Turkey season opens Saturday

Author John Flores has been field testing the new Winchester Long Beard Ammunition for the upcoming season. His smile says it all with this 50 yard pattern on a Birchwood Casey Turkey Splatter Target. (Submitted Photo/Courtesy of John K. Flores)

Shooting a turkey from a sitting position may seem like an easy task but indeed it’s not.
By JOHN K. FLORES Outdoor Columnist

In spite of old man winter doing his best to hang on, the cypress trees along the bayou and in the basin have been turning a bright green the past couple of weeks. Right now, the scrub-maple buds are crimson red and set on a gray canvas backdrop across the swamp. And the striking yellow of the first prothonotary warblers that have migrated in from Central America have added a few accent stripes to the mix. Yes, spring is a spectacular time of year from a color standpoint.
Another spring color that particularly can’t be missed is the red, white and blue of a turkey gobbler’s head that blinks like a traffic light when he does his spring dance for a harem of hens. There’s nothing quite like it in all of nature. It’s mesmerizing, enthralling and quite hypnotic and the reason a small army of hunters will take to the woods Saturday in pursuit of this majestic bird.
If you haven’t been preparing, there is little time left. For the past several weeks, my wife and I have been going to the St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s range on Saturdays to practice our shooting and also field-test the new Winchester Long Beard XR ammunition.
From a shooting aspect, few turkeys are shot from the standing position. The majority of shots at gobblers will be when your hind end is on the ground. That is, unless you’re someone who happens to own one of those turkey vests with the seat cushion attached. But, besides sitting, shots also will be taken freehand from that position as well.
Shooting a turkey from a sitting position may seem like an easy task but indeed it’s not. My spouse missed her chance on a Rio Grande turkey in Texas last spring from 29 walked off paces. Trust me. It’s not easy.
One of the things we found these past few weeks is she tended to shoot consistently high and to the right. Put another way, the majority of pellets in the shot pattern consistently were high and right, where few hit the waddle — the best aim point on a turkey gobbler.
Once we resolved the condition, Christine now consistently puts lethal doses of pellets in the kill zone on the targets she shoots. What’s more, we count every pellet just to be sure.
During practice sessions, we also have been using Birchwood Casey Turkey Splatter Targets. These targets help in two ways. One, the image on the target is lifelike and helps with concentration. And second, there is no doubt of where the hits are because of the splatter properties of the target.
In short, they are fun, which can make outings at the range less monotonous and more of a confidence builder.
Part of preparation also is making sure you shoot the best ammunition available and match your gun to it. This year, I’ll be taking to the field Winchester Long Beard XR 3-inch 12-gauge rounds that hold a 1-¾ ounce load of number 4, 5 or 6 shot size, with my personal preference being number 5s.
During practice sessions, I have been shooting my Remington 11-87 12 gauge with a standard 3-inch chamber and quality Hevi-Shot screw in turkey choke. There’s nothing special about this shotgun. And at all distances from 25 yards out to 50 yards, shot placement has been lethal using the Long Beards with this old gun; one that I’ve owned for more than 20 years.
Turkey hunting, in my opinion, also takes mental preparation; at least I think so.
And besides practicing with my call, watching YouTube turkey hunting videos and every turkey hunt I can tune into on the Outdoor Channel, I’ve also recently read Otha Barham’s new book, “Spring Beckonings.”
“Spring Beckonings” is not a where to and how to field guide to turkey hunting. It is a catalyst to get your mental juices flowing in anticipation of the upcoming turkey season.
One paragraph that Barham writes reads like a passage from William Faulkner’s “Go Down Moses,” that says, “And the dogwoods. Yes, the dogwoods. Shockingly white blossoms that glowed in the moonlight like nothing else in creation, each bloom suspended in space against the blackness of night, shining with the blinding beauty that took my breath as I sneaked toward the roost tree.”
If you’ve never had the opportunity to sit beneath the dogwoods during a spring morning in the uplands anywhere in the southeast, you’ve missed something very special.
Barham’s “Spring Beckonings” is a collection of 37 wonderful turkey-hunting stories spiced with humor, individual birds he named and matched wits with, eulogies of turkey-hunting masters, turkey-calling champions and 43 years of turkey lore he’s written about nationally during his award-winning career.
The 2014 Louisiana Spring Turkey Season opens statewide Saturday and runs through April 20 (Area A), April 13 (Area B), and April 6 (Area C).
For more information on how to obtain a copy of Barham’s book, “Spring Beckonings,” he can be reached at 601-482-4440 or obarham@comcast.net.

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