Tag Archives: Turkey hunting

Go Hunting in a Local State Park!

There are plenty of hunting opportunities available at state parks where you can see gorgeous views, illustrious trails, and, of course, lots of local wildlife. The best part of getting involved in the hunting scene at a nearby state park is that you won’t have to travel too far to enjoy the great outdoors. State parks are one of our most valuable resources in this country, so make sure you utilize them! Here are just a few states that offer exciting hunting events that you might want to join in on.

Controlled Hunting and Trapping Events, Ohio

Hunting in Ohio.

There are an estimated 600,000+ deer and 200,000+ turkeys in Ohio. [Image: http://hunt-ohio-deer-and-turkey-on-public-land.com/]

Join the Ohio Division of Wildlife and traverse through various areas that are normally closed to hunters. Youths and adults are eligible to participate, and individuals will be chosen based on a random computer generated drawing. There are opportunities to take part in controlled trapping, controller waterfowl hunting, and controlled deer hunting.

Learn more here.

Open Hunting, Managed Hunts, and Hunting Workshops, Virginia

Top counties for hunting in Virginia.

Image: http://www.gameandfishmag.com/

Virginia is an obvious choice for hunting, and luckily they have plenty of options! Similar to Ohio’s style, they have a lottery system-based for managed hunts for deer and feral hogs. Additionally there are also specific hunts tailored to youths (ages 12–17) and the disabled. If interested, you can make a reservation for specific sites, even claiming a certain zone or stand. Or simply partake in Virginia’s open hunting areas, which can be found at Fairy Stone State Park, Grayson Highlands State Park, Hungry Mother State Park, or Occoneechee State Park.

Learn more here.

Reserved Hunts, Indiana

Pheasant hunting in Indiana.

Pheasant hunting in Indiana. [Image: http://www.indianapheasant.com/]

Although the application submission deadlines have passed for many of these, they’re useful to keep in mind for the future. There are chances to get involved in various state park hosted deer, pheasant, and waterfowl hunts. From January 31 until March 24, you can submit applications for adult and youth turkey hunts as well, so keep your eyes peeled for those!

Learn more here.

Before you head out hunting this season, make sure you download our Pocket Ranger® Fish and Wildlife apps to aid in your adventures. Happy hunting!

Bag a Wild Turkey for Thanksgiving

Image: www.realtree.com

Image: www.realtree.com

It might not get the love and attention of its springtime counterpart, but unless you’re a gobbler snob, the fall turkey season is just as good—if not better, given the fitting Thanksgiving overlap. Things like snowstorms and charging through a flock of turkeys like a fullback just don’t happen in the spring. With a little grit and some new tactics, every spring gobbler fanatic can make the successful transition to fall. Here are some tips and tactics to help you come up clutch with a wild bird on Thanksgiving.

Be a Location Scout

Image: bestturkeydecoy.com

Image: bestturkeydecoy.com

As with spring, the key to success is locating birds. But without thunderous gobbles to go by, visual scouting takes on a bigger role. If the area you hunt is mostly deciduous forest, look for the large swaths of disturbed leaf litter created by feeding flocks of birds. Deer will create patches of upturned litter as well, but you know you’re onto turkeys when it looks like somebody drove through the woods with a John Deere. If it’s wet and green, look for an open field where birds can feed on insects.

Booze Cruise

Image: en.wikipedia.org

Image: en.wikipedia.org

For this particular mission, you will be unarmed because firearms and alcohol do not mix. Your mission? Locate the roost. Now that it’s fall, you have the distinct advantage of being able to see through the trees. Brew yourself a hot toddy with Wild Turkey (obviously), and then find a hill or ridgetop with a good view and wait for the birds to tuck themselves in. Hopefully you still remember the location of the roost the next morning. If not, just look for the tree with all the turkey fertilizer underneath it.

Not all who Wander are Lost

Image: picssr.com

Image: picssr.com

Calling in lost birds is one of the easiest ways to fill a tag in the fall. Lost hens and jakes will make singular, sad yelps until they’re right on your doorstep. Answer back with the same type of yelp until the bird is in range. Bad weather? Great! Snowstorms will work in your favor as young turkeys routinely get lost during the season’s first big snow. Humans also get lost during snowstorms, so bring your compass or some more recent technology to avoid having to tell the story at Thanksgiving.

The Bum Rush

Image: www.citypages.com

Image: www.citypages.com

By far the most exciting thing to happen in the fall is locating a flock of turkeys and running at them. Please, please—unload or leave your gun behind before doing this. The purpose of this time-honored tactic is to break up the flock in order to call them back in using your locator yelps and kee-kee runs. For this to work, you really need to give the birds the fright of their lives and get them going in all directions. Once you’ve done that, trade in your wolf mask for a mother turkeys, and let the games begin.

Mr. Clutch

Lakers legend Jerry West was Mr. Clutch because he hit big shots. You know what would be just as cool as Mr. Clutch under pressure? You showing up 15 minutes late to Thanksgiving dinner with a wild turkey under your arm and saying: “You can eat that Butterball if you like, but I’m gonna eat like a pilgrim.”

