The Ultimate Spring Hat-Trick Turkey Destination…Plan Now for Next Year: Hunting, Fishing, Eating!

Chautauqua County turkeys, lots of 'em in spring.

  • Look for these Critical Elements to assure a great Turkey Hunt:
    • Woods, Waters, Streams, and Forage Resources
    • High-Harvest Average 
    • Lots of Public Hunting Land – it spreads out the hunters
    • Chautauqua County in New York meets the List!

By Mike Joyner

My Hat-Trick Gobbler – thanks to Jake Ensign for this photo.

Ultimate destination – a bold claim for a resource-laden state such as New York. To be clear, New York boasts many vibrant outdoor adventure meccas, but you’ll want to plan your next turkey hunting and spring fishing getaway to the outdoor paradise in Chautauqua County. Hunting and fishing interests are easy to satisfy and that’s the honest goal for every sportsman.

My recent hat-trick getaway to Chautauqua was memorable and was just what the doctor ordered to decompress and rejuvenate my busy business life. The excursion found me spring turkey hunting in the mornings with Jake Ensign, followed by an afternoon of fishing with Captain Frank Shoenacker of Infinity Charters. In the evenings, after the outings, I could choose from a smorgasbord of places to visit and explore. My base of operations would be at the Comfort Inn Hotel in Jamestown – it was close to Chautauqua Lake and the turkey woods. Perfect for the extra minutes of sleep needed when chasing gobblers.

I met up with Jake Ensign, a supreme hunting friend that lives nearby.

Jake provided an eye-opening personal tour of his game room, as he is one of only a few dozen archery hunters to successfully hunt all of the North American Big Game Species. It was evident to me, Jake had spent many years of dedicated preparation to be so successful. Jake goes the extra mile, the extra 10 miles, in making each hunt an exercise in due diligence. It is impressive even to a veteran turkey hunter like myself.

Jake Ensign hosted us on a private tour of North American Big Game critters that he took with his bow.

My introduction to the Chautauqua County turkey woods came early the next morning and did not disappoint. We started out just above a vineyard on a ridge top with plenty of roost trees. Plenty of sign was present.  Feathers, tracks, scat and dusting bowls were scattered about during our walk in and out. With the exception of two clucks further up the ridge behind us, we were greeted with a whisper quiet, yet beautiful morning. You could hear every sound and if a turkey gobbled, we could easily locate the bird and make an approach.

As the sunrise greeted us, a chorus of trains blasted their air horns providing shock gobble inspiration from nearby highway crossings far below us. The gobblers, however, opted to be of the strong and silent types. We gave it some time to let the place reveal itself and after several setups, we backed out to not disturb the location. Running and gunning was not the game plan that so many engage in when the action is at a lull. Jake had mentioned they have had many successful hunts in that spot. Assessing the area with such ample sign, I would agree. Of course, when you have plenty of Intel on an area, courtesy of Jake, you conduct each hunt more patiently.

Collin Voss, a young local outdoorsman, is sizing up this giant bear. He did admit, “Geez, he’s huge!”

After checking a number of properties in the southern region of the county we came upon a parcel not far from Route 86 and got an eager gobble in response to our pleas. With a flat ridge top that lay between us, we settled in to see if we could persuade him across. The wind had come up and it was a solid “maybe” as to whether or not the bird answered us after that. Thirty minutes later a report of something lesser than a 12ga shotgun rang out ahead of us, but much lower on the ridge on another property. We decided to back out. Consistent with other properties we checked, we would come across plenty of turkey sign including sets of gobbler tracks. We were in the middle of great turkey country

The first morning concluded with sightings of a few hens out bugging in the fields, as we searched for more gobblers to keep track of for the next hunt tomorrow.

Having hunted gobblers in nearly half of New York’s 62 counties, I would point out that the turkey woods of Chautauqua County are among the nicest woods I’ve ever set foot in. A quick review of the past 10 years of harvest data reveals Chautauqua as #1 in New York for turkey hunting harvest. In any given season, Chautauqua is always in the top echelon. With over 20,000 acres of public forests and a mix of land types and food sources, it would be a sound recommendation to add Chautauqua County to your annual spring and fall gobbler chasing vacations.

