Minnesota Outdoorsman - Minnesota Fishing and Hunting Reports
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Top 5 Turkey Hunting States


Spring is upon us!  Chirping birds now compliment the early morning cup of coffee, fresh scented rains wash away winter's paleness, temperatures begin to warm, and best of all, the rising sun acts as an orchestra conductor, sounding off thunderous toms and yelping hens!  Ahhh, another hunting season has arrived.

The restoration of wild turkey populations across the country is one of the greatest feats of modern conservation.  They currently exist in all 50 states, yup, you can actually book a turkey hunt while vacationing in Hawaii!  While so many states offer great turkey hunting opportunities, I set out to ask some of the leaders in the field to give me a list of their Top 5 Turkey Hunting States.  The results were clear, and they indicate the abundance of turkeys throughout the U.S., as 18 separate states were listed out of a possible 30 different choices from the six "seasoned" turkey hunters.  Take a look and see how your state faired.  However, don't be discouraged if it's not listed, it's probably just because they haven't hunted there yet.

The Top 5 Turkey Hunting Destinations:

  1. Florida - Having the earliest season in the U.S. and only place to chase Osceolas, it's no surprise that Florida stood apart as a must-hunt destination on 5 out of the 6 hunter's lists.
  2. Missouri - The heart of the Eastern Turkey range and source of many transplanted birds that contributed to population restoration success across many states, especially in the Great Lakes Region.  The abundant population and generous two bird limit ranked Missouri high on 3 out of the 6 lists.
  3. Kansas - It's as good of a turkey hunting state as it is a deer hunting state.  Kansas offers the chance to chase 3 subspecies within state lines: Easterns, Hybrids, and Rios…no wonder it ranked within the Top 5 on 3 out of the 6 hunter's lists.
  4. Nebraska - A premiere destination to chase Merriams' and Hybrids.  Tags are over-the-counter for residents and non-residents alike, and they offer a special early archery season, which put Nebraska in the Top 5 on 3 out of the 6 hunters' lists.
  5. South Dakota - Narrowly edging out Kentucky for the final spot in the Top 5, South Dakota's strong Merriam's population makes it a popular destination for those chasing a grand slam.  The diverse landscape and multiple subspecies allowed South Dakota to crack the Top 5 on 2 out of the 6 hunter's lists.

Best Camo Patterns for Turkey Season

Article Written By Brandon Cox,

camo patterns

Are you ready for turkey season this year? Is your bow set up? Have you been to the range to shoot? What's your camo selection like? Do you have the best camo patterns for turkey season? Here, we will go over the different types of camos available for turkey season. Below, we will go over are choices for the best camos for turkey hunters.

What You Need to Know about Camo for Turkey Season

Turkey hunters hit the woods in spring and fall. During both seasons, the weather is rather warm, which means you don't need heavy duty gear. You'll be able to stay warm with lightweight clothing. In general, you want to choose a pattern that features a woodland/brush elements. We've picked the very best below and reviewed them for your benefit.

It's important to remember that turkey hunters need to stay hidden. A turkey has a very acute sense of sight and is prone to escapes when spooked. If hunters don't have an effective shot, they may leave the woods empty handed. Turkey appropriate camouflage gives hunters the upper hand, it allows them to blend into any landscape when they sit motionless in the woods. However, as anyone will know you need to be comfortable when sitting motionless, so it's important to choose cozy clothes that feature the appropriate patterns.

When covered in the right camo, a hunter may get away with an ill thought out move. However, a hunter who isn't wearing the right camo will certainly spook a turkey and ruin his hunt and probably any of his buddies that are in the woods too.

Camo Pattern Choices and Quietness of Clothes

Believe it or not, not all camo patterns are created the same. You'll need to think about what camo you need to wear and how quiet the camo will be in the woods. It's important to match your camo to the surroundings around you. The best turkey hunters will have a whole array of clothing in their closet.

camo patterns

In the spring, you should choose camo that is mostly brown and gray. When leaves begin to sprout on the trees, you should choose a pattern with a heavy green leaf emphasis. Turkey hunters that hit the woods when there is snow on the ground should wear all white. The biggest manufacturers of hunting apparel on the market will put out new patterns every year, but you don't need new to buy new camos every year. Instead, simply follow the basic rules below and choose a pattern that can be used for more than just one season.

Mossy Oak Obsession

One of our favorites is the Obsession pattern from Mossy Oak. In this pattern, Mossy Oak uses several innovative elements that allow you to get close to small game. The background is light with textured bark, spring and fall colors, limbs, and lots of shadows throughout. With this pattern, Mossy Oak delivers clothing that easily replicates nature. Due to its uniqueness, you can wear it as soon as bow season opens and continue to wear it until spring season ends.

