Three Ways to Remember Your Turkey Hunt

Pro-staff Contributor: Zach Raulie

Different memorabilia from hunts.

Different memorabilia from hunts.

Spring turkey season in the south has come to an end and in a few weeks most other states will close the books on their seasons.  It has been an unforgettable and very successful season in many different ways for my wife and me.  My wife got her first kill and I witnessed many great things in the woods while enjoying time with the new and veteran turkey hunters in my life.

The question then arises: now that we’ve harvested birds, and hopefully you have had success as well, what do we do with your trophy to preserve the memory?  Here are a few post season projects I enjoy working on.

1.      Photographs

This seems obvious but a single, well-shot photo can tell an amazing story of a successful hunt.  Digital photography is great, but I still like to print out the best photos and on the back of them write down the location, date and time of the hunt, conditions and bird’s measurements.  Maybe you guided someone to harvest their first bird or it was your child’s first hunt.  Encapsulate that memory with a framed photo for them as a reminder of a great experience with you.

2.      Preserve the Tail Feathers, Beards and Spurs

Preserved beards

Preserved beards

I love taxidermy and preserving the trophies of spring.  There are many mounts available out there by extraordinary artists.  But full-body turkey mounts aren’t for every hunter (or their spouse) or budget.  There are multiple ways you can preserve your trophy yourself with a little creativity.

Many turkey hunters keep the beards, spurs and shotgun shell from their harvest.  Don’t just toss those in a drawer once you clean them.  A friend of mine likes to write a quick description of the hunt and the bird’s measurements on a piece of paper, then roll it up and place it inside the shot shell to revisit those memories another day.  A lot of us emphasize the use of the shot shell and glue the beard to be displayed in it.  I have kept the beards and spurs from my successful spring hunts to hang for display.

Preserved spurs

Preserved spurs

I also keep every set of tail feathers, if in good condition, after a hunt.  I have some of the more memorable fans displayed in our home while others I save for use in next years decoys.  I am currently working on a framed shadowbox display of my wife’s first turkey (fan, spurs and beard).  I will blog about how to build one of these once I’ve completed the project.

3.      Wing-bone Turkey Call

Years ago, my Uncle David made my father a turkey call out of a wing bone from the turkey he had killed.  It wasn’t until last year that I attempted to make one of these.  Surprisingly it was fun and very simple to make!

Wing-bone calls

Wing-bone calls

1. While cleaning the birds from our hunt, we remove the three wing-bones key to making this call.

2. Boil the bones and remove any excess meat from them.

3. Using a dremel tool or small saw, cut the pieces to the desired size.

4. Dry fit the pieces. Then use a 2-part epoxy to affix the bones together and let dry.

5. Sand the calls down to finish them off.  Date the call and location of hunt.

6. Finally, add several coats of high gloss to really finish the call off nicely.

I can’t say I use this call much for hunting, even though it can be surprisingly effective in the woods, but it serves as a great memory of the hunt! The project can also be a fun thing do with your kids. Don’t be afraid to experiment when you make these either—the first wing-bone call I made was a little crude—but after that prototype, the calls I’ve created for friends are much nicer.

I hope you enjoyed all of these ideas and try a few out!  These projects are a great way to extend your season and pay further respect to the bird you harvested.  As many have said, it’s not about the kill but preserving the memory of the hunt that is most important.

Zach Raulie is an avid hunter and amateur retriever trainer living outside of Jacksonville, Florida. He is a multi-year qualifier for the World’s Duck Calling Contest and is highly competitive in AKC and UKC sanctioned hunt tests. You’ll see Zach representing krugerfarms.com and Lodge Creek Calls in all of his endeavors each year. You can contact Zach at zraulie@gmail.com and find him on Facebook (facebook.com/zraulie).

Zach and Jen

Spring Turkey Hunting: Is it Easy to Punch Your Tag?

