooded area you are hunting in.
The current turkey hunting season in the Northern Neck Counties continues through January 25th. Bag limits for the 2019-20 seasons are one per day and three per license year. No more than two of these turkeys may be taken in the fall. Both male and female turkeys can be harvested during this season. Additional information is available at the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) website, https://www.dgif.virginia.gov/hunting/regulations/turkey/#fall-firearms.
Checking Harvested Turkeys
Wild turkeys harvested during the month of January have to be checked either by telephone or the Internet. The DGIF’s telephone checking system is used by calling (866) 468-4263. To check in a wild turkey harvested in January go to the website at, www.gooutdoorsvirginia.com and select Game Check & Harvest Reporting. More Information about how to use the DGIF’s internet game checking system is located at, https://www.dgif.virginia.gov/hunting/regulations/validation/