My formative years in the turkey woods were spent on big properties. Some public, some private, but they all had one thing in common – plenty of room to roam.
Due to that trend, I also spent those years running and gunning with a shotgun in my hands. It was a good learning experience because if I blew it with a bird or three, I could usually find another somewhere else on the property.
While I still chase gobblers on big properties, I’m also currently saddled to smaller parcels. Where I live, just north of the Twin Cities, is full of people. This means the properties are smaller, and public lands tend to run small. The public ground that doesn’t, usually features enough pressure to cause a claustrophobic feeling.
When I started hunting properties 15 to 30 acres for turkeys, I realized my old ways wouldn’t hack it. I can walk from one end of these properties and back in about the time it takes to eat a sandwich, so going after birds is a different proposition.
I’ve had to look at all of my small-property hunts as if they are more like a deer bowhunt. For starters, it’s much more necessary to mitigate pressure on the birds when the room to roam isn’t there.
Just like with deer, the more you go in and mess with turkeys in a certain place, the sooner they’ll just avoid it. I find myself planning how to get in and out without getting spotted by any birds.
I also find myself thinking a lot more about the best spot in which to set up my ambush. I’m not looking for an area on these properties, I’m looking for the exact place I should be.
Sometimes there is a little food plot or clearing that makes it a no-brainer, but in others it’s not so cut and dry. I’ve got one 29-acre property without any obvious turkey spots. Half of it is wetland (no good for gobblers) and half of it is deciduous forest. It’s long and skinny, and not exactly what you’d conjure up in your mind if I asked you to think up a perfect turkey spot.
Knowing this, I’ve had to spend time looking over aerial photos and walking the property in the spring. The birds I’m hunting there are spending most of their time on the neighbors’ ground. This means I’ve got to figure out where they are most likely to swing through the spots I can hunt, and when they’ll be most susceptible to my calling.
The “where” in the equation boils down to scouting and proximity to roosting or feeding areas. I like getting on a bird right at sunrise while he struts back and forth on an oak limb, but I’d much rather hunt a food source where turkeys can, and will, show up all day long.
The “when” plays a much bigger role on tiny properties versus larger tracts. I have a few places that simply don’t have a lot of birds, meaning I’m better off waiting for the best conditions to hunt them. This keeps me glued to weather sites for up-to-date information, and often causes me to change my plans.
When I’m forced to sit tight and try to coax birds into my setup, I want to know Mother Nature is working in my favor. For turkeys this means bluebird skies and as little wind as possible. It doesn’t hurt if birds have been rained on during the night, especially if the clouds have drifted away to allow the sun to poke through during the first hour of daylight.
Planning around the right weather conditions, is largely a function of, once again, mitigating pressure and tipping the odds in my favor. As a last method for trying to tag out on diminutive parcels, I pay extra attention to camouflage. With a shotgun I’ll make a quality natural blind, but with archery gear it’s pop-up blinds or nothing. In that case, I brush them in like I’m deer hunting.
You’ll only get so many chances on small properties to bag a longbeard, tip the odds in your favor by scouting, playing the weather and hunting when the birds are most likely to be fired up, and you’ll be much better off.