Pro-staff Contributor: Brian Cote

Whenever I have conversations with others about turkey hunting, they constantly say, “How hard could it be? Turkeys are dumb.” In some cases this holds true, but in reality many pieces of the puzzle have to fall into place to make it seem as though turkeys require little-to-no effort to punch your tag.  I myself don’t believe in a “dumb” turkey. While hunting the Midwest region, I’ve learned that many gobblers will do things you’ve never heard of before.

Two weeks ago, we targeted an area in Wisconsin that had not been hunted for many years—the scouting reports looked great. When getting set up under the cover of darkness, multiple toms broke the morning silence and let us know they were awake. Turkey DashWe were set up no more than 100 yards from their roost and I was optimistic. As the day became brighter and many more critters were making their presence known, the birds continued to gobble and the hens began yelping and clucking. But even though the gobblers were responding quite often to our calls, around an hour after daybreak, it was quiet throughout the woods. We made a game plan to get mobile and try to find them again.

After some searching we heard the birds gobble once more and eased closer. Then to our amazement, we spotted the group of birds walking across a bog, headed towards some thick tamarack swamp area. My good friend and I stood and stared at each other in awe trying to figure out why they were there.  What would cause them to cross a creek and head towards some of the thickest swamp around? We couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t go to open timber or nearby cornfields. As we headed back to the truck we talked about our game plan for the next day.

Day two started off a lot quieter than day one. As we were trying to decide where to set up, I noticed a big black object in the top of a Tamarack tree, out in the middle of the bog. I thought to myself, “Could that be a turkey?” Then the object began to move and a thunderous gobble lit up the swamp. Again, this bird threw us for a loop. Why was this tom all by himself in the middle of a bog? Could it be he knew that most of the predators that prey on him would not be able to reach him there? Did he know that he was being pressured by us? For birds that are rumored to be an easy kill—this flock was putting up a challenge!

DecoyWith this odd behavior, we were unsure of where we should set, so we decided it’d be safe to set up near the place we saw the birds on the previous day.  We set out our Avian X LCD Jake Quarter Strut along with the Avian X LCD Lookout Hen to try to pull a gobbler into shooting range. As the morning went on, the sounds of distant gobblers kept us optimistic. Then I glanced to the left of our set and noticed a bird working our way. It was a tom, and he came in without making a sound. I let my buddy know and he called softly and the bird let out a gobble that shook the woods. I was ready for the shot when the bird started walking out of range. He snuck away to some private property just as quietly as he came!

Unfortunately, we concluded the weekend without success.  But we did take home a few lessons.  I learned that swamp turkeys are very unpredictable and by far the hardest type of birds I have ever tried to bag.  Even when you think you know their roost patterns, they can change overnight.  I also learned to always scan the woods for silent birds that may sneak in under your radar.  No matter what anyone says about turkey hunting I think that every bird has its own personality and will react differently from another. For that reason, I don’t think any turkey is dumb, just unique.

Brian Cote is a website administrator at krugerfarms.com and a devoted outdoorsman.  He’s eager to take up any opportunity to hunt waterfowl, deer and turkeys in the Midwest region. You can follow him on Twitter (@BrianJr22) and find him on Facebook (facebook.com/brian.cote.148).

Brian Aiming

Gearing Up for Shed Hunting in Canada

Pro-staff Contributor: Jeff Gustafson

Gussy's Friend with ShedWe are still buried under a blanket of snow across most of Ontario’s Sunset Country, delaying the start of our spring shed hunting season, but much of the Midwest is now clear of snow.  As soon as the snow melts it will be prime time to hit the woods in search of shed antlers across the ice belt.  This is because there is no grass hindering our ability to see freshly dropped antlers.  The snow also preserves all of the deer rut signs from the previous fall so we’re killing two birds with one stone when we hit the woods.  Not only might we find a giant shed antler, but we’re also able to see all the significant deer signs from the previous fall—things like fresh rubs, scrapes and tracks.

