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.

What You Absolutely MUST Do to Be Safe When You Use a Bolt Action Rifle

bolt action

by David Smith

Here's a procedure for loading and unloading your bolt action rifle safely. Know your weapon and make firearm safety a habit.

Janis Putelis has a custom Weaver rifle built on a Remington model 700 bolt action. He takes us through his loading and unloading procedure to illustrate and emphasize firearm safety with a bolt action rifle.

This is foundational stuff here. While the loading and unloading procedure may be different for different types of firearm actions, the basic safety rules apply across the board:

  • Always make sure that the muzzle of your weapon is pointed in a safe direction.
  • Visually and, if possible, tactilely (by feel), check the chamber of the firearm to make sure it's unloaded.
  • Treat the weapon as though it were loaded until you're positive that it's not.


The only difference between Putelis' gun and your typical Remington 700 action is that he had a three-position safety added to replace the standard safety.

If you want to carry the rifle with rounds in the magazine but none in the chamber, then you simply load the rounds into the magazine, place the fingers of your non-bolt hand on top of those rounds and move the bolt forward with the other hand until it covers the rear end of the topmost round. Remove your fingers and continue to push the bolt forward and lock it in place.

Now you've got a full magazine and an empty chamber. Put the gun safety on the 'safe' position. This is the way that Putelis normally carries his rifle in the field.

If you want to carry a loaded gun with a cartridge in the chamber, simply push the bolt forward without depressing the topmost cartridge with your fingers. The bolt will grab that top cartridge and push it into the chamber. Once again, make sure your gun safety is switched to the 'safe' position.

To unload, you first remove the chambered round and, if you want to avoid picking up a loaded cartridge from the ground or if you want to save a spent cartridge, you will catch the cartridge that is ejected when the bolt is pulled back. Place the fingers of your non-bolt hand over the ejection port and pull the bolt back with your other hand.

When pulled back the bolt action is meant to throw the cartridge out and away from the gun, but you catch the cartridge in your fingers and remove it.

Now, you simply repeat the first action we talked about by placing your fingers on top of the cartridge in the magazine and press down a bit. Push the bolt forward until it passes over the rear end of the cartridge, remove your fingers and close the bolt. You now have an unchambered rifle.

Now you can depress the floor plate release button and empty the rifle of the remaining cartridges, or, if your rifle has a removable magazine, simply remove the mag and cartridges together.

You now have an empty rifle. Your next step is to make sure it's empty.

With the muzzle pointed in a safe direction, cycle the bolt action once or twice to make sure no rounds are present in the gun. With the bolt open, visually inspect the chamber and stick your pinky finger into the chamber to make doubly sure that no round is unintentionally still in the gun.

It took a lot longer to read this procedure than it takes to actually do it. The whole process takes only a few seconds, but remember, safety is never an accident.

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


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.

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