Before heading out for an afternoon of fishing with Captain Frank Shoenacker on Chautauqua Lake, Jake suggested that we have the best sandwich to be had anywhere (i.e. North America) for lunch. I naturally agreed. My sampling verified his suggestion. A trip to the Ashville General Store is must do stop during your time in the area. The “Jester” spicy turkey sub served hot is a turkey hunter-approved menu item (https://ashvillegeneral.com).

After that great lunch, I met up with Frank at the Bemus Point boat launch. The launch was easy to find and not far from the exit off Route 86 for Bemus Point. With eight boat launch sites available on Chautauqua Lake, there is ample access for all boaters (https://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/23907.html).  The Lund Tournament Pro-V was perfect on this beautiful, sunny afternoon. The Lund had a heavier hull and was stable, even in the slight chop we had.

Perfect boat for our day on Chautauqua Lake.

On this outing, Frank and I would both fish and that set the table for a relaxing time on the water. We fished simple, drifting live worms along weed beds and enjoyed lots of fun conversation. As Frank spends more time guiding than fishing, I invited him to fish too and our trip became perfect fun. We were using a killer rig, a homemade double-hook worm harness with a butterfly spinner made by Frank. It’s sort of a secret rig.

We were one of just a handful of boats on the water as you might expect at mid-week of the early season. We caught walleye, perch and a surprisingly large bullhead.  A perfect afternoon.

Captain Frank Shoenacker with his secret troll/drift rig to catch walleyes.

In his larger boat, Frank also guides on Lake Erie: Infinity Charters https://www.infinitycharters.com/. It is a fantastic way to plan an essential part of your Chautauqua Hat Trick.

Having fished Lake Erie in the past, it is also on my ‘A’ list to visit frequently.  I plan to return with my bride of nearly nineteen years to modify the hat trick concept, this time, to be a fishing and lazy-tourist combo. Lee, my wife, loves to fish, and I have promised her to revisit the region.

For the evening, I needed to visit the Southern Tier Brewing Company for a craft beer tasting and a pulled pork sandwich. Accompanied by their “Nitro Stout,” a great beer product, they earned my attention for another “must-do” stop while in the region. Their friendly staff and personal service were 5-star. 

Author’s favorite…Southern Tier Nitro Stout microbrew.

I caught up with Jake after dinner to plan the morning hunt and received good news. As Jake scouts at sunset periods, he has endless energy, he found two different turkeys roosted. This is the best kind of news to get when chasing gobblers. Again, another short night, but I would wake up 10 minutes before the alarm clock sounded. Excited? A little bit.

One prime spot we found in Chautauqua turkey country.

This last morning of my hunt, I would come to appreciate the dedicated strategies that Jakes executes. Our walk to the first roosted bird was in total silence, not a twig nor a dried leaf to reveal our progress. Jake routinely rakes and grooms his paths for stealthy approaches to known roosting areas. It is this extra effort that ups the odds for a successful hunt.

As daylight approached, a hen began to yelp on the limb, not sixty yards from where I sat. Jake mimicked her and I would also respond with muted tree yelps. No gobbling nearby, but one volley of gobbles came from the second location that Jake had marked the night before. It was a little over 250 yards from us. Once the hen flew down, she walked right past Jakes’ location as he sat motionless. She fed away. Once she left, we moved up about 100 yards toward a low swampy area where we had heard the gobbling.

We got a quick response from four different gobblers once we sat down and began calling from our new position. They had closed the distance, spotting them moving to my left around the swamp at 80 yards. They were circling and closing fast. As seconds seemed far too long, the most aggressive and vocal of the birds marched in and would stop within range to survey for the hen. The brilliant red, white and blue heads of the gang of four was impressive. The boom that followed sent the other three back as quickly as they came. Maybe a little faster, as I think of it.

The turkey woods was picturesque with a lush green canopy newly emerged. It was a great hunt in a beautiful hardwood forest. It also reaffirmed the wisdom for scouting, roosting, letting the hunt play out, and having patience. All of these hallmark attributes describe Jakes’ approach to turkey hunting.