[Image: www.turkeydog.org]

So It Happened Again: Tips for Next Spring’s Turkey Hunt

Maybe it’s the glimmer of the gun’s metal as the sun came out from behind a cloud that caught the turkey’s eye. Maybe you switched from a light to a dark roast the night before, and the extra caffeine made you more fidgety than normal. Or maybe we turkey hunters should stop making excuses and remember some of the basics while we’re out hunting, at least for next spring.

Use Your Backpack for a Seat Cushion

It happens all the time: You stand up to relieve your aching backside only to discover that 20 yards behind you, a non-gobbling gobbler is flashing you his rear as he runs back into the woods. If you’re not comfortable, you’re not going to hunt effectively. For those who don’t own a turkey vest with a seat pad, a backpack stuffed with an extra sweater will do just fine.

That looks comfy! [Image: http://www.sportsmanswarehouse.com]

That looks comfy! [Image: http://www.sportsmanswarehouse.com]

Know Your Limits

When you can consistently place 8-10 pellets in the vital area at 40-45 yards, you’re ready to hunt. Beyond that, you risk injuring and losing a bird. Now fire the same loads at shorter distances to see what pattern you can expect.

Nice and tight [image: alandavy.wordpress.com]

Nice and tight. [Image: alandavy.wordpress.com]

Scout

Once you identify a good turkey habitat, look for tracks, droppings, and scratched out areas where birds have been feeding. Head back out at dawn the next day with a locator call, such an owl or crow call. If you get a bird to gobble, stop calling and mark it on a map. Excessive calling can make birds shy.

Obstacles

Gobblers want to strut in areas where they can be seen and easily approached by hens. Make sure there are no streams, gullies, fences, or other obstacles between you and the approaching turkey. You also want to avoid calling gobblers from a downhill position. Calling birds uphill is generally fine and in some cases preferred because it enhances visibility.

Image: www.recorder.com

Image: www.recorder.com

Silence is Golden

You have to resist the desire to fill the silence of the woods with your calls. Just because you can’t hear a bird doesn’t mean they’re not working their way towards you. Call for 5-10 minutes and then give it a good 10-15 minute rest. If the gobbler is answering your call but not closing the gap, your best strategy might be to give him the silent treatment.

Shhh! [Image: venturebeat.com]

Shhh! [Image: venturebeat.com]

The Pill Bottle Turkey Call

A tube call, if done properly, is a loud and versatile addition to any turkey hunter’s arsenal. All you’ll need is about ten minutes, a utility knife, a pill bottle or 35mm film canister, one latex glove, and a rubber band. Here are some quick steps to make a pill bottle turkey call that’ll help you while you’re on the hunt.

Scissors, a latex glove, a small knife, and a pill bottle.

With these simple supplies, you can make your own pill bottle turkey call. [Image: http://www.bowhunting.net/wildturkey.net/Articles/NWTF-2003-MakingTubeCall.html]

1. Using a utility blade or sharp knife, cut a half circle out of the lid. Be sure to cut through the plastic seal on the underside of the lid or else the call won’t work. Following that you’ll want to cut off the bottom of the pill bottle.

2. Cut a 2×2 or 2×3 inch rectangle out of a powder free latex glove. Fit the latex over the cutout leaving a 1/4 inch of space between the latex edge and the bottom of the half circle. Make sure you secure the latex with a rubber band.

A bunch of pill bottles made into turkey calls.

Simple to make and easy to carry with you, there’s no reason not to make your own pill bottle turkey call. [Image: http://www.customcalls.com/cgi-bin/yabb2/YaBB.pl?num=1237255671]

3. To use the call, place your bottom lip along the latex slit (the cutout should be facing up) and your upper lip along the lid’s edge to form a seal. To yelp, say “shuck” into the call. You can tune it by adjusting the size of the gap or tightness of the latex.

A man blowing into a pill bottle turkey caller he made.

And just like that, your pill bottle turkey call is complete! [Image: http://www.wideopenspaces.com/make-personal-diy-turkey-call-pill-bottle-pics/]

And that’s it! Now you’re ready to bag that bird with a bit of extra help. Check out our Fish & Wildlife Apps before you head out, and good luck on your hunt!

From Bushwick to Appalachia: On the Hunt with ParksByNature Blogger Jack Kredell

Since I live and work in New York City, I have to commute to hunt. In May of this year I traveled with photographer Megan Mack to my hometown in Central Pennsylvania for spring turkey season. In addition to photographing the hunt, she conducted the following interview in which we discussed how I got into hunting and the culture of hunting in general.

Click on the image for full resolution.

Photo by Megan Mack

Photo by Megan Mack

Q: When did you first start hunting? How were you introduced to hunting?

