Thanksgiving is almost here, and for many Manitobans, that means one thing – Turkey, with all the fixin’s. While most Manitobans are content to pick up a bird from their local butcher or supermarket, we know that Backroad Mapbooks users prefer to choose the adventurous route. While turkey is a relatively new game species in the province, there is some excellent turkey hunting in Manitoba, particularly in the southern part of the province.
Heading out on a turkey hunt is a sure way to make a real adventure out of this year’s Thanksgiving. Its also a great way to bag a bird that is organic, hormone-free and as free-range as it gets. Wild turkeys are also lower in fat and cholesterol and higher in protein than their domestic counterpart. Combined with the extra exercise and the peace of mind that only being out in the bush can bring you, bagging a wild turkey is as healthy as it is exciting.
While most hunters think of turkey as a spring quarry, fall turkey hunting in Manitoba offers its own unique advantages and challenges. Most notably, unlike the spring, you can legally shoot both male and female turkeys in the fall.
In the fall, male turkeys are not chasing after hens, so your standard strategy of using a hen call won’t work. Here are a few tips for a successful fall turkey hunt in Manitoba.
Where to find them
In the fall, turkeys hang out in flocks of anywhere from five to fifty birds. They love to feed in open areas, particularly on grasshoppers and other insects. Look for overturned cow patties in farmer’s pastures – turkeys will flip them over to get the insects underneath.
In the woods, look for V-shaped scratches, feathers and droppings. Turkeys love a good dust bath, too, so keep an eye out for indentations in the dirt. A particularly large collection of feathers and droppings may indicate a roost tree.
Scatter and Recall
If you happen upon a flock, a tried and tested method is to sneak up and surprise the turkeys so they scatter in all directions. Think of it like breaking on a pool table – you want the birds to scatter in all directions. Afterwards, the turkeys will want to regroup – set up where you scattered them and call them to you, waiting until a bird is safely in range to take your shot.
You may happen upon a roost while trekking through the bush, or you can set up at a high spot before dawn and listen for the quiet racket of the turkey flock. Make a note of which direction the birds leave the tree. Come back the next morning and set up in that area, about 50 metres (150 feet) from the roost. When you hear the birds beginning to move, mimic the bird’s clucking and yelping, becoming gradually more aggressive. A dominant bird just may come looking for you.
If you haven’t found a roost, walk quietly through the woods. Stop and listen every few steps to get a read on the area, and to mimic the sound of a turkey. Yelping, clucking and scratching are sure signs of one or more wild turkeys. If you spot a flock, determine which way they are moving and get in front of them before calling.
While the thought of a plump turkey steaming on the kitchen table can get anyone excited, be sure to exercise proper safety techniques when turkey hunting in Manitoba this autumn. Always be sure you have clearly identified your target and there is a safe backdrop. Position yourself in front of a tree or rock that is wider than your shoulders. And always wear blaze orange in a hunting area.