My hat-trick gobbler was right on time, thanks to the good scouting of my buddy, Jake Ensign, who snapped this photo. Jake Ensign Photo

We concluded the hunt with a hearty breakfast which always tastes a little better after a successful hunt! We’ll catch up again in the near future to hunt next year when I am sure to return!

There are so many places to visit here. Great eateries, wineries, breweries, entertainment venues – something for everyone.

I have planned a returned visit for next year, stay tuned!

© 2019 Mike Joyner- Joyner Outdoor Media

South Carolina passes new turkey regulations to bolster declining populations

South Carolina passes new turkey regulations. NWTF Photo

The National Wild Turkey Federation applauds the South Carolina legislature for passing a bill addressing declining turkey populations. The bill will restructure season dates and limits for residents and nonresidents.

The new structure creates two regional season periods: April 1 – May 10 for the upstate and March 22 – April 30 in the Lowcountry. The NWTF is pleased with the later season opener in the upstate as it more closely coincides with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources’ original proposal of April 10 as a start date.

Other provisions in the bill are designed to help reverse the statewide decline in wild turkey populations and they include:

  • a daily bag limit of one bird;
  • a one-bird limit in the first 10 days of the season, which is intended to reduce early season harvest so more gobblers will be available for breeding early in the season;
  • state residents will still be able to take three birds during the season and nonresidents will be allowed to take two;
  • a fee for turkey tags will be implemented to support future wild turkey research and management;
  • and finally, the bill makes possible the development of an electronic check-in system for reporting harvests.

South Carolina State NWTF Chapter board members testified multiple times in the House and Senate promoting a later season open date, and NWTF members sent more than 5,000 messages to their senators and representatives.

“We thank our members for their participation in the legislative process, and our legislators, particularly committee chairs Senator Chip Campsen (R-43) and Representative Bill Hixon (R-83), for taking the time to craft the legislation,” said Joel Pedersen, NWTF director of government affairs.

“We couldn’t have made the progress we did without the help of our state board and NWTF members who contacted their legislators,” said Dal Dyches, South Carolina’s state chapter president. “Although this isn’t a perfect bill, we believe it is a step in the right direction for the state’s wild turkey population.”

About the National Wild Turkey Federation: When the National Wild Turkey Federation was founded in 1973, there were about 1.3 million wild turkeys in North America. After decades of work, that number hit a historic high of almost 7 million turkeys. To succeed, the NWTF stood behind science-based conservation and hunters’ rights. The NWTF Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt. initiative is a charge that mobilizes science, fundraising and devoted volunteers to raise $1.2 billion to conserve and enhance more than 4 million acres of essential wildlife habitat, recruit at least 1.5 million hunters and open access to 500,000 acres for hunting. For more information, visit NWTF.org

For more information, contact Pete Muller at (803) 637-7698

 

 

Outwit the Wiley Spring Gobbler, Fit Right In with X JAGD’s Net Top Layer

  • How to Morph Into the Woods…Dress Right
  • Conceal Your Location by Choice

BESSEMER, Ala. (March 1, 2018) — There are few things more agonizing than working a wild turkey almost into shooting distance, only to have him bust you because he didn’t like what he saw. X JAGD, the acclaimed Austrian-based clothing company that utilizes the most high-tech materials in its clothing, offers the Net top-layer line that is the perfect head-to-toe camouflage mesh for the turkey hunter that allows him to dissolve into his surroundings and deceive the wild turkey’s keen eyesight.

For the most part, temperatures during turkey season can range from mild to downright hot, and as such, X JAGD’s Net camouflage can be worn over any clothing to provide complete concealment without body heat retention. The X JAGD line of Net clothing includes the Jacket, Cape, Pants, Balaclava and Gloves. The material is lightweight and produces no noise when moving.

Each piece of clothing in the Net line is available in two specially designed X JAGD Demorphing® patterns that are perfect for turkey hunting: The Woodland Effect (best suitedfor wooded areas) and the Mountain Effect (the perfect choice for areas mainly characterized by stone and rock formations). This clothing packs very small and takes up very little space, so it can be on hand any time it may be needed.