A: I started from scratch my senior year in college. My grandfather was a seasoned hunter living in Idaho, but growing up in the San Fernando Valley I had little contact with the outdoors. Yet I knew from childhood visits to the Idaho backcountry that part of me belonged outdoors. When I was 16 my family relocated to central Pennsylvania and I began spending a lot of time fishing and hiking. From there it’s hard to say exactly how I came into hunting or why the interest took so long to develop. It began as a kind of joint venture with a friend I met in college (in a science fiction class of all places) who also wanted to have a more direct relationship with the landscape. This meant finding morels or wild blueberries for a pie as much as it did shooting a deer. We wanted to go as local and immediate as possible and see where it led (it led to the bizarre world of snapping turtle fishing and Lyme disease among other things). If this sounds crazy and theoretical it was: It took us years to acquire the skills to actually eat from scratch—to become hunters.

15-347_00514-edit

Photo by Megan Mack

Q: Do you think people who have never hunted misunderstand your purpose or experiences as a hunter? Why is that?

A: I think hunters like to assume that non-hunters misunderstand them and I’m not sure that’s the case. In response to this general feeling of being misunderstood, a lot of hunters go on the defensive by claiming to have a more authentic relationship to the food they eat. The problem with this representation is that it makes hunting seem like a duty—a duty to be more authentic or less of a hypocrite than the average person who gets their meat from the supermarket. Let’s be clear: most who get their meat from the supermarket, including myself, are generally aware of being complicit in the slaughter. So if I’m ever misunderstood it’s because people think I hunt out of principle, which is not the case. I hunt because I enjoy it as a way of getting high quality meat. I don’t know why hunters have trouble admitting that pleasure is a huge part of it. Hunting is very sensual. You need to be in touch with your senses to be good at it.

Beyond pleasure, I think there can even be something like love in taking an animal’s life. Think about what it means to eat for a second. You are taking a piece of the outside world and swallowing it so that it becomes part of you until something new replaces it. Your body is the site where outside is turned inside. What’s more intimate than that? Shouldn’t we be vigilant about the things we put inside our bodies? I think you can extend the idea of well-being beyond discrete substances that are good for you to include experiences that are good for you. In that way, hunting is a kind of edible experience. For people who find hunting repulsive I would say that very few people hunt “for fun.” I don’t think I’ve ever had fun while hunting. Hunting is an activity of extremes. Successful or not, it will often break your heart and your body.

Photo by Megan Mack

Photo by Megan Mack

Q: I understand that wild turkey hunting can be very challenging. Why is that?

A: Turkey hunting is like building a house of cards: the slightest breeze or movement, and it all comes crashing down. All of it. Always. In addition to the notoriously keen eyesight, turkeys are very moody creatures. They can behave differently day to day. It takes a lot of time in the woods to become familiar with all the variations in behavior, and not just knowing the different behaviors, but also knowing how to counter them. Basically it takes a long time to get good at and I’m still a novice. Then you have the contradiction at the heart of turkey calling of trying to make a bird come to you who’s used to birds coming to him. So when that tom committed to the call I thought for sure I had him. But then something spooked him and that was that. It was probably my fault but I’m not sure yet what I did wrong. This is fairly common in turkey hunting.

Q: How did you feel being documented while hunting?

A: Prior to the shoot, I told myself I would hunt as though I were alone. But it wasn’t the case at all. It was no longer I but we who were hunting. And not only we were hunting, but we were hunting for the first time. Even though we weren’t successful, I’m still impressed by how close we got.

Photo by Megan Mack

Photo by Megan Mack

Q: Although hunting brings a lot of adrenaline, it also provides an opportunity for quiet meditation. What is your take on the experience of hunting?

A: Hunting is mostly quiet and meditative. I’ve missed many animals, especially birds, because I wasn’t present enough. There’s a huge difference between walking around the woods hoping something will happen versus feeling dialed in or present. Good things happen when you’re dialed in. The more present I am, the more I become like the thing that I’m hunting—quiet, deliberate, decisive, alert. An animal can read the signs of the natural world much better than you. For a hunter, the goal of meditation is to become more receptive to a world in which you spend little time and where animals spend all their time. Their lives are writ everywhere when you look close enough. Hunting is about learning to read that writing.

Q: As a society we’re becoming aware that we have lost the connection between our food and its source. Hunting definitely revives our awareness and creates an appreciation of what we eat. As an ex-vegetarian, I struggled with hunting and the killing of animals, but this project has brought me closer to accepting that if one can actually hunt and understand the sacrifice of an animal’s life to feed a human being, hunting becomes a more humane concept. How do you feel when killing an animal?

A: The first time I shot a deer I felt like I had done something very wrong. I felt incredible sorrow but also elation. As you walk up to the animal on the ground you become aware of the huge responsibility contained in its lifelessness. The animal belongs to you now and you’d better take care of it. I was aware of that responsibility going it into the woods but it doesn’t feel real until you’re pinching the hide to make that first cut and then dragging it two miles back to the car. By taking its life, I assumed a responsibility to see the hunt all the way through, literally down to the last bite. You are both executor and inheritor of its flesh. As you skin and butcher, it transforms from an animal into the bits of abstract flesh that most of us know meat by. The difference with this meat, aside from it’s amazing deliciousness, is that it will forever be associated with the living animal through your memory of the hunt. The process of butchering a deer is hard work. But yes, taking an animal from the wild and preparing it to eat was an incredible and, in a way, devastating experience that I’ll never forget.

