Editor's Note: Turkey season opened Saturday in most of Oklahoma and runs through May 6.
Gary Purdy of Enid is the Oklahoma senior regional director for the National Wild Turkey Federation and has been hunting turkeys in Oklahoma and the United States for 26 years.
He offers the following hunting and safety tips for turkey hunters.
— Be sure to scout. Listening at sunset and sunrise will help locate the roosting trees. After you have the general area of the roost located, wait until midday and make a ground visual inspection to pinpoint the actual roost.
— By following the tracks and droppings away from the roost, you can predict which way the turkeys will likely depart in the mornings or return in late afternoon.
— Look for wing drag marks in soft earth made by the wing tips of a strutting gobbler.
— Pattern your shotgun. Understand which brand and load of shot your shotgun patterns the best.
— Test the favorite load at various distances to know how far is too far to take the shot. Set your decoys at a known distance well inside the effective range of your gun.
— Wear complete camo including gloves and a face mask. It's OK to mix and match patterns.
— Sit as still as possible. Movement is easily detected by turkeys.
— Learn to use many different calls — box, slate, glass and diaphragm — because a turkey might respond to one and not the others. Cadence is key. Pitch is secondary.
— Use coyote howlers or crow calls as locater calls.
— Calling early in the morning should begin softly. Increase the volume if you get no response.
— Use yelps, clucks and purrs more than any other sounds.
— If you know where the bird is roosted, try to set up 80 to 100 yards of the roost tree.
— Early in the season, listen for the dominant hen then mock her calls, only louder and more aggressively.
— When she starts to call, cut her off with your call. You're trying to aggravate her into coming to you looking for a fight. She will bring Mr. Longbeard with her.
— When setting up decoys, use two hens and a jake. The jake should appear to be following the hens but in call cases make him face toward your location.
— When the tom comes in, he will go to the jake first. He will want to get nose to nose so his big fan will be pointed toward you, giving you the opportunity to move if necessary because he can't see behind his fan.
— If using decoys on public land, make sure you have at least 100 yards of visibility beyond the decoys in case another hunter tries to stalk your calling.
— Be hesitant to use a gobble call on public land unless you are sure you are the only hunter in the area.
— Never wave at another hunter because the movement might be mistaken for a bird.
— For safety reasons, don't carry a harvested gobbler over your shoulder when leaving the woods to avoid another hunter catching only a glimpse of the redhead. Also, turkeys sometimes will have mites which can transfer from the bird to you. Put your harvested bird in your vest and make human noises walking back to your vehicle.
— It's usually windy in Oklahoma, so turkey hunters should plan for gusty days. To locate turkeys in Oklahoma's prevailing windy conditions, use a high pitched box call to find turkeys in the middle of the day.
— If using a pop-up blind, make sure to secure loose, flapping ends to avoid spooking the birds. Also, make sure your camo clothing fits comfortably tight enough not to flap in the wind, especially your face mask.
Cooking a wild turkey
The most frequent mistake made when cooking a wild turkey is treating it just like a Butterball bought from the grocery store.
Wild turkey meat does not contain the fat content of a domestically raised bird and can dry out quickly to the point of being impossible to eat.
My favorite way to cook a wild turkey is very simple.
Filet both sides of the turkey breast, removing any excess fat and tendon material.
Cut into strips or bite size pieces. Cutting with the grain makes it easier.
Dip the strips or pieces in milk and egg then roll in flour with salt and pepper.
Drop into hot, hot peanut oil in a deep fryer, cooking the meat rapidly to seal in all the juices.
Gary Purdy of Enid, Oklahoma senior regional director of the National Wild Turkey Federation