“The X JAGD Net clothing is perfect for the two million turkey hunters that will be heading to the woods this spring in hopes of successfully bagging a wary gobbler,” said Scott O’Brien, CEO of Steyr Arms, the exclusive importer and distributor of X JAGD products in the U.S. “Because the X JAGD Net clothing goes over other clothing for complete concealment, it is perfect for any weather conditions and for any hunt, not just turkey hunting. Just wear the appropriate clothing underneath, and then put on the lightweight and silent X JAGD Net top layer to dissolve into the environment.”

All X JAGD Net clothing is currently available online at www.xjagd-usa.com for the following suggested retail prices:

  • Jacket – $101 (M, L, XL)
  • Cape – $118 (M, L, XL)
  • Pants – $90 (S, M, L, XL)
  • Balaclava – $53 (M, L, XL)
  • Gloves – $36 (M, L)

About X JAGD – X JAGD outdoor clothing brand utilizes exceptional, cutting-edge “intelligent materials” to create top-tier performance and reliability. The five X JAGD Demorphing camouflage designs are truly unique and allow hunters to completely dissolve into their environment. Steyr Arms is X JAGD’s exclusive U.S. importer and distributor. For more information, contact Steyr Arms at 2530 Morgan Rd., Bessemer, AL 35022; call (205) 417-8644; or visit www.xjagd-usa.com for more details.

 

 

TURKEY HUNTING SECRETS: CALL THEM – Part 2 of 3

  • Learn the Language of Turkey Talk
  • Clucking, Yelping, Cutting, Cackling and more
  • Realism, Patience, Sounds and Tones

By Jim Monteleone

Try to learn with as many calls as possible, there are box calls, pot calls, tube calls and mouth calls (the most effective).

A lot of folks believe that the skill in calling turkeys is the most critical element of hunting.  Although it plays a significant part in filling a tag, I consider it about 33 percent of the outcome.  

Part one focused on finding turkeys.  You can’t call what you can’t locate!  

Part one also mentioned the knowledge of the bird, so understanding turkey talk is the key to what specific vocalization will work and when to use it.  This is what I call getting into the gobblers head.

Turkey talk begins with the most simple of sounds, the “cluck.”

Turkeys make this sound more than any other, by far.  It means “Here I am.”  It can mean “come here,” or in conjunction with some purring, it can mean “this is my feeding area.”

The cluck is generally made throughout the day.  

It’s worth mentioning turkeys can recognize each other’s “voice.” This is especially true in the fall when hens and poults form a flock.

The yelp takes on multiple meanings depending on the rhythm, volume and cadence of the sounds.

Call just enough to make the birds try to find you. Patience is key. Joe Forma Photo

There is an assembly call that gathers a flock and a mating yelp as well.

Yelps and clucks are used in very low volume tree calling.  They (yelps) are also incorporated with an excited and loud fly down cackle.

The other loud call is “cutting” and this can be a game changer for spring hunting.

Cutting to a gobbler is from a receptive and frustrated or angry hen.

Cutting can be used along with yelping to impart a scenario where the hen is “pleading” to the gobbler to join her.  In nature, this becomes a standoff between the hen and the gobbler when neither is yielding ground.  

Hens have territorial boundaries and my theory is that the hen knows that leaving her territory is likely to cause another hen to fight.

Gobblers travel in overlapping boundaries to find and breed as many hens as possible.

I have literally taught young hunters to call using nothing but a yelp and a cluck on a friction call at seminars.  They learn in minutes.

Realism is another factor in raising your skill level.  

Birds call in one form or another all day, but situational realism is what fools a turkey.

A fly down cackle includes a couple of clucks after a series of fast yelps.

A cackle is only seven or eight notes that begins with a few yelps and leads to quick excited yelps.

An assembly call starts with moderate volume yelping and goes a little faster and louder with each note for a total of maybe twelve to fourteen notes.

Mating yelps (from the hen) can start slow and speed up or just the opposite, starting fast and tailing off.

The gobbler will let you know what he likes if he is cutting the distance by moving toward your location.

This bearded hen is a bit unusual in nature, but it happens. Joe Forma Photo

Realism isn’t calling back to him every time he gobbles.  