Realtree MAX-5

Another favorite turkey hunting camo pattern favorite comes from Realtree. The pattern in this camo features flooded timber, prairies, marshes, agricultural fields, grasslands, mudflats, and anywhere else you might find geese and ducks. When wearing these camos, your outline will be broke up to help keep you concealed from turkey, big game, and other predators in the area. It's especially popular with hunters that hunt in areas that are sparsely green.

Realtree MAX-4

It's no surprise that another of our favorites is also from Realtree. The Realtree MAX-4 is ideal in areas with open terrain. When there are no geographical limitations, a hunter can simply melt into grasslands, deserts, marshes, croplands, or even a treetop when wearing this camo pattern. Another bonus associated with this camouflage is that it's good for turkey, whitetail, big game, and small game hunting. What that means is you don't need a dozen different camo patterns in your closet to hunt all year long.

Mossy Oak Shadow Leaf

It's time to talk about Mossy Oak again. The Shadow Leaf camo pattern features realistic leaves, shadows, and limbs. When wearing this pattern, you'll blend into spring woods excellently, which makes this pattern ideal for late-Spring turkey hunting and early bow season for deer.


Shooting Lessons from a Limit of Woodcock

By Phil Bourjaily


woodcock

Phil Bourjaily

A pair of woodcock taken during a hunt in Wisconsin.

Woodcock are wonderful, odd birds, and a lot of fun to hunt. They are also good shotgun teachers. They are slow fliers. As near as I can find online, the consensus is that they fly 28 mph, which is about what I would guess. But they bob and weave through the thickets like little knuckleballs, and a lot of shotgun ammunition is expended in their general direction, often to no good result.

I re-learned a few lessons about woodcock on my trip to Wisconsin two weeks ago. First, I learned that Muck Boots do you no good in swampy cover if you leave them in the motel room. I had to hunt in low-cut Merrill hikers and my feet were soaked five minutes into the hunt and stayed that way all day. On the plus side, the locals were complaining about their heavy rubber boots while my feet were unencumbered, if prune-like, by the end of the hunt. My feet were wet but my legs stayed fresh. Fortunately, it was not a cold day.

Second, and more germane to this blog, woodcock teach patience with a shotgun. They flush close and fly slowly. You have more time to shoot than you think you do. Ten years ago, last time I hunted woodcock, three of us were standing together taking a break and chatting when a random woodcock flushed. Sporting clays shooter Andy Duffy was with us, and he had time to close his gun, take two giant steps to one side to save our eardrums and still shoot the bird in easy range. In general, giving a woodcock time to get up out of the branches and into the open above the canopy usually results in a better shot anyway. I shot the first of my limit of three woodcock backing up one of the locals, who walked in to flush a pointed bird and wasted both his shots right away as the woodcock was bobbing around trying to find a way up and out of the thicket. I let him finish shooting, by which time the bird was up and above the canopy and an easy shot for me.

Woodcock teach the futility of aiming a shotgun and the importance of trust and of letting your subconscious call the shots. Give your subconscious targeting computer its head and you can make shots you would otherwise screw up with over-thinking. All you need to do is keep your eyes on the bird, not the gun, and your eyes and hands will make little corrections you're not even aware you're making.

For instance, someone flushed the second bird I shot while I was standing near the edge of a trail, and I got a rare, clear chance at the bird as it flew across the trail opening. It was a crossing shot, and I had to swing through the bird, as it caught me by surprise. Just as I was about to pull the trigger I thought "Oh no, I'm behind this one," to which my subconscious mind replied, "Shut up and pull the trigger" which I did, and the bird folded up dead. The third bird sat tight in front of the dog in a pine thicket. It flushed straightaway, but dipped erratically as it went. I mounted the gun and my cautious, conscious mind said "You're to the left of that one." Having long since learned to ignore that voice, I pulled the trigger and killed the bird anyway. Let your eyes and hands do the work of shooting. They are really good at it. Besides, your conscious mind has other things to think about, like remembering your rubber boots.


How to Up Your Odds Hunting Grouse


By Phil Bourjaily

grouse hunting

Phil Bourjaily

Two days of hunting produced a sole grouse.



The bird in the picture is the only grouse F&S reader Springerman3 and I shot in two days in Wisconsin last weekend. I had forgotten just how many things have to go right in order to put a grouse in the bag. You flush more grouse than you see, you see more than you shoot at, and—most of us anyway—miss more grouse than we hit.

I like shooting at grouse because, with the exception of the rare, botched gimme* shot, there is hardly ever a reason to feel bad about missing one. You shoot at a grouse through the brush, it falls or it doesn't, you send the dog to look for it either way because sometimes you don't even know if you've hit a grouse, then you go on to the next bird. It's not like missing a pheasant out in the open and you kick yourself.