Photo by Megan Mack

Photo by Megan Mack

Q: Many people believe that big game hunting is cruel and inhumane. Do you agree or disagree? Would you personally hunt the big five or other animals besides those you would eat and utilize?

A: I’ll answer this question in relation to the big five of Africa. Hunters are afraid to pass judgment on one another because we have this notion that the integrity of the hunting community is worth preserving over the ideological differences of its members. Big lobbyist groups like the NRA have a vested financial interest in making the hunting community think that Obama or PETA or Environmentalists or the EPA want to destroy its way of life. So we put our differences aside to combat this ever-present external threat that never actually occurs (meanwhile the guns and ammo fly off the shelves, and it’s a victory for the NRA). It’s ironic how the prohibition on judgment reproduces the very political correctness that annoys conservatives. But I enjoy passing judgment so I’ll say this about African hunting: It’s a waste of money, and contrary to myth of the Great Whiter Hunter, it takes less grit and skill to the hunt the big five than it does money. Anytime a hunter comes out against African hunting they wave the green flag of envy at you. I have no desire to hunt Africa whatsoever. I have no desire to hunt Africa for the same reason I have no desire to go on a cruise to a island resort in the Bahamas: both were curated for people like me to enjoy and enjoy a certain way. African hunting preserves and island resorts are alike in that they’re built to keep the outside world out. I like when a place feels indifferent or even hostile to my presence. The woods near my mom’s house where I go deer hunting are like that. They don’t give a fuck about me. They don’t welcome me, expertly guide me to the place where I’m supposed to hunt, skin my animal, and then cook dinner for me. Even a very mediocre hunter can go to Africa and kill a lion or buffalo. It’s set up that way. Put that same hunter on public land in America and they’ll have little success. I don’t want to be mediocre and I don’t want my money to do my hunting for me.

Q: What is your opinion of those who hunt only for sport?

A: Pure sport hunting, at least in the United States, is uncommon. American hunting traditions are pretty good about not being wasteful. However, I have more respect for poachers than I do for sport hunters who don’t eat what they kill. At least the poacher does it out of need, even if it’s financial.

I’m thinking specifically about Africa again. Like the majority of African poaching, African trophy hunting is a commercial form of hunting. The only real difference is that the latter is legal and steeped in colonial romance. Imagine a place with high fences where wealthy trophy hunters come and go while the actual residents outside the fence go hungry or remain in poverty. I’m going to be in favor of the people on the outside doing what they need to do to survive. Most African game can be shot in Texas anyways for a fraction of the African cost. So why even go to Africa? I say go local and save big on airfare.

Photo by Megan Mack

Photo by Megan Mack

After the Hunt: Wild Turkey Recipes for Spring

Don’t wait until fall to devour that gobbler! These three wild turkey recipes are perfect for dining al fresco this spring. Looks like it’s time to fire up the grill.

Wild Turkey Mole

Courtesy of Jonathan Miles at Field & Stream

Wild turkey mole [Image Credit: Johnny Miller]

Image Credit: Johnny Miller

Mole originated in southern Mexico, and traditionally includes dozens of ingredients cooked over the course of many days. This recipe, adapted from Chicago chef Rick Bayless, is less demanding but still has so much of that traditional flavor. When grilling the turkey, remember not to overcook! This recipe serves 4. Leftover mole can be frozen.

