For the next few weeks every weekend will be filled with turkey calling contests, seminars and questions on how to kill a turkey. I was at a show last weekend and I have officially got the fever. After standing in the aisles for three days hearing stories about turkeys killed over the years, it makes a man want to hit the woods.
So far this year the question that I have been getting over and over is “what is the best call this year?” Believe it or not this is not a simple answer. There are a lot of different calls that do a lot of different things with different sounds. Some of them require a lot more practice and patience than some of the easier calls. For the beginners, I always recommend Knight and Hale’s easy Push Pull Calls. All you have to do is push or pull the peg and it will make several different and effective sounds. I know guys that have been very successful in killing turkeys over the years and this call has been a big part of it. The advantage this call has over other friction calls is that it is capable of one had operation. The slate and box calls are fairly easy for a beginner to use also, but they will require a little more practice to make the proper sounds.
The most popular, and my favorite, is the mouth diaphragm call. Even though it is the most difficult call to master, with a lot of practice you can make every call in a turkey’s vocabulary. This call also has a lot of advantages to a hunter. It allows you to have both hands on your weapon of choice to be ready to shoot at all times. Also it doesn’t require any movement to use this call, which allows less chance of a sharp-eyed gobbler spotting you.
After selecting a call and becoming familiar with it enough to sound somewhat like a turkey, rhythm is the main thing to work on. Wild turkeys don’t sound as good as most turkey hunters do, but they have a smooth cadence when calling and that makes a big difference.
Competency with calls is only part of what a hunter needs when hunting these birds. Being a great caller is all well and good but if you don’t know what you are saying or when to say it you could be wasting your time. There have been times when the best call I have made was none at all. I try and let the birds dictate how much and how often I call but every bird is different and they act different as the season goes on also. Everyone has a call that they like and use more than others and they all will work, but the best advice that I can give is use the one that you have confidence in and stick with it. If you have confidence in the call you won’t be se
Depending on where you live, for the last couple of months you have probably had plenty of rain or plenty of snow. For us we have had so much rain it isn’t even funny. Every day when I come home I am expecting to see some of my neighbors building an arc. The creek that runs through my front yard has made it look more like a pond than a yard. I know not very long ago we were praying for rain to get out of a drought but we are good now and could use a beak.
Every year after deer season is over I am very anxious to see which deer made it through. With all the pressure around most of the areas I hunt you would think it would take a miracle for a buck to make it. Every year it seems like a couple of weeks after the season we have some good deer show up and give us a lot of hope for the coming season. This year has been a little different so far because the good bucks haven’t showed yet.
A lot of guys take their trail cameras down after the season ends but I keep mine out to see what was left after the season. There isn’t a better way to keep up with the deer this time of year because after being hunted relentlessly for the last several months they are totally nocturnal. So far this year every week when I go out and check my camera I am expecting to see some good ones, but it hasn’t happened yet. Although the big ones haven’t shown up yet I have had a lot of up and combers using my food plots.
This year my dad and I added another four acres of food plots on our farm in hopes of attracting more deer to the area. Our goal was to have so much food for the deer that if they come through here they wouldn’t want leave, and if they did they would remember it and come back. For the most part our theory worked even though neither one of us took a deer off of the farm. We could tell the difference in the number of deer that were using it. With all of the young bucks we have right now it looks like we have a promising future if the poachers will leave them alone and our neighbors will let them live.
- By Brandon Wikman
When chasing whitetails with a bow in the confinements of branches, bushes, and brush blows, here’s a new tactic to try. Hunt your way to success inside a standing cornfield.
Standing corn offers a new set of challenges to desperate hunters drooling to fill their tag. Whitetails alter patterns, change bedding areas, and morph into an entirely different species during this time of year. Deer will completely modify their instincts after being pressured for nearly four months. I’ve spoken with many successful hunters who’ve found themselves nose-to-nose with bedded deer in rows of cornfields. Here are a few strategies that I’ve learned from the wise.