Grouse shooting isn't totally random, however. You can tilt the odds in your favor. Keep your gun at port arms when you're near likely spots. Try to plan your route through the cover to give yourself the best possible shooting windows. Don't stop in spots where you don't want to shoot, since that pause can unnerve grouse and make them flush. Knowing that, stop only in places where you can see and have room to swing your gun.

If you have more than one hunter, try to flank the dog when it gets birdy. We would try to get 15 or 20 yards, or more, out to the sides to be ready, no matter what direction the grouse flushed. Several years ago, when I last hunted in Minnesota, the guides wanted us 50 or more yards away from the dog as it tracked moving grouse. If the bird flushed wild, we would have a chance at it. If it sat tight, the dog's owner would flush it.

If you get a point, get to it quickly. If it's a grouse, you'll be ready when it flushes. If the dogs hold (usually for a woodcock) you can stand there at the ready until everyone else arrives and place them for a good shot.

When birds flush, read their line of flight and move the gun along it. Ignore the trees and shoot somewhere in front of the grouse. It's surprising how often that works, and it works a lot better than waiting for an open shot.

Four of us—me, Springerman, and two hard-hunting locals—all carried 20-gauge break-actions, three O/Us (Caesar Guerini, Beretta, Weatherby), and one double (Franchi), all fairly light guns that are easy to carry one-handed in the bushes. All the guns had open chokes.

Finally, look up. Grouse flush from trees sometimes, which isn't a hard shot if you're ready for it. After the shot, it doesn't hurt to look up, either. Springerman thought he had made a good hit on this bird, and we had both seen it slanting downward after the shot, but two of us and his dog couldn't find it—until he happened to look up and spot the grouse stuck on a tree branch ten feet off the ground.

*The missed gimmes haunt you. I still think about a grouse I missed quartering at me at 20 yards in an open field in northeast Iowa—and that must have been 30 years ago. That shot is near the top of my life list of shots I wish I could do over.

6 Common Whitetail Hunting Myths Debunked

Every season, popular theories and commonly-held opinions about deer habits and deer hunting are discussed among big-buck seekers at deer camps across North America; many simply aren't true

There are many myths about buck habits and deer hunting in general. One common myth among hunters is perceived buck size based on rub tree size; the bigger the tree, the bigger the buck. This isn There are many myths about buck habits and deer hunting in general. One common myth among hunters is perceived buck size based on rub tree size; the bigger the tree, the bigger the buck. This isn't always true. (Travis Faulkner photo)

By: Travis Faulkner, OutdoorChannel.com

If you have any personal experience tangling with white-tailed deer during the fall season, then you know too well these four-legged master escape artists can be very challenging to hunt. Highly-developed senses coupled with an uncanny knack for surviving and fooling hunters undoubtedly has given them some serious street credit. In fact, it's a safe bet there are probably a few mature bucks in your neck of the woods that have earned much-deserved nicknames like Houdini, Shadow, or The Grey Ghost. These veteran bucks that have survived a few seasons are not supernatural, but they do know exactly how to play the game and stay off the hunting radar.

As a result, many big buck hunting myths have emerged over the years that are simply more fiction than fact. Some of the most recognized and repeated of these theories and personal opinions have been passed down from one generation of hunters to the next. Below I will breakdown some of the more popular whitetail hunting theories you really shouldn't give any attention. I also will cover some deadly myth-buster hunting strategies that will help you debunk these theories and consistently score big each deer season.   

Myth 1: Larger tracts of land hold and produce bigger bucks

Vast acres of open land that contain consistent food sources, plenty of thick cover and hard-to-reach hiding places can definitely produce trophy-class whitetails season after season. These also are the types of places that generally receive the most hunting pressure. On the other hand, small isolated tracts of land often get overlooked by hunters and these little honey-holes can potentially attract and hold some absolute monsters.

Food Sources
Vast tracts of land that encompass consistent food sources, water, and cover are great, but hunters looking to tag a giant shouldn't overlook smaller pockets that receive far less pressure. (Travis Faulkner photo)

Myth-Buster Strategy: Focus on smaller tracts of timber, thickets and woodlots located away from larger tracts of heavily-hunted land. Prime hunting spots can be found near residential areas, isolated islands on lakes or rivers, and pockets of cover situated along the edges of small towns. These pint-size areas are often the best places to connect with overgrown giants.

Myth 1 Tip
Focusing on smaller tracts of timber, isolated thickets, and wood lots located near larger, heavily pressured areas is a great way to connect with a shrewd too-heavy buck. (Travis Faulkner photo)

Myth 2: Hunting pressure reduces big buck encounters

It's a common misconception that other hunters being in the woods will somehow limit your chances of pinpointing, patterning and connecting with a trophy buck. The truth is outside hunting pressure can actually be very beneficial, if you know how to use it to your advantage. Pressured bucks will often follow very predictable routines that can easily be exploited season after season with the right setups and hunting strategies.