Ingredients

  • 1 wild turkey breast, whole or split
  • 2 dried ancho chiles, seeded and stemmed
  • 2 tablespoon lard or vegetable oil, divided
  • ½ onion, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 4 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • ½ cup dry-roasted unsalted peanuts
  • ½ cup roasted unsalted almonds
  • 2 slices white bread, torn into chunks
  • 1 chipotle chile with sauce from a can of chile con adobo
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 quart chicken stock, plus slightly more if needed
  • ¾ cup red wine
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
  • Salt & pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Tear the dried ancho chiles into pieces that will lie flat in the pan. Toast the pieces on both sides until they begin to crackle, but flip or remove them once they start to smoke. Transfer the toasted chiles to a bowl filled with hot water and soak for 30 minutes.
  2. While the chiles are soaking, heat 1 tablespoon of lard or oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is deep golden brown (about 8 minutes). Remove pot from heat.
  3. Arrange the tomato halves cut side up on a sheet pan. Place the tomatoes under a broiler set to high. Roast the tomatoes until blackened and bubbling, about 5 minutes, then flip tomatoes and roast the other side for the same effect. Allow the tomatoes to cool, then peel off as much skin as you can. (Some charred bits left behind on the tomatoes are fine and will add character to your mole.)
  4. Scrape the tomatoes and any juices into a blender, then add the cooled onion and garlic to the blender. Drain the ancho chiles, discard the water, and then add chiles to the blender. Add nuts, bread, chipotle, cinnamon and about 2 cups of chicken stock to the blender, and blend until very smooth. (Note: Stop and scrape down the sides of the blender to make sure all ingredients are blended. Add more stock as needed to yield a smooth, pourable puree.) Press the puree through a sieve into a bowl.
  5. Over a medium-high burner, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon lard or oil in the same pot or Dutch oven (rinsed and wiped clean). When the oil begins to smoke, add the puree and stir constantly for 5 – 7 minutes, or until the mixture has considerably darkened and thickened. Add the remaining chicken stock, wine, vinegar, and bay leaves, and reduce heat to low. Simmer this mixture, partially covered, for about an hour, stirring occasionally and adding more stock or water as needed to maintain a saucy consistency. Add salt and pepper along with a tablespoon of sugar, to taste. Keep the sauce covered while you cook the turkey.
  6. Allow the turkey to sit out covered, at room temperature for about 30 minutes before cooking. Light a medium fire on one side of a charcoal grill, leaving the other side open. (If you are using a gas grill, set the burners to medium on one side.) Rub the turkey breasts with olive oil, and generously salt and pepper them. Place the turkey on the grill, directly over the heat, and cook each side for about 5 minutes to brown it. Move the breast to the side without coals and cover the grill. The turkey is done cooking when a meat thermometer placed in the its thickest park reads 150°F. (The size of the breast and temperature of the grill will determine cooking time.) Wrap the cooked turkey breast in foil and let it rest for about 10 minutes. Gently reheat the mole as needed.
  7. To serve, slice the meat across the grain. Ladle the mole onto plates and nestle the turkey into the sauce. Garnish with chopped cilantro.

Grilled Wild Turkey Rolls

Courtesy of Something Sweet Something Salty

Grilled Wild Turkey Rolls [Image: somethingsweetsomethingsalty.wordpress.com]

Image: somethingsweetsomethingsalty.wordpress.com

These mouthwatering wild turkey rolls are so easy to make. They would make a great addition to any BBQ. Even the leftovers are delicious!

Ingredients

  • 1 lb thick-cut peppered bacon
  • 1 can pickled, sliced jalapenos
  • 1 1½ lbs wild turkey breast

Marinade:

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ½ tablespoon white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ teaspoon ground pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (or 1 teaspoon garlic powder)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, stir together ingredients for marinade.
  2. Cut meat into 1½-inch cubes. Add meat to marinade in bowl. Let meat marinade for a minimum of two hours.
  3. Cut each piece of bacon in half. Into the center of a bacon slice, place one slice of jalapeno over one cube of turkey. Tightly roll bacon over turkey and hold in place with a toothpick.
  4. After cleaning the grill, heat to medium heat (around 300°F – 350°F). Place rolls on sides and cook slowly, turning every few minutes. Since bacon grease will be dripping down, keep a spray bottle handy to chase away flare-ups. When the bacon is fully cooked, the meat should also be fully cooked.
  5. Remove cooked turkey rolls from grill and let stand for five minutes before serving.

Grilled Turkey with Greek Lemon Sauce

Courtesy of Martha Daniels at Missouri Department of Conservation

This delicious wild turkey recipe reminds us of the Greek street food, souvlaki. Just make sure to make enough – everyone at the BBQ is going to want thirds.

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 lbs wild turkey, skin removed, cut into ¼-inch thick slices
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons fresh orange juice
  • ½ teaspoon minced garlic
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest

Directions

  1. In a medium-size bowl, stir together olive oil, 3 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons oregano, ½ teaspoon salt and pepper. Add the turkey slices to this marinade. Cover and place in refrigerator to marinade for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  2. To make the lemon sauce, mix together the remaining ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate.
  3. When finished marinading, place the turkey on wooden skewers to help hold in moisture. Grill over medium heat until done, about 10 minutes or more.
  4. Serve skewered turkey with lemon sauce.

There’s Still Time for Furbearers

March: It’s the month where everyone can’t stop talking about spring. For anyone out there hunting coyote and other furbearers, though, March means this is your last chance to call in a decent, winter pelt. Here are a few tips from Jared McGrath of Goodhue Marina & Firearms on making the most of what’s left of furbearer season.

Bust out the Jet Sled

Man in winter camo hauling decoy in jet sled in snow [Image Credit: Jared McGrath]

Your jet sled isn’t just for ice fishing. [Image Credit: Jared McGrath]

With the warming temperatures, wet, heavy snow is a pain to slog through. Even on snowshoes, hiking in your gear can be a nightmare. Best way to get the gear out to your blind? “Use your jet sled,” McGrath says. That’s right – the same one you’ve been using all winter long for ice fishing. “Chances are, you’ve got it stored right in the back of your pick-up,” says McGrath. With the lake ice rapidly melting, now’s the time for your jet-sled to become your new hunting buddy. Don’t already have one? These heavy duty, deep sleds are perfect for hauling gear by hand, ATV or snow machine. Best part? Jet sleds skid along the surface of snow and ice, even when carrying a lot of gear. McGrath recommends buying a jet-sled in camo, perfect for ice fishing and hunting.