Hunting in a cornfield with a bow is a technique I suggest all hunters try. Deer are often caught off guard because they rarely spot hunters sneaking up on them in a cornfield setting. This will give you a genuine opportunity of putting venison in the freezer before season closes.
The hustle and bustle of sportsmen and women cluttered in the city of Columbus, Ohio the second week of January has moved on. The camouflage clans of thousands that scurried the streets and hotels have now been replaced with the normal casual business-wearing professionals. The 2010 ATA Show came to a close, but not without the burning embers of creativity, innovation, and enlightenment still smoking.
I haven’t missed the ATA Show in the last four years. The show has always been an incredible opportunity to network with fellow industry associates, catch a glimpse of new products, and meet infamous hunting icons. Many outdoor companies depend on this tradeshow to produce big business for them. The companies’ longevity and livelihood is at stake. An array of insightful ideas, concepts, and technologies are shared between individuals during this famed time. Sadly, this year I missed everything.
My plans to attend the ATA Show had been in the works for the last few months. I had reservations at a hotel, meetings scheduled, and not to mention a harem of people I wanted to chitchat with. My anticipation was as high as ever before, considering I had new plans to launch in effect for my clinic, Wik’s World Outdoors Camp. My flames of excitement were soon drenched with a bucket of water before I even made it halfway to Ohio.
During the endless interstate drive, I couldn’t help but noticed my vehicle’s gears stalling. The seamless shifting became staccato and gas pedal barely ignited any zoom! As I cruised at a mild 65mph, all dreams of arriving to Columbus shattered when my transmission light illuminated my trucks dash. It was over.
I tossed on my hazards and pulled over to the side of the road. I was not only shocked wordless, but utterly furious. My truck crippled hundreds of miles from home, along an interstate with cars and semis racing arms’ distance away. As I pulled out my AAA card, a cloud of gloom hovered over my vehicle and me. I knew this was going to be a long afternoon.
A tow truck was more than happy to safely haul me off the interstate and into a large parking lot. I was able to contact a very good friend who owns a gooseneck trailer. He was gracious enough to drive clear across Wisconsin, through Illinois, and break into the boundary line of the Hoosier State. I waited seven hours for my friend to arrive and save any dignity of life I had in me.
We drove back to Wisconsin with a bummed attitude and fraction of glee. After everything was said and done, I was just glad to be back home, safe and sound.
The transmission has been fixed after a large chunk of change exchanged. I hope to attend most of the upcoming Midwestern Deer and Turkey expos with my vehicle back in action.
For the past couple of weeks here in the South it has been a lot colder than normal. We usually have a few days of extremely cold weather and in February. There has been ice on the lake and some of the smaller ponds have been completely covered with ice. This is normal for a lot of the country, but we are not used to this kind of winter.
The good thing about all of the cold temperatures this time of year is that duck season is open and maybe it will push a few ducks our way. Where we live in the Eastern Flyway, we need all the help we can get to bring ducks in front of our blind. For the most part all we have to hunt are resident birds and it takes a lot for us to get a push of migratory birds. Well, the cold weather did the trick, bringing some ducks and geese to a pond that we have permission to hunt.
As you would guess, by the time Saturday morning came around, so did the temperatures. All three of us were dressed for cold, but by the time we had carried the decoys and gear to where we were making our stand we were roasting. We got our decoys spread after shucking some cloths well before shooting light, which gave us time to do what duck hunters do, drink coffee and tell stories.
With rain coming in later in the day it took forever to get daylight. When it did get light enough to shoot the first ducks, in came four wood ducks. When they dropped over the trees and into the pond they were below the tree line and we couldn’t see to shoot at them until they started up and got above the trees once again. By that time we were all screwed up and none of us cut a feather on any of the ducks.
With all of us shooting a couple of times when we were reloading there was a lot of honking coming from the other end of the pond and getting closer. Looking up there were about twenty geese that had roosted on the other end of the pond coming straight down the pipe at us trying to get out of there. When they got on top of us it was on and after the shooting stopped we had knocked two out of the air. The two of us on the right were able to get one a piece but the guy all the way to the left didn’t get a shot because some trees had him blocked out. After the geese got out of there it was slow for a while until a lone merganser came buzzing straight into the decoys and the guy all the way to the left redeemed himself with one shot. We stayed out there until about ten o’clock and finally headed in.