Yelping too often will generally cause the bird to stand his ground.  Make him look for you by throwing your calls from what seems to be a different direction.  Using a mouth call, you do this by moving the palm of your hand in front of your face like a baffle to simulate the bird’s movement.

There is more on calling and closing the deal in the next segment.

In regard to calling, nothing beats practice and most of the hen vocalizations can be heard on You Tube with keys words “Turkey calling.”

Try to learn with as many calls (box calls, pot calls, tube calls and especially mouth calls) as possible.

With practice, you can replicate all the sounds a hen turkey makes with a diaphragm mouth call.  

A diaphragm mouth call is the most versatile and requires no hand movement.  Except it requires one thing more: practice, practice, practice!

 

 

TURKEY HUNTING SECRETS – What’s Your Secret??? Part 1 of 3

  • Learn How to Develop Your Own Turkey Hunting Expertise
  • Learn Where to Sit, What to Look For, Where to Locate Turkey
  • Learn about Calls to Use, Decoy Set-Up, Location

By Jim Monteleone

This mature Missouri tom came in to visit for the last time in a place I never hunted before.

A friend of mine asked me a long time ago what my secret was to killing two turkeys in Virginia every year.  I could have offered up some tactic that he would have accepted as borderline magic, but the secret is that there are no secrets!

Experience over 40-plus seasons has taught me a few things, but the key to filling tags is simple.

I had an outline for seminars entitled “FIND them, CALL them and TAG them”.  This will be the focus of a three part series. Each of these elements are critical to your potential success.

Knowing the bird and his habitat – therein lays the most critical knowledge in the sport of turkey hunting.  I know this because I’ve hunted turkeys in many states.  I’ve hunted in places that I knew very, very well.  And I also have hunted in places that I walked into for the first time as a guest.

From the Deep South to the far north, and even the western states, I’ve seen and called in birds that were chased and harassed almost on a daily basis in the spring.

Here is what I know.

I know there are places were turkeys like to be in the morning and what they do after “fly down.”  It’s a huge advantage to know where they roost.  Someone once said, “Roosted ain’t roasted,” and that’s true, but being within a hundred yards at sunrise is a huge advantage.

Instincts play a huge role in getting into the brain of a turkey.

Hens go to the gobbler (usually a dominant bird) in order to breed.

Hens seek out openings in which to nest. The places like pastures and clear cuts draw insects and that’s what young turkeys eat.

So a hen will stake out a territory near an opening.

Gobblers strut to gain the attention of receptive hens.  They do this in fields and on open hardwood ridges.  So you might want to sound like a hen, but you have to think like a gobbler.

The fun to be found turkey hunting is endless.  It’s exciting.  This series is about sharing some things I have learned to help you be successful. Joe Forma Photo

Finding turkeys is not just in locating openings.

They need water every day, so there has to be a water source in the area.

They need grit to process the foods they ingest and they like to dust in warm weather that supports insect life.

Fleas, ticks and mosquitoes get into their feathers and dusting is the turkey’s way of getting rid of them.

Roost trees can be anywhere, but most often they are on the fringes of an opening or within a hundred yards. If you can locate these trees you are ready for business.

Although be careful not to crowd the tree and possibly scatter and spook the birds.

Birds will gobble and yelp from the roost.

Being there an hour before official sunrise is always my goal.

I’m there to listen!

I go in quietly and I listen.

I set up my decoys and I listen.

When I hear the first turkey sound, I wait to see if there are both hens and gobblers or just hens.  If there are any birds, I’m glued to that spot.

You won’t often find just hens.

If all you hear are gobblers it may be a small group (2-4) of jakes.

A single bird gobbling is a pretty good bet to be a mature long beard.

Your set up is critical.

I try to be on higher ground than the bird because my outline won’t be totally visible if he’s coming up a rise.

My back is against a bigger tree, but not the biggest tree.

The biggest tree is where our eyes go and I believe that holds true for the gobbler too.

I have one knee up to rest my shotgun and I alter my position slightly to allow a solid aiming point in the direction of the last gobble I hear.  I make small adjustments (an inch or two) slowly until I can see the bird.

In summary for part 1, birds need food, water, open woods or a clearing to be found in an area.

