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The 2017 spring turkey hunting season started out (literally) with a bang, with increased harvest numbers from a bountiful flock, the result of last year's Cicada hatch and a mild winter. But, wind and rain in week 2 slowed things down a bit.
Starting tonight, though, the season gets another boost as evening hunting comes in, and veteran turkey guru Joe Menuez, of Millersburg, says twilight may be the key to harvesting that wily gobbler.
"I like to hunt evenings," said Menuez, who killed his first turkey in Pennsylvania in 1968. "I've killed a lot of gobblers in the evening."
In fact, Menuez, who has been hunting turkeys all over the United States and has several grand slams to his credit (harvesting all four turkey species in one season), was a key proponent of allowing evening hunting in Ohio as a rep on the National Wild Turkey Federation state board.
"They're going to come into the same roost area every night," said Menuez. "Get tight to the area. Take advantage of the things they like to do, things they do every day. Figure them out."
That may include something as simple as finding the take-off spot for the boss tom.
"Big birds don't like to fly straight up (to the roost)," said Menuez. "They'll pitch off a ridge and fly into a tree."
The time from 5 p.m. to sundown can be a key kill time as some say its one of the instances gobblers let their guard down.
"They'll gobble and yelp to look for hens to roost with," said Menuez.
"Turkeys are social animals, they don't like to be alone."
As for tips to hunt conditions like Ohioans experienced this last week, Menuez admitted it's tough to call birds when the wind is howling.
Not only does the hunter have a hard time picking up the sound of a tom turkey, gobblers have a hard time hearing your hen calls. That's when the birds rely more on sight, and work open areas more to stay away from predators.
"Everyday something is trying to eat them," said Menuez. "Basically, when it's blowing and raining, it throws off the advantages they have. They're more cautious."
Menuez suggests on those days to hunt woodlines, field lines and edges, set up a decoy and call. Directional calling and louder calls (good time to use a box call) are required on these days. It'll be a waiting game, though, as the old birds will be extremely cautious and leery of every moving leaf and branch.
"They're not in a hurry," said Menuez. "They've got all day to do what they do."
Menuez does, though, feel that the coming weeks could be a good time to get a gobbler, as the hens in his harem are now starting to nest, meaning 26 days of 24/7 attentions to her eggs. As a result, males are out searching for other unbred hens.
"You should start seeing gobblers more, and they'll be more receptive to calling," said Menuez.
Spring turkey hunting hours moved from 30 minutes before sunrise to noon, to 30 minutes before sunrise to sunset starting today (May 8) in the south zone. The season closes in the south zone May 21.
Outdoor Editor Art Holden can be reached at 330-287-1650 mornings, or at firstname.lastname@example.org