Hard Work Pays Off

I have put in many days where I’ve walked for 12 hours straight, through swamps, some of the thickest brush you can imagine and up big hills.  I strike out during some days and don’t find much, but many times my friends and I have found over 100 sheds in one day.

In Ontario’s Sunset Country region, we find most of our sheds on the south facing sides of the biggest hills and ridges.  We scout areas on topographical maps then make a plan for how to access them.  The best spots are more than a mile from the nearest road or the lake shoreline.  These are places that hunters generally can’t get to; so we’re walking on land that sees very little human activity.  When we find 100+ sheds in a day, these include a lot of old sheds—some of which are faded and chewed on—but when we find multiple sheds in the middle of an open ridge, we know that nobody has walked through that opening in a long time!

In the big woods that I shed hunt, a handheld GPS is critical to avoid getting lost.  It can be easy to navigate on our own during sunny days, but on cloudy days it can be almost impossible without GPS.  GPS units like the Garmin Rino 120 also feature a radio—which is an added bonus.  The cool thing about shed hunting is that there is no limit to how many people can be involved.  It’s a social activity, which is why I have so much fun doing it.  My friends and I have contests when we go for the most sheds, biggest or first find of the day.  Having a radio helps us interact and keep track of everyone’s location.

Good day for shed hunting

Finding Comfortable and Durable Gear

The most important part of enjoying a shed hunting experience is being comfortable.  That means dressing properly—from my base layers to my boots.  Walking through rough terrain all day is a great body workout so I want to wear quality boots.  Over the years I have worn several different boots and have come to rely on the Danner Pronghorn GTX for its durability and its water resistance.  The Under Armour-Armour Guard shirt is my favorite base layer because it’s not super tight fitting and it will dry quickly if I break a sweat climbing a big hill.  For my pants, I definitely want something rugged and durable because I’ll be rubbing them on all kinds of sticks and branches.  The Mountain Khaki Alpine Utility Pant is super tough and extremely comfortable—it’s the only pant I wear in the woods anymore.  It’s a top quality product!

Spring is a great time of year to get outside and enjoy time with your friends.  If you find any big shed antlers this spring, be sure to share photos with us on the krugerfarms.com Facebook page!

Jeff Gustafson is a professional angler living in Kenora, Ontario on the shores of Lake of the Woods. Outdoor writer, fishing promoter and host of “Fishing with Gussy.” You’ll see him fishing the Walmart FLW Tour representing krugerfarms.com and Lund boats among others. You can follow him on Twitter (@GussyOutdoors) and like him on Facebook (facebook.com/gussyoutdoors).

Gussy and Friend Shed Hunting

Hunting Snow Geese in Western New York

Pro-staff Contributor: Chris Davanzo

In western NY, when the snow and frost laden winds start to shift from the south, they bring a mass of voracious snow geese racing north to their breeding grounds of the northern tundra. Their migration moves pretty quicklGoose Binocularsy—the geese leave the eastern shore of Maryland as well as Middle Creek Pennsylvania to stage on the western Finger Lakes before moving onto the Saint Lawrence River and up through Quebec. My group has learned to target Greater Snow Geese, which are significantly larger than their cousins found in the Midwest and on the West Coast, in and around the Finger Lakes and Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge area.

You Reap What You Sow

Snow goose hunting takes shear willpower and stamina. It requires early mornings with late nights, hours of scouting, ungodly amounts of fuel and mileage, and moving thousands of decoys a day with a small army of dedicated hunters all with one common goal.

This year, friends of Heartland Waterfowl—Matt Krekleberg, Brian Crumm, and Logan Burditt—made the 22 hour trek halfway across the country with 1200 decoys in tow. Due to changes in weather and bird movement we chose to be more mobile than just setting up and running traffic on birds. We ran a mix of Deadly Decoys, White Rock decoys and Avery full body snow goose decoys. Setting the rig of over 2500 goose decoys takes a solid 4-6 hours on average, but over the past two seasons we have realized that the more work you put into snow goose hunting the more geese you will harvest.