Hunting Pressure
Intense periods of hunting pressure can make mature bucks switch over to nocturnal patterns and tougher to hunt, but the right strategies and setups will allow you to turn this problem into a distinct advantage. (Travis Faulkner photo)

Myth-Buster Strategy:  Customize your setups to target escape routes that lead away from high-pressured areas. Pinpoint the thickest and nastiest cover in the woods and hunt along the edges of these protected sanctuaries. Go the extra mile and concentrate on hard-to-reach locations that lazy hunters generally avoid. Hunt these hotspot areas at daylight and during the early afternoon hours when other hunters are entering and exiting the woods. The trick is to utilize hunting pressure to your advantage and capitalize on the situation.

Hunting Pressure
Customizing your setups to exploit escape routes and hard-to-reach thickets that serve as protected sanctuaries can generate consistent big buck shot opportunities within heavily pressured areas. (Travis Faulkner photo)

Myth 3: Warm weather shuts down the rut

Without question, warm temperatures can dramatically impact the amount of daytime rutting activity observed from the stand. However, a sudden decrease in whitetail chasing and actual breeding activity during legal shooting hours does not mean the rut has stopped or been momentarily paused.  According to biologists, it's the shortening of days that actually triggers the rut. Anytime temperatures heat up, the majority of whitetail breeding activity occurs at night as things cool down. This immediate drop in daytime rutting action is exactly why many hunters falsely believe the rut has temporarily stopped or in some cases not even started yet.

Myth-Buster Hunting Strategy: When daytime rutting activity decreases due to unseasonably warm weather, try setting up extremely close to known doe bedding areas and concentrate on early morning and late evening hunts.

Myth 4: Mature bucks get stupid and easier to hunt during the rut

Dominant bucks with massive racks and high-testosterone levels aren't afraid to step out-of-the shadows during the rut, but that does not necessarily mean they're going to throw caution to the wind or be any easier to hunt. The reality is mature bucks with previous nocturnal tendencies are now focused on does and more active during the day. This makes them appear to be not as wary or cautious, but they can actually be much tougher to pattern and hunt. Big buck patterns and routines drastically change during the rut, which can make things chaotic and unpredictable.

Myth-Buster Strategy: Think like a lovesick buck and focus all of your attention on the does. Your setups need to target doe high-traffic areas like the edges of current feeding zones, major travel corridors, and known bedding locations. Try attacking all three of a buck's primary senses with rut-based calling, decoying and scent-application tactics.

Myth 5: Nocturnal bucks can't be tagged over scrapes

It's true a lot of mature buck scraping activity takes place well after dark. However, this does not mean you ignore setups overlooking red-hot scrapes. In fact, concentrating on fresh scrapes near big-buck bedding locations and staging areas can be extremely productive.  For good reason, these night-shift bruisers have a tendency of checking and working these scrapes right at daylight and just before dark. It's also important to note bucks will typically return to freshen up scrapes immediately after a period of rainfall or snow.

Mock Scrape
A good deal of scraping activity takes place at night, but you can still utilize existing scrapes and even mock scrapes to coax a shooter into close range during the daylight hours. (Travis Faulkner photo)

Myth-Buster Strategy: Place a series of mock scrapes along the edges of mature buck bedding locations and staging areas. Utilize electronically timed scent dispensers over these mock scrapes to condition nocturnal bucks to visit during the day. Hunt over mock or existing scrapes during the early morning and late evening hours or immediately after it rains or snows.

Mock Scrape Tip
Utilizing a series of well-placed mock scrapes near big buck bedding areas or electronically time scent-release dispensers over existing scrapes is a lethal way to connect with tough nocturnal giants. (Travis Faulkner photo)

Myth 6: Big bucks only rub big trees

As hardcore whitetail addicts, we all love seeing mammoth-size rubs on big trees. In many cases, hunters will focus their attention and setups on large rub trees. There's nothing wrong with that logic, but we should also take a closer look at well-established rub-lines on smaller trees. Big bucks will absolutely destroy small cedars and sapling trees on a consistent basis throughout the pre-rut, rut and secondary rut transitions. The resistance, flexibility and break-over of the smaller trees allow bucks to strengthen neck muscles and prepare for upcoming battles.

Rub Lines
Fresh rub-lines on smaller trees doesn't necessarily translate to smaller bucks. The resistance, flexibility, and break-over of smaller trees allows bucks to strengthen neck muscles and prepare for upcoming battles. (Travis Faulkner photo)

Myth-Buster Strategy: All well-established rub-lines big and small need to be monitored with a series of game-cameras. This type of 24-hour surveillance will tell you exactly what bucks are making the rubs and more importantly when they are traveling through the area.

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