It was not the best day of duck hunting but I have had a whole lot worse. Our problem on this hunt is that we all had to work earlier in the week when the ducks were here. We had some bad luck but we were lucky those geese had roosted there or it could have been a whole lot worse. Hopefully with us having a couple of weeks of duck season left we will have the chance to get another hunt in before it closes.
The majority of the Midwest’s terrain is still disguised with golden acres of cornfields. Thousands of acres stretch across Missouri all the way to Ohio. Much of 2009’s corn crop has been extremely damp due to unseasonable weather conditions, which makes harvesting cobs and kernels worthless. Farmers must have local co-ops dry their corn in specialized dryers, which costs a fortune and makes the initial harvesting barely worth their time.
I believe standing cornfields in late December and early January provide just as many positive aspects as negative ones to hunters and deer alike. Corn is enriched with carbohydrates, which allow deer to boost energy and bolster their strength to survive during the harsh winter months. Food sources become severely slim when snow plasters the ground and ice blankets atop. It truly becomes a ruthless battle for survival of the fittest. There’s nothing more palatable to a whitetail than a mouthful of kernels. Custom food plots hunters prepare during the fall season are usually torn up and devoured by this time, but not when it comes to hundreds of acres of corn.
Deer often bed, feed, and live in large fields of corn throughout the fall and winter months. Mature whitetails feel extremely comfortable and secure in the confinement of rows, especially if the field is “dirty.” Dirty refers to weedy or an overgrowth of vegetation inside the field. Thickly covered fields strangled in weeds attract more deer than clean and tidy ones. Deer always feel much more safe in dense and heavier cover. Hunters must make no mistake in finding high spots, wet areas, or places where the planter has plugged up to find the best bedding sites.
Slight changes in landscape such as slopes provide deer a vantage point to spot oncoming predators. It’s critical to focus on any slight alterations in the terrain when finding the hottest bedding sites. During the fall, when winter hasn’t frozen any open watered mud holes, find them! These places found in lower areas of the field work wonders when high temperatures scorch into the upper 80’s and 90’s. Deer will often stretch their legs during the midday to sip a cool refreshing gulp of water. Lastly, farmers often plug up their planter when lying seed on the ground. This makes a cluster of tall corn that masks deer while bedding. Animals use the same instincts in the corn as they would in the forest.
When much of the Midwest has stormed through firearm season and is now back to late season archery tactics. We must understand that many whitetails have adapted to the comfort zone of cornfields during this time. Deer drives, human sightings, and a huge elevation of hunting pressure drive many whitetail into standing fields. There have been a great number of giant bucks that made it through 2009 thanks to standing corn. They’ve used it as a hot food source and an overwhelmingly fantastic place to get some shuteye throughout daylight hours.
As the season dwindles into mere days, we must take full advantage of hunting cornfields. It’s important to keep an open mind during to this time of year to fill your tag. Look for sign, such as tracks, droppings, and trails to improve your success when hunting late season whitetail!
As usual as soon deer season is over, the shows start and it is time to see all of the new products for the year. A few days after I got back from Kansas I had to attend a dealer show for four days and sell products for the upcoming year. There are a lot of neat products that are coming out this year. After getting home from the show and spending some time with my little boy it wasn’t long until he was asking me about going hunting. He thinks everything is deer hunting and doesn’t realize that the season is over. After trying to explain to him that deer season was over, I told him that we could go squirrel hunting when I got off of work Monday afternoon. The problem is the arctic weather that I thought we left in Kansas must have followed us home.
As soon as I got off and picked him up we got bundled up and hit the woods. He was pretty excited even though I don’t think he actually knew what we were doing other than carrying a gun through the woods. We crossed a small creek and headed to a ridge where I see a lot of squirrels throughout deer season and thought we would have the best chance there. About halfway across the ridge we sat down against an old white oak and I told Tye that we should sit still for a little while and the squirrels would come back out.
