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Monday, April 30, 2012

Turkey hunting becomes man's passion

It was a late-blooming romance for John Zuelke, but it certainly has been a robust one for the native Toledoan. His love affair with hunting wild turkeys has carried him back and forth across the North American continent and into the record books of the National Wild Turkey Federation.

Zuelke, who did not shoot his first turkey until he was 60 years old, has completed the Grand Slam, Royal Slam, and World Slam of turkey hunting. That more or less makes him Babe Ruth in the turkey hunting ranks, and he is working on multiple repeats of those accomplishments.

The Grand Slam is achieved by harvesting the Eastern, Rio Grande, Merriam's, and Osceola subspecies, while the Royal Slam includes those four plus the Gould's, and the World Slam adds the Ocellated wild turkey to that group.

Zuelke, who operated B&B Beverage Center on Broadway before his retirement, had tried turkey hunting in Ohio back in the 1960s, with no success. "I hunted for 10 years and made every mistake in the world. I couldn't buy a turkey, so I quit," he said. "I was convinced there just weren't any turkeys around."

He continued to enjoy hunting, and pursued deer, pheasant, elk, and caribou for many years before deciding to again dabble in that ultimate test of a hunter's patience called wild turkey hunting.

When a friend leased some property in Nebraska a little more than a decade ago and Zuelke was invited to hunt it, he found himself in a turkey hunting mecca and was seduced back into the sport.

"The mountains were getting steeper, and I was getting older, and I found that turkey hunting was something I could still do," Zuelke said. "The next thing I knew, I was going all over the map trying to shoot turkeys. I guess I got the fever pretty good, for someone as old as I am."

Zuelke, 74, has retired to Devils Lake in southeast Michigan's Irish Hills, but the pursuit of wild turkeys goes on. He just returned from spending three days at a 6,000-acre cattle ranch near St. Cloud, Fla., where he bagged another Osceola.

The turkey hunting in Ohio has improved significantly since Zuelke's early forays, and the spring season opens next week. Michigan's spring season also opens next week in certain areas.

While he prepares for the spring season, Zuelke is working on turning the 30 acres he owns across the road from his home into ideal habitat for deer and wild turkeys. His relationship with the persnickety bird, which is native to North America, took on an almost spiritual tone recently when Zuelke, on his way to church, spotted five jakes (immature males) in a neighbor's yard.

"I guess you get hooked on something, and it just shows up all around you," said Zuelke, whose home is decorated with a number of full-mount trophies from his wild turkey hunts.

by Matt Markey

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Shot placement on a turkey - Where to aim.

In speaking with turkey hunters, I have found that a lot of them do not know where to properly aim on a turkey in terms of bowhunting. Obviously, with a shotgun you are best to aim at the head and neck area. I use a 12 gauge fully choked and loaded with #5 turkey loads and it gets the job done.

For hunting turkeys with a bow it takes a little more skill and knowledge about proper shot placement. You can use a large turkey broad head that is meant to lob the turkey’s head off by aiming at the neck and have great success. It also makes for some really neat footage but it isn’t for everyone.

If you are shooting traditional broad heads such as a fixed head or even a large cutting diameter retractable head, you need to know exactly where to aim on a turkey for a quick humane kill. As a rule of thumb, the bigger the broad head the better when it comes to turkey hunting. You may very well want a bigger cutting diameter head than you might use for deer hunting as a turkey’s vitals are a much smaller target.

Where to Aim on a TurkeyThe nice thing about taking a shot on a turkey is that you do not really need to wait for the perfect shot like you would on a deer. As long as a gobbler is within bow range you can take a shot at him broadside, facing you, facing away, or even quartering as long as you know where to aim on the turkey’s body.

The most common shot on a turkey with a bow would be the broadside shot. There can be some varied opinions depending on who you talk to. Some turkey hunters will aim just below the wing taking out the bird’s legs. This way the turkey can’t run off or get a running start to fly away. They are pretty much immobilized.

I like to aim straight above the legs, assuming the bird is completely broadside, but up a little higher on the wing. Look at the wing like a deer’s shoulder and put it on the money. If the turkey is quartering you need to compensate for that.

Front Shot on a TurkeyAlso, he may be walking with his head in line with his body, he may be standing taller with his head up, or he may have his head down feeding – regardless of his body position on a broadside shot aim for the front part of the wing where its shoulder would be. A well placed shot here with a good sharp broad head will definitely do the trick.

A face on shot should be placed a 1/2″ to 1″ above the beard. If the turkey is feeding, it’s better to wait for him to bring his head up. Give him a light chirp with a mouth call and he’ll stand up straight for you. You can however, aim right between the wings which in this position almost look like shoulder blades - if you don’t want to wait for the turkey to raise his head.
Front and Rear Shot on a Feeding TurkeyAgain, if the turkey is quartering one way or the other you need to compensate by aiming slightly to the left or right. Head on shots are tough just because it is hard to get your bow drawn without getting busted. But if you can get to full draw, a fast approaching arrow is the last thing he will see.

A gobbler that is facing away from you can also be a good shot to take as long as you know where to hold. If the turkey is strutting and all you see are tail feathers, aim right at the rectum right in the center below the tail feathers. This is known as a Texas heart shot on a deer (which I don’t recommend), but it can be vital and ethical on a turkey.

If the turkey is not strutting and has his tail feathers down then you are almost going to aim at what most would call the lower back region. You want to aim just where the wings attach to the lower part of the bird’s backside. There is a noticeable spot where the tail feathers and wings all meet that makes a distinct line that will give you something to aim at. This may be a more frequent shot than the head on shot just because the bird is facing away from you so practice this shot often.

Like with any type of hunting, it pays to do a lot of practicing prior to the season. Shooting from a seated position through a blind at a 3D turkey target can mimic a realistic turkey hunting situation and will make you a better shot.

Every turkey hunter should know where to aim on a turkey long before entering the woods. The key to your success this season will hinge on good shot placement on a turkey whether you’re using a gun or archery gear.

by Hunting Freak