Pack It Down

Plan on coyote hunting this week, but there’s still snow on the ground? Take the time beforehand to scout and pack down a trail to your site. McGrath recommends using your snowshoes for this. You’ll be thanking yourself later when you realize how quickly you arrived at your blind.

Back to the Drawing Board

Man in white camo coyote hunting in NH [Image Credit: Jared McGrath]

Image Credit: Jared McGrath

If at this point in the season, you’ve been calling coyotes for three months, and still haven’t bagged one, it’s time for some new strategies. Like us, coyotes don’t like this wet, heavy snow either. They may be answering your calls, but will need extra convincing to step out from the treeline. Use this as an opportunity to try out new decoys or bait. (When using bait on private land, McGrath reminds hunters to get written permission from the owner.)

It could also be that the coyotes in your area are feeling some hard-hunted anxiety. Re-situate your blind downwind in some new territory and start calling. You may just catch some youngsters off guard.

Coyote hunting rifle with scope in winter field [Image Credit: Jared McGrath]

Image Credit: Jared McGrath

Switching up your tactics will further hone your hunting style and could make all the difference in the field. And if you don’t land that male coyote you’ve been sweet-talking for hours? There’s always spring turkey hunting.

Looking for hunting rules and regulations? Check out our free, state Fish & Wildlife apps. And don’t forget to share your hunting pics with us on Facebook, Instagram and through our free app, Trophy Case®!

The Things We Lose

Dark trees on a foggy day in the woods [Image Credit: Jack Kredell]

Image Credit: Jack Kredell

I’ve lost all manner of things in the woods including, but not limited to, the following: hats (so many hats), knives, rope, extra socks, a thermos, lighters, tobacco, rolling paper, my glasses, a glove (alas, to lose one is to lose both), prescription pills, smart phones, animals I might have shot, a salt shaker, bullets, gun powder, and my wallet. I’m not sure if my knack for losing things is a consequence of the way I hunt, which can be described as overzealous at times, or if I’m simply prone to losing things. Here are a few of the more unfortunate highlights:

Grandfather’s Gerber

image: uhrforum.de

Image: uhrforum.de

After my grandfather passed, his wife sent me a box of hunting gear and included was a little Gerber folder from the early 1980s. Though unremarkable and cheap looking, the knife was used for over a decade by my grandfather to dress elk and mule deer in Idaho’s West Mountains. Put in the hands of an amateur, its story would end unceremoniously on a frigid mountaintop in Pennsylvania. While deer hunting one winter, my feet became so cold that I had build a fire to get circulation back. After making the wood shavings I stuck the knife in a bed of frozen moss thinking I would eventually need more. But I forgot about the knife and walked away. I went back a few days later but the knife was either gone or I couldn’t find the original location. I picture it still out there, rusting defiantly in its grave of moss.

A Doe

The wind was howling so I decided to still-hunt a creek bottom that normally was too loud to walk during the fall muzzleloader season. I promptly walked up on a doe standing 20-yards away drinking from a creek. As I raised my gun she looked up, and I put the sight, which was set at 75 yards (mistake number 1), just behind her left front shoulder and fired. Through the smoke I saw the deer walk about 5 yards before lying down. I put the gun against a tree, reached into my backpack for a bullet (mistake number 2: keep your bullets in your pocket), and began to reload. When I finished, I looked up and the deer was gone. I spent the next 8 hours and the following day searching for a blood trail but found nothing. If I did hit the doe, then there is no excuse for losing her. There is nothing more distressing and painful to the hunter than failing to recover a wounded animal.

Android Smart Phone

I lost my first smart phone during a fall turkey hunt within a week of buying it. Rather than tuck it away in my backpack, I placed it in a bed of leaves at my feet in order to check the time without moving my arms around too much. After four or five hours of calling, I decided to call it quits and head home for lunch. As I stood up, I heard something behind me and turned to see a hen take off flying into the valley. I threw my hands in the air and sulked off, leaving my new Android under the tree for a more deserving hunter. The lesson: glass your surroundings before you stand up.

Thermos

Losing my thermos was a real shame. There was nothing I enjoyed more than pouring myself a cap-full of steaming coffee and watching as the morning sun splashed into valley. It is at that moment when I’m most aware of the beauty and possibility surrounding me, and more often than not, it is the best part of the hunt. The day I lost it I was hunting deer with a flintlock when it began to pour freezing rain. Since I could not prevent the primer from becoming toothpaste, I began the hazardous journey home. On my way down I slipped on the ice and knocked the thermos out of my jacket pocket. I only realized it was gone when I got to the bottom, and in those conditions I wasn’t going back up.