Preseason scouting should reveal at least a starting point.

No preseason calling unless it’s a locator call like an owl hooter or a crow call.

Educating the birds in preseason by yelping is a really poor idea.

Birds tend to gobble more on clear, cool days when there is very little wind, but I hunt every chance I get. I have killed birds before, during and after some rain on gray, windy days.

More on calling and bringing a bird into shotgun range in Part 2, tomorrow.

 

SPOT & STALK TURKEY HUNTING

  • Effective, but BE VERY CAREFUL
  • Recommended ONLY ON PRIVATE, SECURED LAND
  • Tactics & Techniques

By Tyer Mahoney

When everything goes right, your stalk the long way around to expected turkey location is rewarded.

Heavy rain and wind can put the turkeys in a funk where they don’t gobble or respond to calls.  Severe rain can wash out nests, which means hens must breed again, thus prolonging the “henned up” effect every turkey hunter dreads.  Other times, such as late season, gobblers can be plain uncooperative and won’t investigate decoys or your calling.

So what do you do?

Simple.  It’s time to get on your feet and close the distance.  Although it’s not quite the same as a strutting tom marching into your decoys, spot and stalk turkey hunting can be just as exciting and rewarding, though your safety is of key interest in manner of hunting.

I have enjoyed much success stalking turkeys on secure, private land, but learned the most from my failures.  Whether you are by yourself or with a hunting partner, I have learned several strategies to follow when you begin your stalk.

Before you begin any spot and stalk, be sure of your surroundings and possible hunters that may be in your area.  I highly recommend you only do this on private land.

SPOTTING

This might seem like the easy part, but there are several factors you must keep in mind.

First, turkeys always find a way to be where you least expect.  As you approach your glassing point, stay in cover and below the line of sight of the area you think may have turkeys.  Always abide by the rule that if you can see out in the field, then whatever is out there can see you.

Also, stay in the shadows as much as possible, which should be relatively easy if you have good timber.  Ideally, you will make your way to a spot where you can see a good distance across a field that may be a strutting zone.  Along with a large field of view, your glassing point should be accessible to a good route to make your stalk.

Next, move slowly until you spot your bird.  One of the biggest mistakes I have made is quickly glancing across a field, seeing nothing, and then hustling to my next viewing area.  It is only then I realize I’ve spooked a strutting tom standing below a rise in the field I could not see from my first position.

Many people hunt from a blind to start their day.  If you’re like me, you have had plenty of times where birds hang up in the distance or won’t commit because they are with hens.  During set-up, be sure to position your blind so the entrance is facing away from where the turkeys are likely to be located.  In case you need to close the distance on foot, that allows you to exit your blind into cover without disturbing the turkeys.

STALKING

Once you have eyes on a gobbler, the fun part begins.  You will proceed with many of the same strategies you used to spot him.

Stalking works best in certain conditions.  After a rain or in the early morning when everything is still damp, you can move much quieter.  In addition, use the wind to your advantage.  If you must cover a large distance quickly, move as far as you can when the wind picks up and stop when it dies down again. And remember the golden rule, if you are in sight of the field, whatever is in the field can see you too. Stay below their line of sight!

If your turkey is on the move, always take the long way around to get out in front.  It might be more work, but I have failed most of the time when I tried to take the most direct route to the birds.  Taking the long way around allows you to stay in better cover and leaves more room for error on your part.  For example, you will inevitably step on a fallen branch in your haste.  If you’ve maintained a wide circle, inadvertent noises or movement shouldn’t spook the turkey.

As you get closer, you will more than likely lose sight of the birds at times.  When you stop to check the position of your gobbler, be sure you are next to a large tree or thick brush.  This will allow you to hide quickly in case he surprises you.

SHOOTING

If you follow the above guidelines, you will most likely end up with a shot opportunity.  You can always increase your chances by carrying a turkey fan with you as well.  Pop that up in front of you, in sight of the tom and many times he will close the distance running right at you!

Most importantly, remember to use the rules of hunter safety and to always be aware of your surroundings!

Spot and stalk is best done in an area where you are certain no other hunters are around.  In some parts of the country, this manner of hunting is not permitted.

Good luck and happy stalking!