There’s No Business Like Snow Business

Our first few days of the season were plagued with poor weather and overall conditions.  There were overcast skies and no wind; which made it difficult to get birds to commit to our set because they were decoy-shy. On the second day, there were a ton of birds in the area but we had over an inch of rain so there was no way of getting the decoys into the field. But our patience paid off because the last three days were a different story.  We had high winds, sunny skies, and a little snow—the birds started working and coming into gun range!

The day that the weather changed started just like every other day of the season.  My alarm clock went off at 12:30 am and I eased myself awake with a hot cup of coffee and the realization of how much work was ahead of us. But when you work with a good group of guys everyone starts to fit into their niche, so the setup went very smoothly and we got the entire rig set in about three hours. The eight of us had a cool, calm demeanor as we sat in our blinds—knowing that we were in the right spot and Goose Decoyshad these geese in checkmate as we waited for dawn and the first barks from incoming snow geese. Minutes later “Snows coming!” was shouted and we covered up as the first flock came right in. With the first flocks centered up nicely, we took our shots and sighed in relief as all of the hard work of the past five days was rewarded with white feathers flurrying down upon us and the smell of burning gunpowder in the air.

The birds flew pretty consistently throughout the next two days and we were able to shoot a pile  out of that field—successfully ending a trip made of great memories, hard fought battles, and time with friends.  In the end, all of the work and waiting was worth it and we can’t wait until next season when the chase for the white devil starts again!

Chris Davanzo is from the finger lakes region of western NY. Chris is the owner and operator of Fish and Feathers Outfitters which is the Northeast’s premier outfitter for waterfowl. When Chris isn’t in the swamps chasing ducks you can find him on a trout stream or in a treestand with bow in hand. You can contact Chris via his site fandfoutfitters.com and find him on Facebook (facebook.com/chris.davanzo).

Goose Group

Successful Turkey Hunting: Understanding the Breeding Cycle

Pro-staff Contributor: Zach Raulie

I’m no archery purist, but I prefer to hunt turkeys with a bow. I know, crazy, right? Taking spring gobblers with a bow requires that I slow down, be patient and more thorough in my setup. And my success rate has dramatically increased since switching to being “mostly” a bow turkey hunter. This isn’t because of my weapon choice, but rather, because I’ve found that the single greatest factor that determines whether I go home empty handed or with turkeys in three to four states each year is the ability to understand where the turkeys are in their breeding cycle.

Zach with his second kill this year.

Zach with his second kill this year.

Scouting

Prior to hunting, I spend time determining what part of the breeding season the turkeys are in. Are they still in winter flocks? This will likely be the case this spring as many of the Midwestern states are seeing very cool temperatures and have snow on the ground as seasons open. Even in North Florida, where I live, the spring season has been 2-3 weeks later than normal due to the much cooler temperatures. Scouting is critical in determining what part of the breeding cycle birds are in.

Adaptation

You should be ready to adapt your hunting tactics as turkeys break from their winter flocks and go into full swing. A prime example of this is the changes I experienced during our Florida opener this year. Ten days before opener, trail cameras were showing only a few turkeys—still in winter, bachelor flocks. As seasoned opened, I was blessed with 6 gobblers, 20+ hens and 10 jakes all around the small property I hunt. Then by the end of the first week of the season, this big flock had broken up into much smaller groups of hens, solo-dominant gobblers, and subordinate gobblers and jakes. This all occurred within seven days!

Suffice it to say, the stages of the spring season change very quickly. Adapting to these changes will increase your success rate immensely.

Working the Cycle

Early in the season, when gobblers are still establishing their roles in the pecking order, I’ll observe a lot of fighting between them. Jake decoys, like the Avian X LCD ¼ Strut or a full strut decoy, can be game changers because they challenge the dominant birds on your property. During

A gobbler approaching a full strut decoy.
A gobbler approaching a full strut decoy.

one of the first days of the season, as I yelped at a lone dominant gobbler, he turned, went into full-strut facing the challenging decoy I had deployed, and in less than a minute from first sight he was face to face with my strutting decoy and six yards from my well-hidden blind.

