Hunting > Turkeys

Truck Camping for Turkeys

Turning your truck into a rolling camp puts you in a good place to take a turkey.

5/20/2010

The perfect time to pursue gobbling turkeys, spring is also a great time for camping. While the weather can be a little unpredictable, spring is usually cool enough at night to allow comfortable outdoor sleeping, allowing you to stay close to your hunting area.

Camping out near the turkey woods is a great way to increase your chances of tagging a bird as you have multiple days to figure out the birds' patterns. And even if they aren't responding, it's always fun to sit around in the evening discussing the day's events, previous hunting trips or even solve the world's problems by the light of a campfire.

Of course, a camping turkey hunt has its own issues beyond those wily turkeys. Food, shelter and safety come to mind. However, with the right gear and tactics, you can stay safe, successful and comfortable.

The Hunt
Persistence often makes the difference between tagging a bird and going home empty handed. Not only do you have to find a longbeard and learn its patterns, you have to be willing to keep heading back into the woods even when the birds are henned up or relatively silent.

Camping out near the turkey woods helps with persistence, since you're already there, providing consecutive days in the area learning the landscape and the turkeys' patterns. It's much easier to follow birds to the roost if you don't have to leave to make it home by a certain time. And if you're spending the night right where you'll be hunting (check your state's regulations to make sure this is legal), you'll be sure to be the first in the woods.

If you already know the area, you have a leg up on finding birds, but if not, a good topographical map and a GPS unit are worth the investment. Topos show the area from a bird's eye view, letting you find ridge tops for listening and potential travel routes, while a GPS lets you mark turkey sign, roosts and where you want to begin the morning's hunt.

Use your map to find a fairly high hill and punch the coordinates into your GPS. Starting high lets you hear a long way giving you a better chance of hearing a gobbler in the distance. If the birds are close, you're in the right spot, as turkeys prefer to go uphill rather than down. Even if the birds are distant, you now know where they're roosting, and can work your way in that direction. Over the duration of your hunt, continue to follow the birds until you can work in close. This might be a quick process, or it could take a while.

The Rolling Camp
The image of a bunch of hunters heading out in pursuit of game in a beat-up truck full of gear is almost a stereotype, but it's one that fits quite well. Being comfortable and effective requires equipment, and the longer the trip, the more gear is needed.

Early in life, I discovered the benefits of keeping gear close at hand for last minute trips when I needed a break from the real world. However, this meant I needed some way to keep my equipment secure and dry. There are many truck accessories for storing gear-truck covers and tool boxes-but the cover that seems to work best for me is a camper shell.

My camper top lets me keep my gear together while protecting it from both rain and snoopers, and, with a good pad, can be turned into a sleeping quarters in inclement weather, bear country or if I just don't want to deal with putting up and taking down a tent. It also lets me carry those extra items that can make a backcountry trip a lot more comfortable while staying mobile.

Staying Comfortable & Alive
Spending a few days in the woods chasing turkeys requires more gear than the average turkey hunt. In addition to camo, calls, vest and decoys, you have to consider sleeping, eating and safety.

Sleeping is made a lot easier with a good mattress or air-filled foam pad. A backpacking pad/sleeping bag combo works well, but there are also full-sized air mattress that fit in a tent or even in the bed of a truck or SUV. Regardless what you choose, don't scrimp on the sleeping arrangements. If your cheap pad or mattress develops a hole in the middle of the night or if the temperature significantly drops, you're going to be uncomfortable.

Food doesn't require a great deal of thought, but you'll need more than you think. For whatever reason, exercise, fresh air or just being outdoors, you will be hungry more than normal. Plan for three high-energy filling meals a day plus snacks. Meals can be as simple as meals-ready-to-eat (MREs), Mountain House dehydrated meals or even plain old lunchmeat and bread. However, with just a bit of planning and a Dutch oven, supper can be quite tasty.

Of course, since you're in the backcountry in a small group, or even by yourself, extra precautions must be taken to ensure safety. Hunters should carry a first-aid/survival kit every time they walk in the woods, but on real backcountry multi-day trips these lifelines are absolutely crucial.

While I never head outdoors without a knife, spare compass, water purification tablets and a way to make fire, on trips such as this one, I make up a light-weight compact kit that also includes fishing line and hooks, a whistle, a small roll of duct tape, adhesive bandages and a second way to create fire. All this is in addition to the full-sized first-aid kit that is always in my truck. Lastly, you always need to ensure you have someone back home you can check in with, who know where you are and when you'll be coming back. That way, if the unforeseeable happens, someone will at least know when to start looking or send help.

Camping out to turkey hunt can increase your opportunities for success. Regardless, you'll have a lot of fun, which is what hunting is all about.

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