"What this country really needs is a good 5-cent cigar," once opined U.S. Vice President Thomas Riley Marshall. of the thousands of speeches he gave during his life, that is what Calvin Coolidge's vice president is best remembered for today. I would contend that this country could also use a good 50-cent cup of coffee. But since we're probably not going to seen any one of these two things happen anytime soon, I'll settle for a good spring turkey hunt. And I think it's going to happen.
Iowa's statewide season dates are April 16 to May 20. Iowa's spring turkey hunters are expected to have a successful season, but you may have to scout a little harder to determine Iowa's hot spots, especially here in central Iowa. It's no big secret - like the quail and pheasant situation - poor annual brood production and less-than-desirable weather have negatively affected the turkey population around the state. Yet, all-in-all, our recent turkey seasons haven't been all that bad. And even though 92 percent of Iowa is privately owned, much of its lands are open to hunting and other recreational activities. Northeast and southeast Iowa are still the hot spots for wild turkeys hunters. Combine that with several quality public areas and things are looking good. Northwest and southwest Iowa populations are down, but the rest of the state is showing stable or increasing numbers. There should be an abundance of jakes, two-year-old and three-year-old birds available. More than half of the harvested birds are taken from the first week of the season, so scout early and be prepared for opening day. Iowa, it should be noted has a very healthy turkey population; and birds occupy essentially all suitable habitats in the state and are robust to withstand both weather and population fluctuations. Pay close attention to riparian areas adjacent to quality nesting habitat along with cut cornfields and winter wheatfields. Hunter education is require if born after Jan. 1, 1972.
There are a lot of places you can go here in Iowa to hunt wild turkeys ... but I've got to tell you ... Hamilton County is about as good as it gets. I've seen more wild turkeys in and around Webster City this winter than I ever have. They're practically everywhere. From Woolstock south to Webster City the situation looks very promising. The Boone River basin corridor with its adjacent ridges and acorn flats holds a higher than normal wild turkey population. Despite three or four years of bad weather, resulting in poor nesting, poor hatching and fewer broods, we still have a few things going for us.
Iowa in general, and Hamilton County in particular, had a tremendous mast crop in the fall of 2011. That and a somewhat mild winter was a real hat trick. The ground really didn't freeze hard, the frost level was shallow, and with little or no snow cover, the food supply was exposed to the wild turkeys all winter. It was easy to find food. The flocks held tight, kept to the woods and their food supply, and seldom ... very seldom, strayed from the oak tree flats and their abundant acorn supply. The birds are still concentrated. They're not moving around much out there in the woods. You're going to have to go out there and find them.
I walked and hiked through the woods a lot this recent fall and winter. And While I saw lots of turkeys, I nearly always found them in the same places. They didn't move around much. Late season squirrel hunters reported observing numerous flocks in the river bottoms and along the sunny side of the side-hills and ridges ... always in the same locations. I don't want to look at this thing through rose-colored glasses, but at this point. - barring any severe weather conditions - I think we are going to have a good spring turkey hunt ahead of us, and a good harvest is being forecast.
Wild turkeys are a tough and hardy lot. Like deer, a wild turkey can handle the worst sort of winter conditions that Mother Nature can dish out. As for pheasants and quail ... well, now that's another story. But turkeys can take it, and they came through this past winter in great shape.
Now about that 50-cent cup of coffee ... we're getting close, real close. I went to a gun show in Fort Dodge recently and the church women were selling coffee at 50-cents a cup - and they were raking in the money hand-over-fist. It's possible, it can be done, it is being done. And the coffee was great. Semper Fi.
And now, have a good weekend.
P.S. A word of caution - The cardinal rule of wild turkey hunting is: Do not attempt to sneak in on a calling gobbler. It may be another hunter. You're either going to ruin his hunt, or he's going to ruin yours.