The woods giveth and the woods taketh away.

Great Gifts for Hunters & Anglers

Hunting for great gifts for the hunters and anglers on your list? We’re here to help! After scouring the Pocket Ranger® Gear Store inventory, here are some thoughtful (and useful!) gifts that are sure to make any outdoorsy person merry this season.

Winter Gear

Winter gear gifts such as red hat, black mittens, work boots

Image: pocketrangerblog.com/gear-store

Winter hunting? Ice fishing? Hunters and anglers need all the help they can get staying warm out there this winter. Hats, gloves, masks, socks, snowpants, jackets: we’ve got it all in our Gear Store. Our favorites include this classic red Coal Harbor Beanie and these supremely packable Glacier Glove Angler Mitts. We also love the Wolverine Marauder Boots that are both waterproof and insulated with 400-gram Thinsulate Ultra insulation. These boots have the kind of all-day warmth and comfort you need when out in the woods or on the ice.

Fly-Fishing

Fly-fishing gear such as dry flies, balaclava with fish pattern, and gear carrying case

Image: pocketrangerblog.com/gear-store

Not all rivers and lakes are frozen this time of year, but anyone fishing right now will want to have a balaclava like the Airhole Drytech one we have in the Gear Store. We have plenty of flies in our Gear Store, but giving fly assortments may be the best gift of all. Since there’s nothing like reeling in a largemouth lunker, we recommend the Umpqua Largemouth Bass Selection. Instead of your typical gift bag, why not tuck all those fly-fishing goodies in the Fishpond Stowaway Reel Case. Just put a red bow on top and you’re all set!

Flannels

No outdoorsman or woman can have enough flannels. From Woolrich to Pendleton, Horny Toad to Hurley, we’ve got a few more to add to their collection this season.

Six flannels in holiday colors and checks

Top Row: Men’s Loser Machine; Woolrich; Pendleton
Bottom Row: Women’s Hurley, Horny Toad, Discrete [Image: pocketrangerblog.com/gear-store]

Camping Gear

We have so much camping gear in the Gear Store, and it was hard to choose just a few things. This Primus C7H Food Vacuum Bottle is a favorite of ours; its wide mouth makes it easy to fill, eat from, and clean. After hours spent in the stand or in the bobhouse, there’s nothing like opening up this thermos and having a hot lunch. If you’re looking to give a big ticket item, look no further than Brunton Eterna Spotting Scope. This mid-size, waterproof scope has a magnification power range of 20-45x, with a multi-step eye relief system and a durable ergonomic body. Since it’s glass will never fog, you can be sure that this will be their #1 scouting tool.

Camping gear, including black thermos, scope, and wooden-handled hunting knife

Image: pocketrangerblog.com/gear-store

We hunters and anglers go through so many knives. They get jammed, beat up, lost, or borrowed and never to be returned. This is exactly why SOG’s Woodline Large Fixed Blade Knife will be a welcome sight under the Christmas tree. It’s the best of both worlds: beautiful and functional, fitted with a rust-resistant, stainless steel blade and a wooden handle with thumb and forefinger grooves for optimal dexterity.

Trophy Case® and Pocket Ranger® Fish & Wildlife Apps

Strapped for time? The most thoughtful gift of all may just be a download away! Download our free Pocket Ranger® Fish & Wildlife apps onto any mobile device, so the lucky recipient will have complete access to great features, like state regulations, license & permit information, species profiles, and our Advanced GPS Mapping technology. And don’t forget to join Trophy Case®, our free social networking site created just for hunters and anglers. Trophy Case® users can share photos and tips, and earn points towards great prizes!

Happy Holidays!

A Wild Turkey for Thanksgiving Dinner

Here are a few tips to ensure that your wild turkey roast is the most flavorful bird that’s ever graced a Thanksgiving Day feast. And we’ll let you take all the credit.

Wild Turkeys vs. Domesticated Turkeys

Wild turkeys are not your average grocery store turkey. A wild turkey is agile, built for speed and survival. It flies into the trees to roost at night, and uses its long, muscled legs to outrun danger. All of this physical activity equates to a leaner bird, with more dark meat and stronger connective tissue. A domestic turkey, on the other hand, doesn’t fly and is definitely not a runner. In factory farming practices, a domestic turkey leads a sedentary life, promising a larger, broad-breasted bird with more white meat. However, a heritage breed of turkey, like the Bourbon Red or Narragansett, can look similar to its wild cousins when dressed: narrow-breasted, leggier, with more of that flavorful dark meat.

Taste Comparison

Taste is another difference between wild turkey and their domesticated brethren. A factory-farmed bird is typically raised on corn-based feed, giving consumers the turkey they’ve come to expect: lots of bland white meat. The family farmer may supplement their heritage birds’ feed with forage, which translates into more delicious flavor. A wild turkey relies solely on foraging, and eats acorns, beechnuts, weed seeds, insects, wild berries and fruit found in wooded areas. This diet adds to the distinct, full flavor of wild turkey meat. While we know that wild turkey is delicious, there are those who believe it to be tough and gamey. Correctly preparing your bird will win over any nay-sayer seated at your table.