But when the cycle progressed, it was important to adapt. Several days after this first encounter, the gobblers would not commit to the same decoy the first gobbler ran in to meet. I suspected that they had their tails whipped by the dominant bird and had to change my strategy. Before my next hunt, I set out two hen decoys in the predawn hours. I flapped a turkey wing against my leg as morning broke and gave a very soft series of yelps. Moments later a hen cackled as she flew from her roost into the field. Another turkey, with a much harder thud, hit the ground on the fire break behind me and seconds later, 5 yards away, in full strut, he eased his way into the decoys.

Many hunters, me included, have tried to stick with a “lucky” decoy and wonder why it doesn’t work. It’s simple. The cycle within the turkey breeding season changed. Adapting to that change and using different tactics, different calls, and different decoy strategies can be all it takes to pull that gobbler into range. Scout your birds: they will tell you what part of the season they’re in.

Zach Raulie is an avid hunter and amateur retriever trainer living outside of Jacksonville, Florida.   He is a multi-year qualifier for the World’s Duck Calling Contest and is highly competitive in AKC and UKC sanctioned hunt tests.  You’ll see Zach representing krugerfarms.com and Lodge Creek Calls in all of his endeavors each year.  You can contact Zach at zraulie@gmail.com and find him on Facebook (facebook.com/zraulie).

Zach with his first kill this year.

Zach with his first kill this year.

Three Commands Necessary to Raise a Good Puppy Citizen

Pro-staff contributor: Zach Raulie

It was nice receiving a compliment from a fellow hunter this past season regarding the steadiness of Zoi, my veteran retriever, during our hunt. Birds were plentiful and the shooting was non-stop. The compliment validated the many hours I’ve spent working with my veteran lab and reminded me of the necessary work I would put in with our new puppy, Finn. Proper socialization of a puppy is a key factor: how you spend the first few weeks and months setting expectations will go a long way in building a foundation around your pup’s training.

Our Training Method

At our home, we do a few things starting on day one and have found that these simple commands build a respect and bond that will last the pup’s life. This is not formal training and no reprimandsfinn dish are needed. We don’t use a lot of food treats, but if necessary we may use them sparingly at times. Teaching through repetition with lots of love and praise is best in my opinion.

Basic Commands

Do you know anyone that appreciates a jumping, barking, biting dog? I definitely don’t. No matter how cute your puppy is, these three actions are unacceptable and can lead to major issues in the field if not handled consistently at an early age. You can deter these actions immediately by teaching, Pup, your new family member the word “NO”. “No” is very simple to teach and you will use it often with a young exploring and energetic pup. No simply means that what it is doing is not acceptable, so please stop. Teaching this one word can keep a puppy safe from injury and possibly save his life when a dangerous situation arises unexpectedly.

You can also find many training opportunities to teach your puppy “SIT” and “OK” in every day routines. Before your pup is let out or is put back into its kennel, ask Pup to sit. Rather than letting Pup impatiently run to his food or water dish, ask Pup to sit first. Before letting Pup charge through a doorway to the outside or inside simply ask for Pup to sit. Then simply release Pup with the word “ok”. Early on Pup may not understand what’s being asked of it and may require a little assistance. But soon Pup will realize that with the right action a reward will be given—be it food, water or praise!

Turning any situation into a positive training opportunity for a new puppy is easy and there will be many early on. Start right away, on day one, because you can never get back those early days when Pup is eager to listen, quick to learn, and free of any bad habits.

Just a Start

Teaching these simple “Good Citizen” commands is just the beginning. Eventually these good behaviors will be conditioned in formal training and then in the field as a finished retriever who is steady to shot as he waits for the command to retrieve. This is a Good Citizen retriever. Safe, steady and obedient! As young Finn progresses I will be writing more blogs about our training program and techniques used so be sure to check back in.