Keeping him quiet wasn’t as bad as you would think; the little rascal is really funny in the woods. When he talks he uses his “hunting voice,” which is a whisper you can hardly hear. After sitting for about ten minutes we spotted a squirrel across the creek on the opposite ridge so I grabbed the rifle and Tye and we took off after our quarry. As you can expect, by the time we got to the other ridge the squirrel was up a tree and in his hide out. Tye’s hunting voice was long gone and he was asking where “did the squirrel go daddy?” After telling him how squirrels live in trees, what a nest is, and why they don’t live on the ground, we decided to sit and wait to see if he would come back out.
It is amazing to me that during deer season there are squirrels everywhere all the time, but when we go out to hunt them they disappear. We got a late start as it was and right before we were going to give up there was one last little grey squirrel that was looking for a meal that stuck his head out. Luckily enough Tye was able to see the squirrel before the shot and see what was going on. The squirrel hit the ground about twenty yards from us and when he landed Tye headed out after him not knowing what damage a squirrel can do to a finger. I caught up to him before he got to the squirrel and made sure it was okay for him to pick it up. He did pick it up but there was a look of confusion on his face as to what kind of animal he was holding.
With us getting lucky at the last minute it made for a great afternoon squirrel hunt. That was our first squirrel hunt. Small game hunting is a laid back, carefree type of hunt that can be enjoyed with friends all hours of the day. I haven’t been squirrel hunting in a long time, but it looked like Tye had himself a ball, and as long as he enjoys it he and I will have to make this a weekly hunt.
The last few days have proved to be a challenging race against time as I stuff my suitcases plump full en route to Wisconsin before year’s end. I’ve been chilled on stand for five sits now. The weather was picture-perfect. The hunting has been incredible; buck sightings above average, and doe speckle the agriculture fields everywhere.
We just haven’t had the stroke of luck to put a trophy buck on the ground. The problem that has stripped our ability to pattern bucks has been the abundance of food availability. Custom food plots work wonders when temperatures dip into the teens, but not exactly when there are other food sources in the area, such as standing corn.
Thousands of acres painted in golden rows blanket the rolling terrain of Northern Missouri. Standing corn has been the main culprit to hiding the giant whitetail that roams this vast landscape. Giant whitetail is what I’m after. Due to soggy weather conditions across the Midwest this year, many farmers have found themselves drenched with bad luck. The moisture levels in crop corn have been unusually high thanks to a lot of rain and wet weather during the harvest months of fall season. Several farmers across the country, including my uncle, had to leave their corn standing hoping that moisture would drop significantly before paying unreasonable amounts to dry it at the co-op. Many farmers are just beginning to break out the combines and do work on the snow infested fields. My uncle just started his up yesterday.
We’ve battled stormy blizzard conditions and sub-zero temperatures on a daily basis, but last night spurred to be our best evening sit yet. The stands wrapped around a tree that overlooked a standing cornfield. Hundreds of acres of corn, thousands of golden cobs, and a spectacular location amounted to our most deer sightings yet. Twenty doe funneled into the field before sunset, while the bucks waited a little longer before entering the field. A small eight-point with a handful of yearlings drifted towards the center of the field toward all of the doe. Every deer was within a hundred yards, which would make an ideal shot for the muzzleloader. Unfortunately, the big boys didn’t step into the shooting lanes until later in the evening when camera light dwindled.
As I peered through my scope at the 4-½ year old ten-point, my teeth chattered as my heart sunk into my throat. This was a perfect example of the con’s involved in capturing a hunt on film. Video cameras can’t record quality footage during low light conditions. I watched the buck disappear into the cornfield, while I faded into the back of my stand’s seat, heart broken.
I’d just like to thank Mr. Hill and guide Dustin Fortner for providing a fantastic hunting adventure to cease the last trip of my 2009 season. The year has been a whirlwind of broken success, shattered dreams, and the occasional enlightenment that has kept us going. I wish everyone luck as most states continue their late season hunting until mid-January. God bless and good luck.