Brining is Crucial

Someone holds a freshly plucked wild turkey

A plucked wild turkey ready for brining [Image: honest-food.net]

Brining your bird makes all the difference. By not brining, you risk having your bird dry out too much during the roasting process. If you are very concerned about the bird tasting too gamey, after you brine try soaking it in buttermilk overnight.

The Pioneer Woman’s Favorite Turkey Brine

Courtesy of Ree Drummond at The Pioneer Woman

Ingredients

  • 3 cups apple juice or cider
  • 2 gallons cold water
  • 4 tablespoons fresh rosemary
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-1/2 cups kosher salt
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons peppercorns
  • 5 whole bay leaves
  • Peel of 3 large oranges

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Stir until salt and sugar dissolve. Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat and cover with lid.
  1. Allow to cool completely. Then pour into a large brining bag or pot. Place the uncooked turkey in brine solution, and refrigerate for 16 to 24 hours.
  1. When ready to roast, remove turkey from brine. Discard the brine. Submerge turkey in pot or sink of fresh, cold water. Allow to sit in clean water for 15 minutes to remove any excess salt from the outside.
  1. Remove the turkey from the clean water, pat dry, and cook according to your roasting method.

Ready to Roast

A roasted wild turkey on a platter with herbs

Make a wild turkey the center of your Thanksgiving table this year. [Image Credit: Travis Rathbone]

Since wild turkeys have less fat, keeping them moist while roasting is crucial. There are many ways to go about this. Try sliding a few pats of butter under the skin. Or, if you find there’s not enough basting liquid in the pan, have some chicken or turkey stock on hand. If you have skinned your turkey, keeping the turkey moist is a bit more difficult. Try soaking cheesecloth in cooled bacon fat; place this fatted cheesecloth over your turkey while it roasts to retain moisture.

The Wild Chef’s Thanksgiving Wild Turkey Roast

Courtesy of Jonathan Miles at Serious Eats

Ingredients

  • 1 wild turkey (11 to 13 pounds)
  • ¾ pound fatback, salted pork, or bacon (½ pound minced; ¼ pound sliced)
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 yellow onion, minced
  • 3 ribs celery, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups (8 oz) toasted diced bread
  • 1 cup (8 fl oz) chicken stock
  • 6 sprigs sage, minced
  • 2 sprigs rosemary, minced
  • 8 sprigs Italian parsley, minced

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Render half of the minced fatback slowly in a heavy-bottom sauté pan. Reserve and keep warm.
  2. Dry the turkey well with paper towels. Using a brush, coat the exterior with some of the warm minced fatback. Season well with salt and pepper inside and out.
  3. Heat up remaining minced fatback over medium heat. Add onion and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add celery and cook another 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook one minute more. Remove from heat and add toasted bread. Moisten with stock and add minced herbs. Taste the bread cubes; add more broth and herbs if needed (they should be moist and tasty). Gently fill cavity of the turkey with mixture. Cover the breast with remaining slices of fatback.
  4. Place the turkey, breast side up, in a heavy roasting pan. Place in oven. Roast for 1 hour. Remove the fatback, raise the oven temperature to 375°F, and continue roasting for 1 hour to brown the breast. Remove the turkey as soon as it registers 160°F on an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, away from the bone.
  5. Let the turkey rest for at least 20 – 30 minutes before carving it across the grain with a very sharp knife.

Don’t chuck that carcass!

It may look haggard, but don’t throw away that turkey carcass just yet! Use it to make some delicious wild turkey broth to use in future recipes.

Wild Turkey Broth

Courtesy of Hank Shaw at Hunter*Angler*Gardener*Cook

Ingredients

  • 1 turkey carcass, hacked into large pieces
  • 7 – 8 quarts water
  • 1 fennel bulb, chopped
  • 4 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 3 leeks, washed well and chopped (including green tops)
  • 2 – 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 bunch parsley, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 – 3 bay leaves
  • 1 – 2 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1 Tablespoon dried thyme)
  • 2 teaspoons salt (optional)

Directions:

  1. Break up turkey carcass into large pieces. Place these pieces in a large stockpot. Add water.
  2. Let turkey simmer very gently for 2 – 8 hours. The surface of the broth should be barely bubbling. After 2 hours, add veggies and herbs, and simmer gently for 90 minutes.
  3. Use tongs to remove large pieces from broth. Discard those pieces. Set a paper towel in a strainer, and place strainer over another large pot. Pour broth through paper towel to filter out debris. (You may need to change the paper towel midway through this process.)
  4. Add salt, if desired, or leave as is. If you plan on freezing the broth, leave about an inch of headspace in the jar, otherwise the expanding broth-ice will crack the glass.

We’d love to hear how your wild turkey roast came out this year. Leave us a comment!