Zach Raulie is an avid hunter and amateur retriever trainer living outside of Jacksonville, Florida.   He is a multi-year qualifier for the World’s Duck Calling Contest and is highly competitive in AKC and UKC sanctioned hunt tests.  You’ll see Zach representing krugerfarms.com and Lodge Creek Calls in all of his endeavors each year.  You can contact Zach at zraulie@gmail.com and find him on Facebook (facebook.com/zraulie).

Zach and Finn

Wolf Hunting in Canada

Pro-staff Contributor: Jeff Gustafson

With open seasons in numerous states and liberal seasons in most Canadian provinces, wolf hunting is a new activity for most hunters but one that is very intriguing.  Wolves are one of the most majestic creatures in our woods simply due to their ability to go unseen given their high population.  They are smart animals and ruthless predators who prey on everything from small game to moose.Wolf 2

Winter is the best time to hunt wolves for several reasons.  They’re more likely to be seen because animals must be active to stay warm in cold temperatures.  They also use deep snow to their advantage to catch prey.  For the hunter, the pelts are also the best during the winter; before the wolves start to rub them off late in the season.

During the past several years of my experience guiding wolf hunts, I’ve learned that there are two ways to hunt these animals – baiting and calling.  I’ve learned this mostly through trial and error because there isn’t a lot of information out there; many people talk about wolf hunting but few actually put the time in and do it.  In Canada, most wolves are taken by ice anglers who happen to bring a gun with them on fishing trips and catch an animal crossing the ice.  Other hunters harvest them incidentally while they are hunting other big game animals like deer, moose or elk.

The most effective way to hunt wolves, in my opinion, is to bait them with animal scraps.  But this legal and fruitful way to attract these predators is far from easy.  Sitting long hours in a ground blind in cold weather may not sound appealing to some people. But if you want to tag a trophy animal, suiting up in warm clothes and sitting it out remains the top tactic.

For winter hunting, suiting up in the warmest gear is essential.  I like to start with the best of long underwear, like Under Armour Base 4.0.  It is designed to keep you warm in extreme conditions.  From there it’s important to continue layering out to a heavy outer layer.  Staying warm is the toughest part of this hunt.  Wearing the best boots you can get your feet in is also important because your feet are the hardest part of your body to keep warm.  I trust Arctic Pro Muck Boots because between long sits on the stand and long days ice fishing I’ve never had cold feet.  They are a top-notch product.  Additionally, to help stay warm on those really cold days, when the temperatures fall below zero, I use a Mr. Heater Portable Buddy to help take the chill out of the blind.

I set up my blinds and bait on small lakes or beaver ponds—locations where snowmobilers aren’t likely to pass by.  I use the Primos Dark Horse Blind and conceal it as much as possible with small pine trees and bows.  The blinds overlook the bait that I put out and freeze into ice wherever I can.  Freezing the bait is key; or wolves will simply drag it away to chow down.

Where baiting isn’t permitted, calling wolves with electronic calls is a proven tactic.  Some of my hunters have called in wolves using the FoxPro Firestorm Electronic Caller.  This call has a good range so you can distance it from your position.  Wolves have a great sense of smell, so placing the call way down wind is vital to your success.  Fawn and rabbit distress sounds have worked well.  The times that my hunters have called wolves in, they came right to the call—literally within feet of it.  I can’t stress enough how smart these animals are!

To plan a trip of your own, visit Ontario’s Sunset Country; with its many resorts and professional guides you’ll be sure to have a great time.  When you do, check out krugerfarms.com for all the gear you need for a successful winter wolf hunt!

Jeff Gustafson is a professional angler living in Kenora, Ontario on the shores of Lake of the Woods.  Outdoor writer, fishing promoter and host of “Fishing with Gussy.” You’ll see him fishing the Walmart FLW Tour representing krugerfarms.com and Lund boats among others. You can follow him on Twitter (@GussyOutdoors) and like him on Facebook (facebook.com/gussyoutdoors).

Wolf 1