Yamaha Outdoors Tips — Riding and Gunning
By Bob Humphrey
Traditionally, turkey hunting was a fall sport. Spring hunting is relatively new, though it’s been around now for several generations. Even in that span spring hunting has morphed. “Old school” spring hunting called for sitting patiently in one spot, calling sparingly and waiting long periods of time in between. The last decade or so has seen a dramatic shift toward a more aggressive run-and-gun style, where hunters adopt a “make something happen” philosophy. In so doing, they may cover a lot of ground, trolling along trying to make a bird gobble. When that happens they revert back to more traditional methods of setting up and calling the bird in.
It can be an effective technique, but like anything, it does have its drawbacks. Moving impatiently through the woods increases the possibility that you’ll bump birds. “You gotta break a few eggs to make an omelet,” I say. The tactic works pretty well when hunting Osceolas or Eastern birds, which tend to stick fairly close to home. But you can flat wear yourself out chasing Rio Grande and Merriam’s turkeys, which live in expansive areas of the west and southwest and can cover a lot of ground in a day.
This is where an ATV can come in real handy. Much of running and gunning involves locating birds then maneuvering out in front of them. In the eastern woodlands you do that largely by sound. But out west you do it by sight. And you can see a long way, far enough that you could easily spot birds you’d never catch up to on foot.
With an ATV, you can quickly motor ahead of the seemingly ever-moving western birds. Obviously, you don’t want to be seen so you must take maximum advantage of terrain and what little cover exists to hide your flanking maneuver. But because you have an ATV, you can take a wider, more distant approach rather quickly.
And believe it or not, the ATVs can sometimes help reduce your detectability. I don’t know whether it’s innate or learned, but turkeys can spot an upright-walking person from literally a mile away. When they do, they usually beat feet in the opposite direction. They don’t seem to react as strongly to vehicles, particularly in areas that get a lot of vehicle traffic. In many parts of the west the ATV has replaced the horse as the cowboys preferred mode of transportation. Turkeys quickly get used to them. They don’t know the difference between a cowboy and a turkey hunter and so they may pay little mind to a passing ATV. Make a wide arc to get ahead of the birds. Ditch your ATV in a draw. Set up ahead of them and start calling.